David Boulton describes how ‘World In Action’ operated in the 1970’s and the team that supported the journalists

At any one time there was somewhere between 12 and 15 (maybe even a few more) producers, directors and researchers on World in Action and, of course, we had very regular meetings to discuss programme ideas and there was a quite fierce competition among the producers and researchers to put forward ideas that they would want to pursue and these were all tossed onto the table and debated and essentially I had the job of selecting those stories that I wanted to pursue. Always selecting rather more than I thought would actually reach the air because there were risks with some programmes, particularly strongly investigative programmes, that you would never quite be able to copper-bottom your research and it would be unwise to put the film out in such circumstances and I can think of circumstances where maybe 6 months of research with a couple of people working on it full time failed to produce the copper-bottoming that was required and we simply abandoned the film. Something that I think would simply not happen nowadays. It would never be allowed to go that far. But yes, it was a very complex, logistical operation to keep a number of balls in the air at any one time and there were occasions when a Monday was looming up and there was still 2 or 3 programmes that were not quite there but you really needed one of them for Monday and then you really had to bully somebody into sort of saying, “Sorry, but I want your programme on Monday!” and they’d have to speed up and get it done which nearly always happened. I always used to keep at least one ready-made programme that was not particularly topical and keep it in the drawer so that if we found ourselves very close to a Monday and a programme not quite ready then we could drop that in. Yes, it was complex but it was fun! We worked on the basis that on average, an average World in Action film would be given 2 weeks to research, up to 2 weeks in shooting it and then 2 weeks in editing but of course programmes like Ray Fitzwalter’s Poulson Investigations took many months to come to fruition and there were other programmes like the British Steel programme which had to be whipped up in a weekend. There were even sometimes film programmes where the idea emerged on a Friday, filming on Saturday, editing on Sunday and Monday and that was it! But on average we allowed a 6 week schedule for making each programme.

Presumably in addition to the producers and researchers there were other people in the team who contributed to the success of the programme who were perhaps not on the production side but kept the wheels turning?

Well, the ideas for the programmes and the responsibility for making the programmes was obviously with the producers, directors and the researchers but World in Action was blessed with a marvellous team of very gifted camera men, sound recordists and technicians who were as dedicated to the World in Action ethos as the producers and the directors and that would go for PAs, it would go for the secretarial team. World in Action occupied a corridor and an office at the end that was isolated off really from the rest of the building. It was very much its own company of comrades and it felt quite distinct and apart really from the rest of Granada. Every now and then there were requests and demands that somebody from World in Action might be seconded to some other programme and that was bitterly resisted – people did not want to move out of the little World in Action enclave. Running the whole operation organisationally was Tom Gill who was marvellous because he did the basic disciplinary job which it would have been fatal for the editor to try and do. I mean disciplinary in the sense of saying, ‘You are not going to get another £3,000 for your film! You’ve already had twice as much film as you’re supposed to have! No, you’re not going to get another couple of days filming!’ He would lay down the law because he was so important to World in Action. He was Mr World in Action in many ways. People went along with his Sergeant Major discipline.

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