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Episode 5

Episode 5 of 8

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 01 March 2013

Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor, continues his series on relations between broadcasters and politicians. In this programme he looks at the clashes over coverage of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s, culminating in the broadcasting ban on terrorist organisations and their supporters.

Soon after saying that terrorists should be starved of the "oxygen of publicity", Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, learned that Martin McGuinness, a leading figure in Provisional Sinn Fein and a supporter of the armed struggle, had been interviewed for a BBC Real Lives documentary, At the Edge of the Union. The Home Secretary Leon Brittan, urged the BBC Chairman, Stuart Young, to cancel the broadcast. The BBC Governors viewed it and said could not go out. This was seen as government censorship and BBC staff went on strike. The programme was later broadcast with minor changes. In 1988, the Government banned the broadcast of direct statements by representatives or supporters of 11 Irish political and military organisations. However, the BBC used actors to speak the words of supporters of the banned organisations.

In previous programmes in this series, Nick Robinson has looked at the impact of the General Strike in 1926; the clash over foreign policy during the 1930s and Churchill's wartime broadcasts; the clash between broadcasters and the government during the 1956 Suez crisis; and the row between the BBC and Labour over the documentary, 'Yesterday's Men'.

In later programmes, he examines the relationship between broadcasters and politicians during other recent crises - the Falklands War; Iraq; and the pressures on broadcasters and politicians in the age of 24-hour news.

Producer: Rob Shepherd.


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