CV: ROGER BOLTON Independent producer, presenter, `Right to Reply'

I went to Liverpool University in 1964, and at the beginning of 1967, the BBC sent people round to talk about the jobs that were available. They said we could apply to be studio managers, but told us not to bother with the general trainee scheme, because only people from Oxbridge got on that. But I thought: "Bugger that - I'll have a go", and they offered me a general traineeship.

I went first of all to Bush House, where I remember interviewing someone about the introduction of giant rabbits into Australia for food. I then worked on Late Night Line-Up, with Joan Bakewell, and on a religious programme with Malcolm Muggeridge called The Question Why?, before ending up in current affairs.

I was first on The Money Programme, then on Panorama, and in 1978 I was asked to edit a nightly show called Tonight, which was when my troubles with Ireland began. We thought our job at the BBC was to explain to the British people what the facts were about Northern Ireland, but we ran up against Mrs Thatcher, who was just coming to power. Some months after Airey Neave was killed by the INLA, we interviewed a member of the INLA, trying to find out what they believed and why on earth they had done such an appalling thing, and Mrs Thatcher did not approve.

Subsequently, when I became editor of Panorama later in 1979, I attempted to make an in-depth programme about the IRA with Jeremy Paxman, but in the course of filming there was a dreadful row and I got fired. But I was reinstated, and I had a great time editing Panorama. It was a very radical period - you could ask fundamental questions about almost anything.

In 1983, I moved on to Nationwide, and during that year's election period we felt it was our job was to give ordinary people the opportunity to question political leaders. We selected a lot of tough-minded people, telling them to keep at the leaders, and Mrs Thatcher, for the first and only time in the campaign was discomforted, because she'd got her facts wrong. One lady called Diana Gould asked questions about the Belgrano, which was steaming away from the Falklands when it was sunk, with the loss of more than 1,000 lives, and Mrs Thatcher maintained stoutly this wasn't the case. But Diana Gould didn't give up - so that got me into trouble again.

I was then moved to run the BBC Network Production Centre in Manchester, where I was responsible for more than 1,000 people and a range of programmes from Michael Wood's In Search of the Trojan Wars to the snooker and cricket, and I had immense fun. But then came the Real Lives programme, in which Martin McGuinness was interviewed and which the BBC governors banned at the request of Leon Brittan. Though I wasn't directly involved with it, I put my head above the parapet and argued that this was wrong. And, in the subsequent reorganisation that occurred, in 1986, I was made redundant.

But then, fortunately for me, David Elstein, who had been appointed director of programmes for Thames Television, asked me to edit This Week, and it was during my time there, in 1988, that the SAS shot three members of the IRA in Gibraltar. The government told everyone that there was a bomb, the IRA members were armed and that there was a shooting match, and it didn't seem much of a story to me - until we discovered there was no bomb, the IRA members had been unarmed and the shooting was all one-way.

Before long, the propaganda of both sides took over, and I felt it was a classic situation where current affairs programmes should try and establish the truth. We discovered that the government account was extremely flawed, and there was a tremendous kerfuffle about it - though, in the end, we were exonerated. But Thames then lost its franchise, and though it may have lost it anyway, I don't think the Death on the Rock episode helped.

By now, at the age of 46, my time was running out as an executive, and no one rushed to employ me. Fortunately, there were opportunities in the independent sector, and in 1992, I managed to get the contract to make Heart of the Matter, renewing my acquaintance with Joan Bakewell. Since then, we've done a lot of documentaries - we're doing a series of three programmes about the devil and the problem of evil for BBC1 - and in 1995 we devised You Decide with Jeremy Paxman, now being presented by John Humphrys.

Three years ago, I was asked if I would like to present Right to Reply, but I don't know how long that will last, as I've now insulted or embarrassed most commissioning editors. In other words, I've been dead lucky, but it has been a rocky road

Interview by Scott Hughes

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk