Churchill imposed nuclear ban on BBC

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The Independent Online
SIR WINSTON Churchill imposed a de facto ban on any in-depth BBC documentary or discussion about the nuclear bomb, secret papers made public yesterday reveal.

Documents released to the Public Record Office in Kew, west London, show Churchill later boasted that the BBC had "very willingly accepted" his demand that they should not broadcast even "responsible discussion" about nuclear warfare. The ban in effect ran for more than a decade into the mid-Sixties when the BBC suppressed The War Game documentary, reconstructing the effects of a nuclear attack, under government pressure.

However, the papers reveal that the BBC strongly resisted the Government's attempts to intervene and only backed down after intense arm- twisting from ministers.

Churchill intervened in 1954, at the height of Cold War paranoia about "The Bomb" after learning that the BBC was apparently planning a programme about it. He immediately fired off a memorandum to the postmaster-general, the Earl De La Warr, saying he doubted "whether it is wise that they should do this".

He added: "I am sure ministers should see the script in advance, in order to satisfy themselves that it contains nothing which is contrary to the public interest".

De La Warr in turn wrote to the chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, Sir Alexander Cadogan, demanding to see in advance the script of any programme "which contains information about atomic or thermo-nuclear weapons" so the Government could issue "guidance or directions".

The reaction of the BBC was initially defiant. Cadogan wrote to De La Warr complaining that ministers appeared to want to exercise a degree of control "unprecedented in peace time".

A cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh and heir to the Greek throne was banished to India in Second World War for being a trouble-maker. The Foreign Office feared that meddling by Prince Peter of Greece would wreck resistance efforts of the Special Operations Executive.