Television

The media and ethnic prejudice in the 1960s and 1970s

Clips and episodes from TV shows in the 1960s and 70s show that they featured terms like “uppity nigger”, “darkies”, “my little mammy”, “nig-nog”, “sambo”, “wog”, “wog bird”, and “wog land”, as well as talk of civility.

A hard-hitting fable

When I started watching the new BBC drama Noughts & Crosses I was pretty sure I’d seen something like it before. A society where racial oppression holds sway in much the same way as it did in apartheid South Africa except the twist is that the roles are flipped, black African-heritage people are the oppressors and the white population of a fictitious England the oppressed? Then I remembered my cockney working-class father being more than a little outraged at the self-same premise of another play by the BBC. It was called Fable, written by John Hopkins for the groundbreaking Wednesday Play slot...

After 12 years of Tory misrule

Prolonged periods of Tory rule have a habit of ending in a tide of sleaze and scandal. John Major gained the largest Tory vote in history in 1992, but his party was brought to a historic low five years later, with their worst election result in 90 years. A similar set of circumstances faced the Tories in 1964, after what Labour Party leader Harold Wilson famously called “thirteen years of Tory misrule”. On that occasion the most infamous scandal besetting them was “the Profumo Affair”. Today we are in a third long period of continuous Tory rule (from 2010), so BBC’s The Trial of Christine...

Species under threat

David Attenborough returned to our screens on Sunday 27 October with his latest documentary Seven Worlds, One Planet. The series devotes an episode to each continent and the wildlife they support. In the introduction, Attenborough states that climate change is the most significant event to affect the planet since continental drift began 200 million years ago. Most of the stories relate to how climate change is affecting the featured animals. Episode one focuses on Antarctica, 98% of which is covered in ice and largely uninhabitable for humans. We see stunning footage of St Andrew’s Bay on...

Labour and antisemitism: yes, it’s a real problem

The BBC Panorama programme (10 July) about Labour’s antisemitism problem has intensified the Party’s internal row. Unfortunately, because the programme was not well done, and because Labour’s response has been to “shoot the messenger” as Emily Thornberry rightly put it when criticising that reaction, the renewed row has brought very little light so far. Thornberry said: “I think that we shouldn’t be going for the messengers, we should be looking at the message. I think that is what is important. “Nobody can pretend that there isn’t an ongoing problem within the Labour Party about antisemitism...

HBO’s Chernobyl: a service to us all

Chernobyl was a disaster — there is no doubt about that — but what lessons should we learn from it? Though the catastrophic meltdown and explosion of the RBMK Reactor No 4 happened almost half a lifetime ago, when police states claiming to serve the workers ruled eastern Europe, the recent HBO mini-series Chernobyl has brought that time back to life. Though partly fictionalised and sometimes wrong (according to survivors and experts), the basic facts are correct. During an “experiment” aimed at improving safety procedures, Reactor No 4 responded erratically and attempts to bring it under...

A British counter-revolution

The current BBC2 documentary series Thatcher: A Very British Revolution is worth watching for the film footage — interviews with Thatcher, old news reports of events, and other rarer clips. Beyond that, it won’t tell you much more than Wikipedia does. Most of the talking heads are Tory ex-MPs and civil servants who served under Thatcher. Also Bernard Ingham, Thatcher’s press secretary, who proves that reactionary pomposity does not fade with age. After three instalments, I can say the first episode was the most interesting. It explained how Thatcher came to be leader of the Tory Party in 1975...

Game of Thrones: A World on the Edge

Screenwriter Clive Bradley (The Vice, A Harlot's Progress, Trapped) on why Game of Thrones was so good. *This article reveals plot details* Game of Thrones was produced by HBO, a company which made its name as a maker of ‘high-end’ TV drama with such shows as The Sopranos and The Wire. The Wire was a highly realist account of the police and drug gangs in Baltimore. GoT on the other hand has, well, an army of zombies and fire-breathing dragons. What does it tell us about the world today that a magical fantasy set in a reimagined medieval Europe has been such a phenomenon? Most obviously, its...

“If I don’t get satisfaction I’ll be at that Wilson’s house, private house, until I do...”

Hull's Headscarf Heroes on BBC iPlayer tells the story of a inspiring fight by working-class women in Hull to put workers’ safety at sea ahead of profits. In 1968, the deep water fishing industry employed thousands, not just on the ships but on shore processing. A whole community centred around Hessle Road depended on the trawlers. The trawlers were an extremely dangerous industry, only partially organised in unions. Even though many women worked in the industry onshore, the trawlers themselves were operated only by men. In the Hessle Road community, women were relatively marginalised...

The Satanic Verses thirty years on

It is thirty years since the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, partly based on the life of the founder of Islam, Muhammad, sparked protests across the Muslim world, with riots in India and Pakistan in which dozens of Rushdie's fellow Muslims were shot dead, book burnings on the streets of Britain, and ultimately an Iranian death sentence which sent its author into hiding under armed police guard. In BBC Two's The Satanic Verses: 30 Years On, radio presenter and journalist Mobeen Azhar travels around the country, speaking to protagonists in what became known as the...

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