DEATH AT THE BBC by Donal Kennedy


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“DEATH AT THE BBC”  was the heading of a “TIME MAGAZINE” piece in 1966, which quoted verbatim parts of BBC radio commentary of a fight in London between  Henry Cooper and Muhammed Ali. Cooper had put up a good fight and floored Ali once, but was beaten.

 But the BBC commentary was a scream which had myself, my brother and a good friend of ours in stitches, e.g. “Cooper is leading with his left and following with his right – which is a very good ideah.”
 The BBC seems to have recruited sports commentators bloated with Great British Modesty and given to Great British Understatement who, though vetted for patriotism,had not been recruited for Great British Intelligence.
 The British secret services have always recruited journalists and other writers. Grahame Greene, Malcolm Muggeridge, Elizabeth Bowen, for instance. And when Kim Philby needed cover The Observer was happy to have him as their Middle East Correspondent. When that paper invited Conor Cruise O’Brien to be its Editor in Chief it was more careful, for O’Brien WAS really serving British interests.
The current (August) edition of HISTORY TODAY has a seven-page feature  “The BBC Book of War.”   the Corporation’s plans for a Wartime Broadcasting Service (WTBS) following a nuclear attack.
Between 1950 and 1989 the BBC produced a series of  these books which were restricted to the tiny number of staff (only 129 copies of the instruction book were printed in 1988) who would be in underground bunkers  and providing a radio service, some of them sharing their shelter with the Prime Minister at Corsham in Wiltshire. “Diverse recorded programmes and music tapes” were stockpiled,” including the Goon Show, Just a Minute, and Round the Horne.”  “There was a vague promise in the War Book that ‘the invitation procedure ‘ when staff were originally selected, would include  information that the BBC would ‘look after immediate families remaining in their homes’ or ‘assist with finance to move to a selected area of the UK’. Families might have been offered places in the existing accommodation block above ground (my italics) at Wood Norton.
When hostilities started the rest of the population would be reassured with the following meesage:
This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons.Communications have been severely disrupted……Meanwhile,
 stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.”
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