Donal Macintyre on Peter Salmon
'It was Peter's initiative to do undercover work with people other than hooligans'
Monday 03 December 2007
Peter Salmon was head of programming at Granada, overseeing World in Action, when I did my first major undercover investigation in Nottingham. He was a robust supporter of independent journalism, making the programmes on the Birmingham Six and also the show which challenged Jonathan Aitken on corruption.
When he joined the BBC as controller of BBC1 he took me under his wing and set up a place where we could do undercover investigations. Undercover shows were probably at their nadir at the time but Peter said he didn't care how many people watched, he wanted to introduce an alternative view, and he did so quietly and deftly. By bringing in a little more competition to the current affairs department, he raised standards.
He changed the face of current affairs by himself initially. In many ways I think he's the father of long-form undercover television journalism. It was his initiative to start The Secret Policeman which I was involved in early on, and to do work which involved going undercover with people other than hooligans. My undercover work at the Old Bailey developed into the Whistleblowers series.
Of all the people in broadcasting he gives you time and looks after you. Not only has he mentored me but, during my most frazzled days undercover, he gave me the benefit of the doubt and mental support.
Broadcasting is very stressful and people work extraordinary hours. What he also did at the BBC was to introduce some extraordinary support networks for undercover journalists. At the time we were ahead of the Met for protection and psychological support, and it was Peter who first recognised a duty of care to the reporter.
He believes in people and gets the best out of them but he is also self-effacing and very humble, and an all-round good guy.
A Very British Gangster, a feature film produced and directed by Donal Macintyre, is in cinemas on Friday.
Peter Salmon is the chief creative officer of BBC Vision Productions.
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