Apartheid in South Africa | Living under racial segregation and discrimination
WRITTEN DOCUMENT 1957
Page 1 of 2
[Handwritten notes at top of page:
For Board - with correspondence
Chairman Fosce. See note attached page 2, please. Notes end.]
NOTE OF CONVERSATION WITH Dr. J. E. HOLLOWAY at Broadcasting House on Tuesday,
3rd December, 1957
Dr. J.E. Holloway, High Commissioner for South Africa, came to see me this morning
about the Panorama film on South Africa.
He said that he first came into the matter when Michael Peacock and Woodrow Wyatt
approached him for help in getting the Prime Minister of South Africa to consent
to be interviewed for the programme. Peacock had written a letter saying that the
object of the programme was to create a better understanding in this country of
the real situation in South Africa and of government policy there. He, the High
Commissioner, had therefore written to the Prime Minister and pressed him to
agree and during the making of the film Patrick Smith had promised Meiring that a
copy of the film would be sent out to South Africa so that the Prime Minister could
The film had been shown in Panorama during the visit of the South African Minister
for External Affairs, who had seen it and who had immediately protested to the
British Government that it gave an unfair picture. This had also been the view of
other South Africans.
When a request had been made for a copy of the film it was first stated by the BBC
that for technical reasons it could not be made available but later it had been
stated that the reason was not technical but was because certain people had taken
part on the understanding that the film would not be shown in South Africa.
Secondly, because certain matters [hand written] portrayed in the film were sub
judice in South Africa and there would be the risk of contempt of court.
With regard to the latter point, there need be no difficulty because an undertaking
would be given that the film would not be shown in public. With regard to the former
point, there should again be no difficulty if the film were merely to be seen by the
He therefore hoped that the BBC would now make available a copy of the film. Not to do
so at the request of a Commonwealth Prime Minister could hardly be justified.
Page 2 of 2
In reply I said that it had certainly been our intention to make an impartial
study of the situation in South Africa and we felt that on the whole we had
succeeded, though this would always be a matter of opinion. I had noticed that
the Minister for External Affairs for South Africa had protested to the British
Government and had made a public statement on the subject but as neither he nor
anyone else had made any representations to the BBC, we had paid no attention.
It was we and not the Government who had made the film and I thought that any
complaints about it should have been addressed to us.
I did not believe that Patrick Smith had made a promise about the film. He was
merely a News Correspondent and was not in a position to make such a promise.
However, he had written a letter from South Africa reporting his conversation
with Mr. Meiring. The letter was dated the 29th May, which was before the
programme took place, and the following was a quotation from it.
'He asked me if the BBC would kindly send him a copy of the film to show the
Prime Minister. I said I would pass on this request and told him that the BBC
would probably contact him through South Africa House'.
I said that this did not seem to me to be any kind of promise.
With regard to [hand written underlined and denoted A] the promises made to
those taking part in the film, that it would not be shown outside the United
Kingdom [end of hand written underlining], there could be only one reason for
this, namely, the people in question feared action against them if they were
identified by the authorities in South Africa. They could not be identified at
a distance. I saw no way in which our promises to these people could be broken,
and it was only on these grounds that we maintained our refusal to supply a copy
of the film.
I said that I would report the matter to the Board of Governors and would let
him know what view they took of it.
3rd December 1957
[Hand written notes] As to 'A', is there a record of these promises and if
Meiring asks us to show the programme to an audience selected by him, inside the
UK,where are we?
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Document Type | Minutes
03 December 1957
This document discusses a diplomatic incident that followed the broadcast of 'Panorama - Union of South Africa'.
Months after the 'Panorama' edition had been broadcast, a row between the South African government and the BBC continued to escalate. This 'Note of Conversation' between the Director-General Sir Ian Jacob and Dr JE Holloway and related material was discussed at a meeting of the Board of Governors, who backed the decision not to hand over the film.
Read the first document on this subject, 'Panorama' Report On South Africa.
The consequences facing people for being filmed in this programme could be serious. At the end of 1956, 156 people were tried for treason in a trial that lasted, in the case of some defendants, for four years. In December 1957, charges were dropped against 61 of the accused, including Oliver Tambo and Chief Albert Luthuli.
Chief Albert Mvumbi Luthuli gives his views on South Africa and democracy.
An early exposé of the divisions caused by apartheid in South Africa.
Harold Macmillan delivers his 'wind of change' speech at the Cape Town Parliament.
Government politicians blame black South Africans for violence after a demonstration.
South Africans speak about the roots of apartheid and experiencing its daily reality.
Racial tension around the world grows at the moment Nelson Mandela is imprisoned.
Special programme on the assassination of the prime minister of South Africa.
What do non-white South Africans feel about apartheid?
A vivid eye-witness report on the violence in Soweto in June 1976.
The aftermath for South Africa of the recent violence in Soweto.
The growing legacy of bitterness as changes are made in South Africa.
An abandoned baby causes problems for South African bureaucracy.
Reform in South Africa is criticised for not bringing an end to apartheid.
The indomitable civil-rights activist Ellen Kuzwayo in conversation.
Viewpoints on life under apartheid in South Africa.
How women in South Africa are leading the fight for an end to apartheid.
'Panorama' investigates a young black revolutionary group.
Bomb attack wrecks fast-food restaurant near Johannesburg.
Arthur Miller interviews Nelson Mandela, less than a year after his release.
Historic announcement from Cape Town Parliament on the end of apartheid.
Hope amongst confusion as all South Africans vote for the first time.
Highlights of a 'Blue Peter' summer expedition to South Africa.
A 'Panorama' producer considers the options in meeting a request from the South African government.
A BBC publicity statement in reaction to criticism from South Africa.
The South African High Commissioner has stated his case about the 'Panorama' programme on South Africa.
A South African cameraman describes his reaction to press reports on 'Panorama'.
Concerns are raised about the arrest and detention of two journalists.
South Africa denies detaining people because they work for the BBC.
The dangers facing journalists, particularly in South Africa.
The BBC considers the impact of one of its programmes.
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