In the summer of 1985 the BBC entered a period of crisis. It had planned to broadcast a documentary called At the Edge of the Union which featured extensive interviews with two of Northern Ireland’s more outspoken political figures, Martin McGuinness, senior Sinn Féin politician and someone who has admitted membership of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Derry, and Gregory Campbell, an outspoken member of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Unaware of the existence of the yet to be broadcast programme, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made a speech in Washington arguing that the media should not give terrorists ‘the oxygen of publicity’. After Rupert Murdoch’s paper, The Times, linked the stories, the Home Secretary at the time asked for the programme to be banned, the Board of Governors of the BBC attempted to intervene, and the system of editorial control of the BBC spiralled down into disarray. Rupert Murdoch was busy launching Sky Television so undermining the BBC was convenient but for the BBC, covering Northern Ireland, which its journalists and documentary makers were always keen to do, had always been a problem. Much editorial policy within the organisation had developed specifically to deal with the precarious position of the state in the six northeastern counties of the island of Ireland.
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