Dorothy Byrne on some interesting phone calls!

The way that we operated in terms of rights to reply and due impartiality was very different then. When I was a researcher I worked on a two-part World in Action special on Kurt Waldheim, who had been accused of war crimes. And after the first programme went out, the Austrian Embassy – he was the president of Austria at the time – rang up and said that they had heard that there had been a World in Action the night before about their president, saying that he was a war criminal, and they missed it – could we send them a VHS? And we said, “Well, if you missed it, you’re lookout,” and put the phone down. I mean, now, that could just never happen at all. Another time, Mary Whitehouse rang up to say how much she had liked one of my programmes, and I was so mortified… I can’t remember what the programme was now, one of my programmes about women or children, you know, and this woman said, “Oh, hello, it’s Mary Whitehouse, I’m ringing up to say how good I thought that programme was last night,” and I couldn’t actually bear to say to her, “I made it.” So I said, “Thank you very much, madam – I’ll pass on your comment to the producer.” I mean, the idea that I would go out and say to all the macho men, “That Mary Whitehouse just rang up, and she really liked my programme last night!” That wouldn’t have gone down very well.

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