Back Issues 12.02.04


Just to show that the BBC has always been treated as a political football, 20 years ago the corporation was under fire from both major political parties. Tory party chairman Selwyn Gummer was accused in the Commons of seeking to blackmail the BBC into reporting his party favourably. Deputy Labour leader Roy Hattersley alleged the Government was trying to intimidate the BBC after Gummer had said “very serious action” would have to be taken after a Panoramaprogramme on the alleged links betweenTory MPs and right-wing groups. Meanwhile, Labour’s Tony Benn had accused the BBC’s political commentator, Vincent Hanna, of trying to persuade voters in the Chesterfield by-election to support the Liberal/SDP Alliance.


Brian MacArthur, then deputy editor of The Sunday Times, was leaving to become editor of Northcliffe’s Western Morning News in Plymouth. He returned to Fleet Street after being recruited as editor of Eddy Shah’s Today, which launched in March 1986.


Charles Moore had been appointed editor of The Spectator, succeeding Alexander Chancellor, who had taken sales of the political weekly from 11,000 to 21,000. Chancellor said of the editorship: “It is a lovely job, with so much freedom to choose the writers you want. I think I moved it away from being bombastically right wing.”


The Government of the Republic of Ireland had extended, for another year, its ban on radio and television interviews with any member of a terrorist organisation or with Sinn Féin spokesmen.


Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers was planning to introduce a new scheme to retrain printers as sub-editors. The job-swap plan was offered to the NGA print union at The News, Portsmouth, in return for agreeing to the introduction of new technology and single-keying.


United Press International’s Beirut bureau was blasted by artillery shells for the second time in a year. At least five correspondents were hurt. But as Press Gazette’s front page showed, the agency still managed to get news and pictures out. The front-page shot showed a gunman on the run as smoke billowed from a shelled building. It was taken for UPI by George Semerdjian. UPI staffer Steve Magey said: “The bureau is functional, but in a shambles. A thunderous explosion knocked us to the floor.”


The honeymoon transport for Brighton journalist Adam Trimingham and Sue Taylor was a bicycle made for two. Adam, a columnist and chief reporter on the Evening Argus, Brighton, and Southern Sound presenter Sue hopped on the tandem for the journey home from Hove register office.


The News of the World was ordered to pay a total of £253,000 in damages to 10 policemen it libelled by reporting a man’s allegation that they had raped and blackmailed his wife. The newspaper had published a letter from David Brain, a gunman involved in a
siege. NoW editor Bernard Shrimsley had told the court that by publishing Brain’s grievances the newspaper had performed a
public service and helped end the siege without loss of life. He also argued that no reader would have taken Brain’s allegations seriously.


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