If you didn’t enjoy Das Auto on BBC2 last weekend, I’m sorry.
I may have been in it. The BBC may have extensively used my books, archive pictures and quotes, but ultimately it had nothing to do with me. That’s because documentaries about cars get made by people who know absolutely nothing about them. And that’s the problem with cars on telly.
I was contacted late last year by various production companies working for the BBC. Presumably they Googled British Car Industry and Germany Car Industry and came up with two books wot I wrote which apparently coincided with their aim of making a programme about the British, the Germans and their cars.
Initially, I resisted their advances. TV production companies do this all the time, pump you for information that they won’t pay for. The BBC were no different but eventually the Director and Assistant Producer came to my house. What I could not quite believe was just how clueless they were about cars and the history of the industry. That’s understandable they make TV programmes and I don’t know how to do that.
Not surprisingly then that they took copious notes as I spoke and, of course, my books. I also told them which models they should be concentrating on and who to talk to. These included Richard Bremner, Keith and, of course, AROnline. I even set up a garage location for them to do filming.
Clearly what they needed was a full-time consultant who knew about cars. However, this is not how TV works. Dominic Sandbrook was the presenter and he’s a historian. So what he said, went. He was a nice chap, said he liked my books and found them funny, but clearly he had an agenda and that is what you saw on telly.
Even though I mentioned the Japanese, Richard probably did too and many other matters, in order to squeeze it into an hour our comments would end up on the cutting room floor. Also, being telly, viewers are not credited with much in the way of sustained attention, hence the ‘70s sitcom segments. TV is first and foremost entertainment medium.
If you want to understand the British car industry then you only have to read Keith’s incredible site. Oh, you’re here already, of course. There’s also my books on the subject too. In all honest, you are probably better off reading decent source material then You Tubing the adverts and news stories from the period. There, make your own TV programmes.
So the problem with cars on telly is no one cares enough to get things right, or at least pay the people who know the stuff that they don’t to advise them properly. The BBC should be utterly ashamed of itself.