Steve Morrison remembers a difficult incident with a government minister

Gayle and I were sent off to interview the Labour Minister for what was then called… I think it was called Sport and Pollution. So this guy got this double-barrelled job when he was really interested in boxing and sport, which included tips and all sorts of pollutants that he was responsible for, and we made a World in Action about how refuse and waste that shouldn’t have been deposited in this tip was going through all the soil and coming out the other end and infiltrating the water supply and so on, and being the producer, I was sent off to interview this Minister, and half way through the interview when I was asking why he was allowing this to happen when it was against regulations, he tore off his microphone and stood up and said, “How dare you interview me in this manner, I cannot know the intimate details of every tip in Britain – you will never get another interview with a government department again.” And off he went. So I thought “Gosh, I wonder what this means?” So I went on making the film, and the next day I get this call from Sir Denis Forman’s office, would I like to come down to London with the rushes of the interview, and Sir Denis would like to view them with me. So I had to get the late evening train down to Euston from Manchester, I’ve got this huge can of news film under my arm, and at Euston I get on the tube to go down to Brixton – because I had lived previously in Herne Hill – and when I get to Brixton, I don’t have the can – I’d left it on the tube. And it’s midnight. So I’m knocking on doors and banging on closed metal partitions saying, “What do I do about this can?” and eventually this guy says, “It normally goes to lost property, I’m on the carpet tomorrow at 9am with the chairman of Granada.” He said, “Well, nip on the last tube and go back up to Euston, and knock on a few more doors.” So I shoot back up to Euston on this tube, bash on every metal door I can find, and eventually this big guy comes and opens the door. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I said, “Have you seen a huge can which is full of film, before it goes to lost property? I’d really like to get hold of it, it’s life and death.” And he said, “Funny you should mention that, it’s in my office – it’s just been handed in.” So I take this can of film, and the next morning I turn up at Granada, we go into the preview theatre, Sir Denis is there, “Steve, hi – come and sit down!” it’s just me and him, and he presses a button and says, “Peter, roll this film, roll this interview.” So I’m sitting there, pretty shattered because I’ve come down overnight, nearly lost the can of film, don’t know what’s going to happen, and exactly the moment when the Minister stands up and says, “Balls!” and takes the microphone off, Sir Denis leans forward and he says, “Peter, that’ll be enough for now.” And he turns to me and he says, “I don’t think you’re going to have a problem with this interview – just leave it to me.” Now, when you’re a guy who’s just arrived at Granada and the chairman says that without any huge investigation, you feel much better. The next thing that happened is that I get a message from the editor of World in Action saying, “Sir Denis has written to the Minister, and the Minister has asked if the interview could be done again.” So I said to the then editor, who is David Boulton, “Gosh, do I have to do this interview again?” because him tearing his microphone off, isn’t that the way we should leave it?” He said, “No, Sir Denis and he have agreed; the Minister has apologised for his behaviour in view of what Sir Denis has written to him, which doesn’t show him in the best light, and so we’ve all agreed the interview should be done again.” So I’m doing the interview again, which obviously is hugely embarrassing, the same guy, and a thought comes to me, and I said, “Minister, I’m sure you weren’t aware at what happened at this tip, but now that you are aware, would you be prepared to publish all the tips in Britain which should not have certain types of refuse dumped in them for reasons of health and not polluting the water, and these tips are prohibited from anything but a certain kind of waste?” “Certainly, certainly – no problem at all. We will put that out straight away.” And of course the film went out two weeks’ later, and we asked the department every day if they were going to publish this list, and of course they didn’t – and at the end of the film as the credits went up, we ran a little roller which said, “You’ve seen in this interview that the Minister has promised to publish this list, but as of time of transmission, it still remains unpublished.” So it was a kind of draw between us and the ministry, we wanted to keep our position, but we re-did the interview. But again, just as in the Cecil Bernstein example, one got the intervention of a very senior member of Granada who, once they understood the situation, acted in full support of their staff, which is something that kept you there at Granada.

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