Earthy Airey then went on to accuse Michael Jackson of 'being up his own arse'. This was Dawn's unique way of telling C4's chief executive to cut the crap. Jackson will forever regret having coined the phrase 'ahead of the mainstream', but as she ripped into C4's entire schedule, many in the room felt that Airey had forfeited the credit she had earned earlier in the evening by her perceptive, if hardly original, appraisal of BBC 1.
As luck would have it, Airey's C4 counterpart and erstwhile colleague, Tim Gardam, is the speaker at next week's RTS soiree. It may be tempting but Gardam must resist the opportunity to prolong what could turn into a serial slanging match between himself and Airey. His views on Channel 5 News now that he is no longer responsible for it are well known. But Gardam should remember that the title of his talk is Future TV: What's Channel 4 for? and use it to provide a clear, no-nonsense account of where his station stands in these uncertain times.
Contrary to Airey's diagnosis, C4 is finally beginning to regain some of its old confidence on screen and give BBC 2 something to worry about. Several of its offerings may look better suited to BBC 1 or Channel 5, yet in the crucial areas of entertainment and drama, Gardam now has remit-proof shows that are making an impact. More worrying is the time C4 is taking to piece together its digital jigsaw. The FilmFour channel is proving harder to establish than many had predicted. It is on this flank where C4 looks newly vulnerable. Next time Airey ad libs she should think before she shoots.