OBITUARY: Mike Dutfield
Wednesday 01 November 1995
Extrovert, voluble, opinionated, he was also a patient listener who willingly accepted advice, hardly flinching at criticism if he saw the merit of what was being proposed. This was as true on location as it was in the cutting-room. When I complimented him on the fact, he seemed puzzled. "But that's the essence of television," he replied. "It's a collaborative medium."
Nevertheless, working together every day for many months in mostly dangerous places definitely raises the temperature. He, Robert Fisk and I often had arguments, but we decided from the beginning that nothing would go into the programme unless all three of us were happy that it should. What matters is the programme, always the programme, Dutfield used to say.
We realised all along that the series would be controversial. Judging by the stream of abuse Channel 4 received on broadcasting Beirut to Bosnia, we were certainly confirmed in our expectations. The Discovery Channel, Channel 4's American co-partners in the series, have already dropped their plans for a repeat showing, so vociferous were the howls of protest greeting the first broadcast. Perhaps being banned in America is a triumph of a kind, though I know that is not how Robert Fisk thinks of it.
"We must be barmy to risk our lives making minority programming like this. Does anyone really care?" Dutfield asked one night when tiredness had got the better of him. Though I believe that he definitely did care. In order to get the kind of pictures television audiences have come to expect, it is necessary for camera crews to take up positions in exposed and dangerous situations. As an award-winning director, Dutfield understood that better than anyone. Yet as a family man the risks had to be weighed carefully. "I suppose some things are worth dying for - but for television?"
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