Wednesday 27 July 2011, 12:30
THE DOWNFALL OF A PRESS BARON
As we wait to see whether Rupert Murdoch will fall from power and lose control of News International, I thought I would tell the extraordinary and forgotten story of the dramatic downfall of the newspaper mogul who used to dominate Britain before Rupert Murdoch arrived.
Cecil King ran the Daily Mirror - along with over two hundred other papers and magazines - and was as powerful and influential in 1960s Britain as Murdoch would become in the 1980s. The Daily Mirror dominated Fleet Street - and politicians bowed down to its power and influence.
But in 1968 Cecil King became convinced that Britain was heading for disaster - and he decided to engineer what in effect would be a political coup. He was going to use the Daily Mirror to try and bring down the Labour government.
Many in the Labour Party have believed ever since that Cecil King was conspiring with members of MI5 to destroy the democratically elected government, but there appears to be no hard evidence for this.
The truth is that King was in league with more familiar "rogue elements" - senior City of London bankers, including the Governor of the Bank of England, who wanted to force the Labour government to slash the financial deficit. But the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was refusing to bow to their demands.
At the same time as this was happening, many of the journalists in Fleet Street were filled with a terrible doom about the future of newspapers. As a result the BBC got excited and went and made all sorts of films about newspapers - recording Fleet Street before it died. Some of the material they filmed is just wonderful - it is full of both touching and silly moments of an old world of journalism.
It also forms a fascinating backdrop to the strange story of Cecil King because much of the BBC material was shot inside the newsrooms of the Mirror, the Express, and the Times at the very moment King was planning his coup. So I decided to make a documentary film which both told the King story and also let some of the archive run longer than normal because it is so fascinating.
I have no idea who most of the journalists are who appear - but I'd love to find out.
Here it is. It's still a rough cut. As well as all the BBC stuff there is also a wonderful bit from the brilliant ITN Source archive - they kept the camera running as Harold Wilson rehearsed an address to the nation.
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