Lindsay Anderson, director of the 1968 film If (photo: Moviestore Collection/Rex Features)
George Orwell writes in his diary about working for the BBC’s Eastern Service on 21st June 1942. He supervised cultural broadcasts to India, with contributions from TS Eliot and EM Forster among others, to counter propaganda from Nazi Germany aiming to undermine imperial links:
“The thing that strikes one in the BBC is not so much the moral squalor and the ultimate futility of what we are doing, as the feeling of frustration, the impossibility of getting anything done, even of any successful piece of scoundrelism. Our policy is so ill-defined, the disorganisation so great and the fear and hatred of intelligence are so all-pervading, that one cannot plan any wireless campaign whatever.
“When one plans some series of talks, with some more or less definite propaganda line behind it, one is first told to go ahead, then choked off on the ground that it is ‘injudicious’ or ‘premature,’ then told again to go ahead, then told to water everything down and cut out any plain statements that may have crept in here and there, and then at the last moment the whole thing is suddenly cancelled by some mysterious edict from above and one is told to improvise some different series one feels no interest in and which in any case has no definite idea behind it.
“One is constantly putting sheer rubbish on the air because of having talks which sounded too intelligent cancelled at the last moment. In addition the organisation is so overstaffed that numbers of people have almost literally nothing to do.”
In 1947, the BBC resumed broadcasting television programmes. Grace Wyndham Goldie, later head of talks and current affairs, observed of some of the early problems:
“The [radio] broadcasters’ speciality was the use of words; they had no knowledge of how to present either entertainment or information in vision, nor any experience of handling visual material. Moreover, most of them distrusted the visual; they associated it with the movies and the music hall and were afraid that the high purposes of the Corporation would be trivialised by the influence of those concerned with what could be transmitted in visual terms.”
Robin Day joins the Radio Talks Department of the BBC in 1954 and is told by his superior:
“I want you…