Saturday, 12 September 2015

Theme Time : Shawn Phillips - World In Action

Seeing as Tony Hatch's Man Alive theme went down so well yesterday, I thought I'd turn my attention today to its ITV rival, the great World in Action

World In Action was truly groundbreaking television from the heart of the North West's Granada Television. Beating Man Alive to the screens by two years, World In Action effectively had the monopoly on the investigative journalism and current affairs format during this period. Across the years (the show ran from 1963 to 1998) World In Action's campaigning nature frequently had a major impact on events of the day. Its succession of bold and committed production teams who were unafraid of taking risks meant the show gained a solid, though somewhat left-wing and radical, reputation. Indeed Margaret Thatcher was alleged to have once said that the show's production team consisted of "just a lot of Trotskyists". In short, they were - to quote Keith Richards in the dock in 1967 - "not worried about petty morals" that the establishment seemed to live by. 

The criminal case against Richards and his fellow Rolling Stone Mick Jagger was important for World In Action as it was they who bagged a post-trial encounter between the newly released Jagger and senior figures of the establishment in what the then WIA researcher and future DG of the BBC John Birt claimed to be "one of the most iconic moments of the '60s"  

Thanks to WIA, cabinet ministers such as Jonathan Aitken fell from grace and miscarriages of justice were brought to light and rightly rectified, most notably with the release from gaol of the Birmingham Six in 1991. The show infiltrated and dug up the dirt surrounding Scientology, the police force, the intelligence services, local councils and major businesses and far right paramilitary groups such as Combat 18. It was also responsible for the long running Seven Up! series of TV films by Michael Apted which continues - revisiting its key cast every seven years - to this day. This was hard hitting, campaigning investigative journalism of the highest order and the show would regularly draw in audiences of up to 23 million, that's effectively half the population.

Its removal after 35 years was seen by some as part of a general dumbing-down of British television, and of ITV  in particular. The Tonight (With Trevor McDonald) programme is effectively the show's replacement but it is woefully inadequate to that task and the pool of investigative journalism remains somewhat arid now without the vital training ground that was World In Action, the show which gave us Tony Wilson, John Pilger, Gordon Burns, Paul Greengrass, Michael Apted, Donal MacIntyre and Stuart Prebble.   

Growing up in Granadaland in the '80s, I have so many memories associated with this theme tune, mainly fear. It sounded so imposing and doom laden and, as Tony Wilson did his day job presenting from the studio grave stories of harsh regimes abroad and social decline and desperation at home, I felt even more scared and depressed. Growing up in the '80s could be quite traumatic!

Kudos therefore to Shawn Phillips for his great proggy jam that put the shits up kids immediately after watching Corrie

1 comment:

  1. Superb programme and that theme really does take me back. Thanks for the memories.