From Mr Biffo's blog, 15 January 2007:

The Digigate Papers

Some of you may be aware that I used to write a video games section for Teletext (British journalism's lamentable equivalent of a special school).

Some of you may also be aware of a period dubbed 'Digigate', during which the Teletext bosses decided to can all the humour from the section (along with its trademark characters), and make it a sort of dull, mainstream video games thing. They also cut my salary by a third (though not the workload - just the frequency of how often Digitiser updated), and sacked columnists Tony Mott, Violet Berlin and Stuart Campbell (the latter was swift to express his understandable discontent online).

All of this was - they told me - a consequence of 9/11 impacting upon Teletext's business. No, really: because some people flew a couple of planes into some buildings in America, Digitiser had to stop being funny. Basically, Al Qaeda killed Zombie Dave, Insincere Dave, and Gossi The Dog.

Some of you may also remember that following nine months of letters, emails, and phonecalls from outraged readers - not to mention Digi's viewing figures going into freefall - Teletext were forced to mumble an apology, and ask me to return Digitiser to its former stupid glory. Which I did for a while - but not before I'd handed in my notice. In the words of a great British statesman: needless to say, I had the last laugh.

This weekend we cleared out the fearsome Cupboard Beneath the Stairs. However inexplicable and misguided this exercise in clutter-removal may have been, it nevertheless unearthed a file stuffed with forgotten correspondence. Amid the rejection letters from TV production companies I found a note from the then-features head of Teletext confirming the changes to Digitiser.

I was so depressed at the time (as much as anything because I had bills to pay, and couldn't just tell them to shove both their editorial demands, and their pay cut up, their horrendous, pixellated cracksies) that I don't think I even read it.

I won't quote it all for you - because a lot of it is very dull - but the last half of the letter might be of some interest to those of you who enjoyed Digitiser, and were there at the time (I shall resist the urge to provide a running commentary):

Dear Paul

"Following our meeting and your subsequent conversations with David (deputy features editor), I am writing to confirm details of the propose new arrangement between us.


"I'm conscious of the campaigning that's been going on to hang on to the old Digi. I understand why people resist change in situations like this, but I stand by what we're doing. In the final analysis all we're really asking is for the core editorial content to be tightened up, and to lose the comedic element that's not related to games. The old Digi had a good run, sometimes at the expense of Teletext judging by a couple of Mr Campbell's comments, but times change and an overhaul was long overdue.

"The idea, as we've said, is to attract more of the everyman games consumer. The point to reiterate here is that Teletext is a national information service reaching millions of ordinary people, rather than a specialist magazine with a select demographic. These are the values our content is based on. All we're trying to do is bring this in line with our other entertainment sections. It doesn't mean dumbing down, or rewriting press releases or being humourless. It should be accessible without losing its voice. Indeed we're relying on you, Paul, to retain your independece and integrity with your reviews, which are the best-read element of the section, next to the charts (it's the same with films and records - what most people want to know is whether you think a new release is any good).

"Until our recent discussions, Digitiser was more or less autonomous, with minimal communication from yourself with any of the editors here. While I respect entirely your expertise and judgement on gaming, I would ask you to keep a more active communication with David or myself on any issues of concern.

"Because of the nature of the changes I think there's a good case for renaming the section more simply, and I'd seek your views on this.

"If you're in agreement with these proposals please let me know as soon as possible. In the meantime I hope we can continue working together in a positive and mutually helpful way.

"Yours sincerely,

Chris Heard
Features Editor"

I believe Chris Heard walked out of Teletext about a month after sending that letter. I don't know why, but - despite what happened - he actually seemed like quite a nice bloke. I dare say he was acting on orders from above, and was very much good cop to the pantomime villain-like bad cop stylings of his repugnant deputy.

Anyway, that's that.

Do you know of any important moments from the annals of Digi history that have been omitted? If so, then mail me ( right now, man. Credit will be duly given for anything that gets put up.

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