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INLA investigation

David Lloyd: Newsnight Editor 1982-83

Masked gunman
David describes the INLA film as "original and intelligent"

Nomination: David nominated Gavin Esler's investigation into the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) along with Newsnight's coverage of the Falklands War.

The INLA report was broadcast on 10 May 1983.

Click on the video link on the right-hand side of this page to watch

David says: "My editorship was marked by war on three fronts - the landing on the Falklands, the Israeli invasion of the Lebanon and, more immediately, a day-to-day tussle with the Director General, Ian Trethowan, who continued to find it incomprehensible that a corporation of which he was Editor-in-Chief could possibly distrust information supplied by the Ministry of Defence.

But our scepticism survived, as did our ingenuity and initiative. Denied - at one point - any useful information on the precise deployment of British forces on the Falkland Islands, we applied to Washington for frames of a weather satellite known to overpass the Falklands, only to find that the Security and Intelligence Services had had precisely the same idea.

David Lloyd
David said Gavin Esler's INLA film proved there were no 'no go' areas
Curiously, there proved to be an overwhelming lack of information on weather systems at those latitudes.

Overall, the programme's efforts met with greater success. Newsnight's lasting reputation was forged, initially, in war. In Lebanon, David Sells led the reporting charge, with that unrivalled combination of precision, drive and authority that he has delivered during all the programme's 25 years.

But our secret weapon in the consistent coverage of a war as invisible as the Falklands was our opportunity to marry the skills of a crop of young assistant producers (a certain Bennett and Hegessey among them) with a dramatic advance in technology.

We stood at the crossover from film to electronic newsgathering, at the origin of news tape editing, and with the ability to plunder the news library archive and organise its contents to contemporary effect.

I'm not sure that any of us realised it at the time but we were busy inventing the "news backgrounder" - a form that was to dominate news programming for the next two decades. You saw it on Newsnight first.

Another highlight: Gavin Esler's investigation into the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Gavin Esler
Gavin Esler presenting the INLA report for Newsnight

For me, Gavin's report was particularly significant because it stands within the best Newsnight tradition - singular stories, available only on the programme but of true contemporary relevance. It also underlined that there are no "no go" areas for the programme's journalism.

Also, original and intelligent as it was, as editor, I was particularly gratified that unlike almost every other BBC investigation mounted into Republicanism to that date, this one did not lead to a thumping great row.

At least the Director General must have appreciated that.


General Trainee - 1967
African Service, External Services, Radio - 1968 to 1970
Asst Producer, TV Music Programmes - 1970 to 1971
Current Affairs Producer, Europa, Money Programme, 24 Hours, Midweek - 1971 to 1977
Deputy Editor, Nationwide - 1977 to 1979
Editor, Money Programme - 1980 to 1982
Editor, Newsnight - 1982 to 1983

Newsnight is broadcast every weekday at 10:30pm on BBC Two in the UK.

Watch Gavin Esler's investigation into the INLA


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