Survivors of the Titanic | Survivors from the famous shipwreck tell their stories
WRITTEN DOCUMENT 1947
28 February 1947
Internal Memo from Belfast to HQ
From: Northern Ireland Director
Subject: SENSATION: "THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC", Tuesday, 25th February, 9.0-9.30 p.m. (Light) postponed to 4th March
To: S.C. Copy to Mr. Norman Collins, D.F. D.G. for information
28th February 1947
I think you would expect me to report on the situation which arose here last week in connection with the above feature in the Light Programme. On Friday, 21st February, a director of Messrs. Harland & Wolff, the Belfast shipbuilders, telephoned to N.I.E.D. and asked him if he was aware that a progranme about the "Titanic" disaster was going to be broadcast the following Tuesday. On N.I.P.D. having to express ignorance of the matter, he was then given details regarding the feature and told that a strong protest was being made against the broadcast. A few days later Messrs. Harland & Wolff - not Head Office - actally sent him a copy of the script, which he passed on to me. It seems that the Chairman of the Cunard white Star Line, Mr. P.A. Bates, had written to Messrs. Harland & Wolff, the builders of the "Titanic", taking serious objection to the programme and asking them to use their influence to have it cancelled. We were informed that in his view aspersions were cast both at the owners and builders and that on other grounds as well the broadcast should not be allowed to take place. As a result, I telephoned D.G.'s secretary on Friday evening, 21st, and to S.C. on Monday, 24th February, explaining the position but ascertained that Mr. Bates had already been in touch both with the Government and the D.G. and that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland had sent a telegram to our Chairman.
As far as I am concerned, I am only sorry that I was not consulted in advance regarding this feature, as otherwise I should certainly have advised at least certain modifications to be made in it, for the reason that in Northern Ireland, where a large number of relatives of the drowned crew are still alive, the "Titanic" disaster is still a very painful subject and we have always been careful to avoid any reference to it in our local programmes. Moreover, we have felt that a progranme dealing with the "Titanic" disaster would undoubtedly damage the prestige of Messrs. Harland & Wolff, one of the main employers of labour in Northern Ireland, and jeopardise the BBC's relationship with this firm. Mr. Bates end Sir Frederick Rebbeck (Chairman of Messrs. Harland & Wolff) both spoke to me personally in Belfast on 25th and appealed to me to have the feature cancelled, but I have heard since that certain offending passages have now been excised front the script and the date postponed to 4th March. I was glad that the postponement took place because the original date (25th February) co-incided with the launch in Harland & Wolff's yard of the first Cunard-White Star Liner to be built since the war.
It seems to me that the unfortunate circumstances that have arisen in connection with this feature raise an important point in procedure as between programe divisions at Head Office and the Regions, and I should like to suggest that when the former are projecting sensational features of this kind and, in fact, any which might affect a Region, they should make a point of consulting the appropriate Regional Director and of furnishing him with the script well in advance. Had they done so in the present case, some dangerous pitfalls could have been avoided as well as much irritation and protest.
Document Type | Memo
28 February 1947
A disgruntled head of programming for Northern Ireland writes to the Senior Controller complaining about having been left out of the loop throughout the controversy over the 'Sensation' programme. He also gives the Northern Irish perspective on why this play could be so problematic.
Read further correspondence on this subject.
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