Archive of Book launches, screenings and signings with Tony Garnett 2016-17
The following is an extract from:
The Inside Story of Political Vetting
by Mark Hollingsworth and Richard Norton-Taylor
The Hogarth Press
Published 1988 ISBN 0 7012 0811 2
Chapter 5 – MI5 and the BBC: Stamping the ‘Christmas Tree’ Files
‘One thing I can state quite categorically is that there has never been any victimisation of anyone for their political views at the BBC.’
I spent money I could ill afford trying to retrieve documents relevant to me in the BBC archives, especially in the 70s. The staff were relentlessly courteous but infuriatingly retentive. As usual with the BBC one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know, and they’re not telling.
But in among the irrelevant detritus are some nuggets. I write in my memoir about the role of MI5 deciding who should and should not be employed in “your” BBC.
BBC Controller, Huw Wheldon, introduces the third season of The Wednesday Play. In his note he reminds readers of The Wednesday Play’s purpose and shares a brief of what is expected from new and existing playwrights.
It is one of those key series in which “broadcasting must be most willing to make mistakes; for if it does not, it will make no discoveries”. Mistakes draw criticism. Discoveries are uncomfortable. Both compel controversy.
The following is a memo sent by Sydney Newman after Up the Junction was broadcast and the BBC received 464 complaints by the public. Sydney Newman defends the Wednesday Play and talks about its purpose, the process of commissioning plays and managing talent including producers and directors.
From: Head of Drama Group, Television
Subject: THE WEDNESDAY PLAY
Date: 15th June 1966
The following is,
“Look, I know the BBC’s really short of money but not to have the travel or the weather. I mean that’s….just… your budget must be really tight! Here is the traffic and here is the weather. The traffic is heavy. What a surprise! The weather is cloudy, threatening to drizzle. A typical summer’s day.”
“That explains why you moved to America for so many years, does it?” replies Sarah.
SHOUTS AND MURMURS
An ancient doctrinal dispute has lately been revived at the BBC Television Centre. It has to do with Artistic Categories, and is being conducted with all the hair-splitting passion that pamphleteers and polemicists wasted on the same subject four centuries ago. It arose out of ‘Five Women,’ written by Tony Parker, produced by Tony Garnett and directed by Roy Battersby for the Wednesday Plays.