In 1980 the BBC’s documentary series Panorama began developing an episode on British intelligence. This was the first of its kind, at least by such a prominent and respected series, but both the central government and the intelligence agencies were not happy. Over a period of several months they put pressure on the BBC, trying to stop the programme from being broadcast. When this failed they considered using the government veto to prevent it from airing, and ultimately ended up heavily censoring the documentary via a secret preview screening with MI5.
In the summer of 1980 the BBC’s flagship documentary series Panorama was developing a TV special about British intelligence. This was the first film of its kind, and perhaps unsurprisingly Thatcher’s government was not happy about it. Downing Street put pressure on the film-makers via BBC Director-General Ian Threthowan, and an MI5 lawyer previewed the film and provided detailed feedback on what to remove.
The Twentieth Day in January was published in 1980 and tells the story of an MI6 officer discovering that the Russian government is blackmailing the incoming president. In this subscriber-only podcast we take a look at the book and dwell a little on its implications, and I offer my views on why the whole Trump-Russia-Dossier nonsense has so quickly fallen from the media spotlight. This podcast is only available to Patreon subscribers.
Spies is the ‘new’ game show from Channel 4. I say ‘new’ because it’s a blow-for-blow remake of the 2004 BBC series Spy, which also took a small group of members of the public and had three former spooks put them through their paces via a series of tests and training exercises. The first episode of Spies contained one variation from the BBC’s version – one of the contestants is a mole, part of the team called ‘control’ who are ostensibly running the training course.