My Mentor: Donal Macintyre on Peter Salmon

'He changed the face of British current-affairs coverage'
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The Independent Online

"Peter Salmon is one of the nicest but most effective people in the media; a very quiet operator but with a very sharp brain. He was heading Granada Television in Manchester when I was working for World in Action, and he was responsible for some great shows towards the end of the programme's run.

I spent a year undercover as a bouncer in Nottingham for two World in Action programmes. At the time, that was the longest spell of infiltration journalism in broadcasting, although undercover work - including the influential work of Adam Holloway, living on the streets - had been going on since 1966, and Peter Salmon encouraged its continuation on World in Action. We did an investigative programme on a meat factory, and he took me aside and explained the sensitivities of the story. Every day, the editors at World in Action had to make political judgements. Peter was always very fair with the journalists, although he would only support them if it was merited.

When he became controller of BBC1 in 1997, he brought me over. There was a great deal of sensitivity at the BBC about bringing an external team of journalists, mostly from World in Action, into an environment where Panorama and traditional current affairs ruled supreme. But Peter's support and trust in me was very important. If you look at the early MacIntyre Undercover shows, we have had an impact. Recent strands, such as Whistleblowers, The Secret Policeman, and some Panorama programmes have done a lot of undercover work.

Without Peter, I wouldn't have had that series. He changed the face of British current-affairs coverage, and provoked journalists into being more imaginative and realising there are many ways to tell a story. From his time at World in Action and the BBC, he showed himself to be very innovative. I don't think he always gets credit for that.

There were times when I would have rows with Peter. I would be a little hotheaded, stressed - and, in many cases, wrong - but Peter would have taken it and been considerate and thoughtful and always generous with advice. Those who know him, know what a powerful figure he is.

Peter finally left BBC1 - it's a poisoned chalice - and, inevitably, as a great sports fan, he has done a great job as the corporation's first director of sport."

Donal MacIntyre's programme 'MacIntyre's Big Sting' begins next month on Five