Banned documentary on sale on the internet - Press Gazette

Banned documentary on sale on the internet

A banned BBC documentary ?lm that made allegations of cover-ups and dirty tricks in the Government 16 years ago has resurfaced for sale on the internet.

It comes at a time when the decisionmaking process of the current administration is under scrutiny. Journalist and freedom of information campaigner Tony Gosling is selling copies of an episode from the sixpart series The Secret Society, made by investigative journalist Duncan Campbell for the BBC in 1986.

The documentary caused controversy in 1987 to the point where BBC director general Alistair Milne left of?ce with a year remaining on his contract. Five of the six episodes were shown, including one about the Zircon spy satellite whose £400m bill was allegedly concealed from government.

The banned episode on sale – called Secret Cabinet Committees – contains allegations that successive Labour and Conservative Governments under James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher used secret Cabinet committees to pass major decisions. It also documents attempts by Callaghan to stall the freedom of information bill, proposed by Liberal MP Clement Freud.

“It reveals that quite a lot of major decisions are being made even without the knowledge of members of the Cabinet,” Gosling said. The video is being sold on “For me, it was that particularly, with all this stuff going on such as the Kelly inquiry and the decision to go to war, the way that the Cabinet should be democratically accountable and clearly isn’t. There is also some stuff revealed about wheeling and dealing going on where a private members bill about freedom of information presented by Clement Freud was talked out.”

In February 1987, the police raided BBC Scotland, where the series was made, and seized the tapes. Campbell’s home was also raided, as were the premises of the New Statesman. The ?ve episodes were then broadcast after the police returned the tapes.

In 1990, the Cabinet programme was remade by Campbell and Roger Boulton for the Channel 4 “Banned” season, including an interview with Milne, who blasted BBC governors for their behaviour.

Campbell said he was delighted the video was being made available to the public. He said he was “not in the slightest bit bothered” by its emergence. “I don’t know how Tony had a copy but I’m neither surprised nor dismayed.

This is important history. I don’t think he’s doing it for pro?t – so ?ne.”

The BBC said its lawyers were looking into the matter.


By Wale Azeez