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Sensation: Note for file re Titanic programme

A summary of the brewing controversy.

BBC ARCHIVE
WRITTEN DOCUMENT 1947
March 1947
Page 1

[Document begins:]

NOTE FOR FILE ON "TITANIC" BROADCAST - MARCH 1947


The dates and such details will be on the file, but for archive purposes it is worth noting the various steps that Cunard-White-Star took in the month or so before the broadcast with a view to stopping it. They were as follows:-

1. A letter to the D.G. protesting at the proposed broadcast

2. A deputation of two to see S.C., at which they were told that the broadcast would proceed but that we would let them see the script and comment on anything they found displeasing.

3. Script sent to them but they replied that as they were against the programme in any form they refused to comment on the script.

4. Cunard-White-Star Chairman, Bates, rang up the D.G.
quoting various passages from the script, threatening solicitor's action, etc.

5. Bates rang up again to say that if a letter arrived from their solicitors would we kindly send it back unopened.

6. Weston, Deputy Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, rang S.C. several times and finally sent a Mr. Bainbridge to see him. Bainbridge was shown the script as amended by S.C after his first reading of it.

7. The Home Office rang up on behalf of the Government of Northern Ireland but their P.R.O. took no further steps when he was told that the programme was going ahead regardless of Cunard-White-Star.

8. Sir Basil Brooke, Premier of Northern Ireland, sent a telegram to the BBC Chairmen, which was suitably answered.

9. Harland and Wolff of Belfast rang up N.I.D. quoting bits of the script (which Cunard-White-Star, in spite of their refusal to comment, had obviously had copied and sent round to various people).

10. The Shipping Conference approached Mr. Adamson, of the Board of Governors.

II. Cunard-White-Star Chairman, Bates, is alleged to have approached the Prime Minister.

[Page Two]

12. Sir Cyril Hurcomb, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, buttonholed S.C. at the Athenaeum and said he was very worried about the programme, though he admitted that the script itself hadn't much in it that might be considered objectionable.

13. There was another approach from Hurcomb a day or two later, at which S.D. told him that he had heard the recording of the programme and that he was satisfied that it was harmless.

The programme was eventually broadcast from the recording, as the BBC had agreed to postpone it for one week owing to the original date having clashed with the launching of a new liner at Harland and Wolff's yard at Belfast. Hurcomb told S.C. a week or so later that he had had a letter from Chairman Bates saying that they had heard the programme and that they were not worried about it, and thanking him for his good offices. Bates was not man enough to write to the D.G. in the same strain.
The programme had an audience of just over eight million, and listener reaction was confined to five letters - four favourable and one complaining that it was a gloomy subject.

[signature]
B.E.Nicolls


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Document Type | Note for File

09 April 1947

Document version

Writtenin

1947

Synopsis

In 1947 the BBC attempted to broadcast a radio play in the 'Sensation' series, about the sinking of the Titanic. This document details, for the record, the various attempts made in March by the shipping line, the shipbuilders and even the government to curtail the broadcast of the 'Sensation' play and the BBC's response to these pressures

Did you know?

As this document explains, a lot of the controversy around this play was due to its timing. The ship builders, Harland and Wolff, were about to launch a new liner and they didn't want a play reminding people of the fate of their most famous launch at this delicate time.

Read further correspondence on this subject.

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