Dorothy Byrne on working on World in Action

 I went to work on World in Action as a researcher, and that was fantastic. Although we were called researchers, anywhere else we would either have been called assistant producers or producers, so it was a bit of a misnomer. Because we were either given an idea or we came up with the idea ourselves, and then we would often go off on your own and try to stand up your story, get all the interviewees, work out the sequences that there might be etc., and then when you though the film was in a good state, quite often it was only then that the producer/director got involved. So obviously on a longer, more complicated thing, you might be with a producer, but you could work entirely on your own for 6-8 weeks maybe, and what was interesting about that was how much freedom you had, but obviously when the story went wrong or you couldn’t work it out, you were very much on your own, But if I think about that now I had extraordinary amounts of autonomy, and that was really exciting.

And I can’t now remember how long I was a researcher, because I just loved it. I thought World in Action was the best current affairs programme, I had always wanted to me a current affairs journalist, and I got to do the stories that interested me, and I got to go off and do this fantastic well-funded journalism – I mean, it was a wonderful life. In some ways it wasn’t really World in Action, quite often it was more ‘Accrington in Action’. I spent a lot of time in a lot of grotty places, doing things… I loved the fact that some of the programmes were investigative, but some of the programmes were conceptual, and I thought that was, you know, it was just such an exciting programme, and so many ideas about other forms of television arose out of World in Action, I think. The drama documentary, obviously, started there, but features type programmes like can you live without your car, I worked on that… when I was at Channel 4 I made quite a long-running series called Can You Live Without, so… World in Action didn’t have a view as to what a current affairs programme was. Its form was absolutely open. Nowadays, a lot of those other sorts of ideas are now happening in other genres, and I think that current affairs television has been responsible for a lot of the dynamism in form of television generally

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