Letter: Battles on television

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your media correspondent Janine Gibson's piece on the alleged use of archive rather than contemporary footage in Carlton Television's The Connection brought back memories of a stint I did for National Iranian Radio/Television (Nirt) in the mid-1970s (Inquiry into Castro fraud, 10 June).

I was then the TV director for Iranian Television's weekly Special Agent current affairs programme. Ideally, my job was to cover events in the outside world of such chaos that it made Iran under the Shah look a haven of peace. The difficulty was that my Iranian employer, from the old royal family, did not want to get killed in any trouble spot, and the Iranian cameramen I was obliged to employ could never get the camera aperture right, faithfully under-exposing miles and miles of film.

I remember returning from shooting a thousand feet or so of my employer at the front-line in Angola (in reality we were by a palm tree at Kinshasa airport, in another country) to find none of the film was of any use.

I found a palm tree along the then named Pahlavi Avenue in Tehran for the stand-up bit, and then did the round of embassies for footage of heavy Russian transport planes airlifting huge amounts of war material into Luanda airport.

All I could find was some interesting promo stuff of an American C141 doing familiarisation take-offs and landings in Florida. When we broadcast it, my employer was bravely standing right at a battle zone (sound effects added) and Russian transports - complete with US Air Force markings - were taking off and landing at Luanda every 40 seconds or so.


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