From Blacklist to Oscar Shortlist:
Paul Turner, MI5 and the BBC

Colin Thomas reflects on how the career of Hedd Wyn director Paul Turner had been affected by political blacklisting within the BBC, and examines whether blacklisting continues to blight the media in the UK


When Paul Turner went for his interview at the BBC’s Community Programmes Unit in London in 1975, he thought he was in with a chance. Although he had been turned down for promotion at the BBC in Cardiff, the Community Programmes Unit had established a reputation for adventurous programme-making in its short existence and thus had won some degree of independence within the BBC’s hierarchical structure. Perhaps, thought Paul, this was at last a chance to move on from cutting film inserts into Wales Today back in Cardiff.

The twenty-nine-year-old assistant film editor impressed Mike Fentiman, the man in charge of the Community Programmes Unit at the time. But Fentiman was in for a surprise. ‘I wanted him in the Unit but was told, “No, you can’t have him”,’ Fentiman told me. ‘“But I want him,” I replied. “You can’t, he’s got a Christmas tree on his file. He has got so far and we now realise that he is a threat inside the BBC...”’

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