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What the Papers said
Maurice Wiggin on the first ever Panorama programme, Sunday Times - 15 November 1953

"Once again good intentions were nullified by over anxiety and fuss. There were too many bits and pieces, whizzing past so fast that I, for one, derived no benefit from any of them."

Birmingham Post - 19 November, 1953

Prince Philip & Richard Dimbleby
Prince Philip liked his own gags
"There was a good idea behind Panorama, the new magazine programme presented last week, but obviously it had not crystallised into a satisfactory pattern."

CA Lejuene, The Observer - 15 November, 1953

"In my opinion Panorama in its present form is a sop to a public that would welcome a stronger diet."

Sunday Dispatch - 17 March 1957

"The BBC used to say that Richard Dimbleby 'Brings you television's window on the world'. Now they say that he 'Opens television's window'.

Those responsible for the interviews and for choosing the material felt that Dimbleby was getting too much credit for the programme."

"Hundreds of viewers phoned the BBC last night to ask: 'Where can I buy a spaghetti tree?'. They had been watching the gathering of the spring spaghetti harvest in Switzerland.

And the whole thing was an April Fool joke by the normally ponderous Panorama team. One Bristol viewer complained: 'Spaghetti doesn't grow vertically, it grows horizontally.'"

Dave Hill, The Guardian Weekend - 19 September, 1992

"Harold Wilson, having attained the Labour leadership in 1963, saw Panorama as an invaluable tool for projecting himself as a dynamic, modernising everyman fit and ready to end 13 years of Conservative rule.

A panorama profile included shots of him in his front room mending his son's bicycle.

Duly elected Prime Minister the following year, Wilson did five interviews on the programme in rapid succession, radiating telegenia to the disadvantage of sniffy Tory counterparts."

Richard Dimbleby
"Do you think television is going to stay important?" - Richard Dimbleby
The Mirror - 24 May, 1961
"The Duke of Edinburgh has given his first interview for British television. Millions of viewers will see him in a hard-hitting question-and-answer session in next Monday's Panorama.

Paul Fox, editor of the programme said: 'The Duke is inaugurating the Commonwealth Technical Training Week earlier in the day. We thought it would be a good idea to interview him on the subject.'

The Duke watched a playback of the interview. Said Mr Fox: 'He laughed at cracks he made - he made a couple of very good cracks. He was amusing yet hard hitting.'"

Daily Sketch - 6 April 1964

"During the Cuba crises, when Panorama was running a special programme on the brink-of-war situation, a mother of three schoolchildren rang up the BBC and told them: 'I won't send my children to school tomorrow unless Mr Dimbleby can promise me there will be no war.'"

Former Panorama presenter Richard Dimbleby in a Daily Mail interview- 3 August 1965

Former Labour party leader Michael Foot
Michael Foot stuck up for Panorama's freedom of discussion
"It seems likely that Panorama must change its character anyway. This new late news magazine five nights a week is going to mop up all the topical stuff. What happens then to Panorama's immediacy and prestige?

The BBC have said they want to keep the connection, but if there isn't an adequate place for me I shall just bow out.

Do you think television is going to stay important? I can see it just becoming part of the wallpaper in five years' time.

The best thing that could happen to it would be to reduce the hours to three hours programming a night."

Evening Standard - 13 November, 1979

"The controversial Panorama film on the IRA was taken away by Scotland Yard detectives investigating the case under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The film of the incident in Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, is likely to provide the major part of the Yard's evidence in its inquiry. Today is the first time the BBC has ever handed over untransmitted footage to the police.

Daily Express - 9 November, 1979

Mary Whitehouse
"Panorama was arrogant and disloyal" - Mary Whitehouse
"Whether the BBC Panorama team actually organised the IRA to take over the village of Carrickmore or merely accepted the terrorists' invitation to film them doing so is immaterial.

What is crucial - and crystal clear - is that a BBC film team happily consorted with enemies of the British people. It is as if, during the Second World War, a BBC crew had gone to film Nazis occupying the Channel islands.

Mary Holland, New Statesman - 16 November, 1979

"The row about Panorama should be seen for what it is - an attempt to divert popular attention from uncomfortable truth about Northern Ireland which the security forces know well and the BBC's report just might have pinpointed - 13,000 soldiers are now engaged in fighting a force in the province which the Army itself estimates as numbering between 300 and 500, and they are not winning the war."

Daily Telegraph - 11 May, 1982

"Angry viewers jammed the switchboard at Television Centre last night protesting that a Panorama programme on the Falkland Islands crises was pro-Argentine."

The Times - 11 May, 1982

Margaret Thatcher with Panorama presenter Robin Day
Panorama showed the role of marketing in Margaret Thatcher's success
"Mrs Mary Whitehouse, general secretary of the National Viewers' and Listeners Association, said: 'Panorama was arrogant and disloyal. It prostituted the power their profession gives as broadcasters. To spread alarm and despondency was a treasonable offence in the last war. One wonders what succour this sort of broadcasting gives the people in Argentina.'"

The Times - 12 May, 1982

"Leaders of the opposition parties defended the BBC over its coverage of the Falklands crises. Mr Michael Foot, the Labour leader, said that some MPs were determined to defend freedom of discussion.

He advised Mrs Thatcher before she pursued her strictures against the BBC - 'where I am sure people are seeking to do their duty in difficult circumstances' - to reprove the attitude of some newspapers which supported her."

Sunday Telegraph - 16 May, 1982

"Rarely can a television programme have provoked so violent a reaction as last Monday's Panorama. The storm led to charges of treachery over the BBC's handling of the Falklands crises.

It is an episode disturbing both for the distrust it evidenced of the BBC's integrity and the streak of intolerance of dissent in a democratic society that emerged at Westminster."

Daily Telegraph - 22 May, 1982

Dame Shirley Porter, ex-leader of Westminster council
"Robert Kee, who has presented Panorama on BBC1 since the beginning of the year, handed in his resignation from the programme yesterday.

His decision to resign followed a row over the Panorama programme on May 10 on the Falklands crises which was criticised by the Prime Minister and hundreds of viewers.

Mr Kee later dissociated himself publicly from the programme maintaining that it had identified its 'own view of the Falklands crises with that of the minority view it was claiming to look at objectively.'"

Daily Mail - 15 June, 1983

"Monday's Panorama report The Marketing of Maggie was the first comprehensive description of the vital role played by image-makers and advertising consultants in Mrs Thatcher's election triumph.

Even some die-hard Tory voters, I dare say, would have found the programme a trifle embarrassing."

Television Today - 7 February, 1985

"Spoke to a lot of people in the industry last week following the BBC's announcement that Panorama was to be moved to a slot after the Nine O'Clock News. Right across the industry there were misgivings about the move and no-one we spoke to accepted what the BBC was saying about trying to find a bigger, better audience for Panorama."

Birmingham Post - 6 March, 1985

"Panorama has more than doubled its audience to 8.8 million at its new time of 9.25pm."

The Guardian - 20 July, 1989

"Westminster council used millions of pounds to finance a housing policy designed to manipulate the vote in eight key marginal seats, according to evidence obtained by BBC TV's Panorama programme."

The Times - 27 July, 1989

"Lady Porter, leader of Westminster council, last night threw down a challenge to the BBC in response to accusations that her housing policy aimed to increase the Tory vote in eight marginal wards.

Lady Porter described the programme as 'unbalanced', adding that no-one on it was unbiased."

Richard Last, Sunday Telegraph - 24 September 1989

"No editor of Panorama, Peter Ibbotson points out, has yet completed a third year in the job. Ibbotson did his stint from 1983 to 1985.

He claims that this brief tenure is a natural outcome of ambitious BBC journalists using the programme as a stepping-stone to higher things.

The more widely-held theory is that two years is as much as most incumbents can take."

Richard Last, Sunday Telegraph - 24 September 1989

"The trouble with Panorama is, chiefly, its star status. For several decades past it has been regarded as the flagship of the BBC's current affairs output, with all the weight of responsibility and angst that position implies.

'The mere fact of out doing a particular story,' says Tim Gardam, the current Panorama editor, 'automatically makes it important. If there is tension between the broadcasters and the politicians, and there nearly always is, we are at the sharp end.'

In the old days it was easy. It was a prime reporting vehicle which went out and got the big stories, turned them round in three or four days, and put them out every Monday.

Tim Gardam has no doubt that its function in the 1980s is to ignore the obvious news stories and get behind the ones that have been running for some time, or have not yet broken.

'If we find ourselves filming alongside another programme's crew, we're in the wrong place. We need the nerve and self-confidence to fix our own agenda.'"

Sunday Telegraph - 27 January, 1991

"A Panorama programme about British involvement in arms deals with Iraq has been withdrawn from tomorrow's schedules on the orders of senior BBC management.

The cancelled film explores the role played by the Department of Trade and Industry in the export of super-gun parts to Iraq.

It is unusual for any BBC film, including Panorama, to be referred to the highest levels of management. It is even rarer for a film to be postponed - as happened in the past with an earlier Panorama film about the SAS after the Gibraltar shooting, which was withdrawn by John Birt, the deputy director-general.

Panorama producers were angry about the cancellation. 'No explanation has been given,' one said."

Independent - 20 February, 1991

"It was the neatest piece of footwork for ages in the slow-moving world of television current affairs. Panorama, the BBC's lumbering flagship, had a long-nurtured scoop grabbed from its hands by lightly armed raiders from Thames TV's nimble little assault craft, This Week.

Nine months ago Panorama started looking into the scandal of the super gun being built in Iraq from British components. Twice last month the resulting programme was billed in Radio Times, and twice postponed.

It was finally trundled out of its hardened shelter on Monday - but not before This Week had told the same tale four days earlier."

Steve Clarke, The Times - 29 January 1992

"When, in 1985, Michael Grade, then head of BBC1, moved the programme to its present 9.30pm slot, and cut its running time from 50 to 40 minutes, its audience doubled overnight to nearly nine million. Now its average audience is 3.6 million.

Panorama's detractors claim that its poor performance is a direct result of the reforms instigated by John Birt, director-general in waiting at the BBC.

There is no doubt that Mr Birt and his acolytes have steered the programme away from tough, investigative reporting, and introduced a more cerebral, issue-based style, where analysis usually takes the place of the old fashioned journalistic scoop."

Evening Standard - 10 March 1992

"Accusations of political censorship at the BBC intensified with revelations about the cancellation of a Panorama film. The programme, Sliding Into The Slump, was to investigate the causes of the recession.

The reporting team were not warned of any political problems with the programme until Friday night. One source said: 'We cannot prove political pressure from outside, nor self-censorship, but nothing else has changed in that period.'"

Andrew Marr, Independent - February 1993

"The scene was a graveyard in the former Winter Olympic village of Dobrinja, now part of Sarajevo's front line. Martin Bell, surrounded by hastily dug mounds, was telling viewers of Panorama that all outside interventions had failed.

No-one who saw his film could avoid caring. It was extraordinary - the strongest, most harrowing piece of filmed journalism yet to come out of Bosnia. The film connected.

The bravery of the Panorama team and the shock value of the programme it brought out of a European hell cannot be praised enough."

Observer - 24 April, 1994

"A hard-hitting television documentary on corruption in the flagship Conservative council of Westminster has been suppressed by top BBC management until after next month's local government elections.

According to BBC sources, Conservative Central Office complained about the programme several times, without knowing what was in it.

The BBC said last night that it had run into legal problems - but other sources in the corporation said it had been checked by lawyers for potential libel and given clearance."

The Guardian - 25 April, 1994

John Birt, former Director General of the BBC
"Labour last night urged John Birt, the BBC's director-general, to screen a controversial Panorama programme on corruption in the flagship Westminster Tory council ahead of next month's local elections.

Jack Straw, the shadow environment secretary, wrote to Mr Birt calling on him to 'immediately reinstate the showing of the programme before the local elections', and adding that the decision 'smacks of great cowardice by the BBC and of improper pressure by Conservative Central Office'.

Dr Majorie Mowlam, the shadow heritage secretary said: 'We are told the BBC's charter will be published after June 9. If this delay is not to be seen as buying the BBC's acquiescence in coverage of the European and local elections, then the BBC should show the Panorama programme immediately'.

The Guardian - 17 May 1994

"The BBC's nervousness is not unprecedented. I remember when they took Pinky and Perky, two little pigs, off the screen before an election in case they were considered a comment on politics."

Sunday Express - 19 November, 1995

Princess Diana being interviewed by Martin Bashir
More than 20m people saw Princess Diana's interview
"The BBC may be stripped of its Royal Charter in the fall-out over Tomorrow's Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales.

An alliance of MPs and peers loyal to Prince Charles believe the Corporation should be denied the self-governing status the charter gives it.

They are dismayed that the chairman Marmaduke Hussey had no knowledge the programme was being made and are questioning whether the BBC is capable of policing itself."

Daily Express - 21 November, 1995

"Wow! That will be the first reaction of most people to last night's Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales. In terms of frankness and revelation, it was everything the BBC had coyly hinted at, and then some.

No area of her life and marriage seemed to have been declared off limits."

Daily Mirror - 21 November, 1995

"It was not just the most amazing royal interview ever. It was as gripping an hour of television as there could be."

Sunday Times - 26 November, 1995

"The Daily Telegraph could not bring itself to condemn Diana outright, so it chose to shoot the messenger instead. 'The BBC, which so disgracefully connived at her irresponsibility, gave us a tragic performance - the spectacle of potential greatness encompassing its own destruction.'"

The Times - 22 November, 1995

"The team behind the Panorama interview congratulated themselves yesterday on a spectacular ratings coup: the programme was watched by about 21.1 million viewers, making it the most popular show on the BBC since 23.9 million people watched Torvill and Dean fail to win an Olympic gold medal foe their leg-dance routine in February 1994.

At times it was estimated that 23.4 million people were watching the interview.

After panorama was launched in 1953, the programme regularly attracted about 10 million viewers, but its average audience is now between 5 million and 6 million."



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