The BBC Files

Tony Garnett on the BBC Files

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.

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The Wednesday Play: Aims and Policy

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.

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Sydney Newman defends The Wednesday Play

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.

Transcript

Page 1

From: Head of Drama Group, Television
Subject: THE WEDNESDAY PLAY
To: C.P.Tel.
Date: 15th June 1966

The following is,

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MI5 and the Christmas Tree files – secret political vetting at the BBC

The following is an extract from:

Blacklist
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.’

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