The BBC Has Another Swipe at Mary Whitehouse

The BBC Goes for the Whitehouse Jugular...

But Sir Hugh Greene Comes Off Even Worse!

"That this very worthy woman was tossed aside in such a typically cavalier fashion only served to underline the continuing serious internal problems within the BBC. If dear Mary was still with us she would not be surprised. Mary was portrayed in a somewhat jokey, light-hearted fashion with an underlying inference that one simply could not take her seriously. This was a thoroughly dishonest portrayal..."

(A review of 'Filth; The Mary Whitehouse Story' shown at 9PM on BBC TV in the UK on Wednesday May 28th, 2008)

The BBC, once a bastion of moral decency and never slow to uphold Christian standards, is obviously not what it was; to make such an observation is hardly rocket science. But this great institution, now almost exclusively the domain of permissive liberals and homosexuals, and where a genuinely conservative thinker must be about as rare as a pork chop in a kosher butchers' - are still liable to surprise us.
The corporation were probably bound to eventually come up with some sort of dramatised feature which would wholeheartedly attack the late (and much missed), Mrs Mary Whitehouse. The surprise is that it took them so long. Of course, Mrs Whitehouse had long been a jibe of mostly third-rate television comedy shows but nothing of any real substance. However, the leftist liberals who quickly became entrenched in the 1960s BBC with a commitment to drive out any remaining vestiges of Christian values and influence, truly hated this woman who was such a paragon of moral decency, dignity, Christian standards, and a television viewer's perfect right not to have foul, immoral, or otherwise repugnant behaviour presented to them on evening television as "entertainment."

Mary Whitehouse (1910-2001), the brave and courageous British moral campaigner.

Since this was a 90-minute television programme one had hoped for a reasonably genuine, and at last more sympathetic, BBC consideration of Mary and her life, but, frankly, that was probably never going to happen. Yet the fact that the opportunity to take a closer and more insightful look at this very worthy woman was tossed aside in such a typically cavalier fashion only served to underline the continuing serious internal problems within the BBC. If dear Mary was still with us she would not be surprised. Mary was portrayed in a somewhat jokey, light-hearted fashion with an underlying inference that one simply could not take her seriously. This was a thoroughly dishonest portrayal. Oh, her own seriousness about taking television bosses to task was certainly made plain, but how sad that the liberals still so entrenched in British TV chose to give us a lying portrayal of such an honourable individual. Truth is: numerous people who actually met her were very impressed with her, yes even certain people who did not agree with her campaign to 'clean up' British TV. Far from the somewhat bumbling, small-minded religious bigot who viewers were shown, Mary became noted for her canny intelligence, compassion, understanding, a truly sterling courage and blessed with quick wit and a truly telling perception of human weakness. This lady made a substantial difference to British life over more than two decades and continues to be held in deep respect by thousands of people. Obviously - even now - the British Broadcasting Corporation remain very touchy about Mrs Whitehouse, and about the influence which she enjoyed, for why else would they choose to present her in such a dishonest manner?

But, as I stated at the start of this review, the BBC still do sometimes surprise us. One must at least give credit to the people who put together this somewhat thin and insubstantial dramatization not to present Mary's arch-enemy Sir Hugh Greene as being the 'goodie.' Sir Hugh Greene was the Director-general of the BBC from 1960 to 1969. He is generally credited with modernising an organisation that had fallen behind in the wake of the launch of ITV in 1955, but it is surely more accurate to say that he was the first to unwisely decide that the BBC should be involved in a viewer ratings war with ITV, others at the BBC have unwisely continued down this path, a path which has robbed the BBC of its former high standards and a former genuine integrity which had been the envy of many national broadcasting services.

Mary Whitehouse saw Sir Hugh as her 'natural enemy' since he headed an organisation which allowed the decline in moral behavioural standards throughout British life to be clearly depicted on evening television. But Sir Hugh avoided Mary like the plague and refused to meet her, which, in the opinion of even many diehard liberals, was a huge mistake. But if Mrs Whitehouse was portrayed as a somewhat stupid, naive and bumbling person, Sir Hugh was portrayed even worse. This play presented the former BBC Director-general as an arrogant, highly-conceited tyrant and buffoon who was not a little afflicted with megalomania. The presentation showed us a Sir Hugh who was far more interested in his successive secretary's skirt hem lengths and vital statistics than in BBC programme policy. Not only a moronic weakling but a weakling who held a rather high office at that. All that mattered to Greene (that is, according to this portrayal) was that the BBC should be liberal and as offensive to Mrs Whitehouse as it could possibly be! Other than that, official programme policy was not a thing which he would allow to unnecessarily detain him. Of course, since I never personally met Sir Hugh Greene, I cannot say that he was that dreadful, but the makers of 'Filth - The Mary Whitehouse Story' certainly presented us with such a picture of the 1960-69 BBC Director-general. Maybe this man deserved such a dreadful depiction, I cannot say, but Mary Whitehouse certainly did not. Actually Mary Whitehouse is often at least partly credited with the eventual downfall of Greene. It just looked so bad for the head of the BBC to be so uncommunicative in the face of the gifted communication skills of of Mary Whitehouse, with his refusal to even meet her starting to look increasingly weak and cowardly. Greene's behaviour gave Mary great free publicity and this publicity started to become increasingly sympathetic to the courageous little lady. Eventually, even several pop stars became her unlikely allies, largely attracted by Mary's willingness to give fullsome credit where it was due where she found decent and wholesome music and entertainment. In contrast, Greene's refusal to defend the BBC against complaints, whether just or extreme, started to look like small-minded, stubborn and pig-headed obduracy. Even the British government eventually became annoyed at Greene's refusal for the BBC to be held accountable for almost anything.

Officially, Greene and Whitehouse never met and the play upheld this view, yet I have heard the claim that they did once meet, somewhat unexpectedly, and Greene spent 5 minutes completely on the defensive in a one-sided exchange which proved highly embarrassing and which Sir Hugh vowed would never be repeated.

Since this BBC drama untruthfully suggested that Mary Whitehouse was a foolish, bumbling and out-of-touch lady, let me just conclude this brief review with a few facts about her in order to set the record straight:

Mrs Mary Whitehouse (1910 – 2001) was the leading British campaigner for the values of morality and decency during the 1960s-1980s. She primarily focused her efforts on the broadcast media, which she regarded as highly influential, and where she felt these values were particularly lacking. She was always especially mindful of a bad influence upon the young whom she cared passionately about. She also made notable interventions in theatrical productions of which she disapproved, becoming involved in litigation on several occasions. In 1982 she pursued a private prosecution against Michael Bogdanov, the director of a National Theatre production of Howard Brenton's The Romans in Britain, which had a scene of simulated anal rape.

Fiercely Christian, Mary joined The Oxford Group, later known as Moral Re-Armament (MRA), in the 1930s. It was in the MRA that she met her husband. The couple had an enduring, staunch and happy marriage.

It was during her years as a school teacher that Mary first learned of some of the highly unsuitable television productions which her students had easy access to. She was shocked by what her pupils told her they had watched on TV and noted how this quickly seemed to influence them. Mary greatly lamented the poor leadership coming from the established church but felt that if they were not going to sound a warning, then somebody else needed to!

Mary was the founder and first president of the British National Viewers' and Listeners' Association. It was re-named Mediawatch-UK in 2001. It could be said that Mary herself grew this originally largely Christian organisation, from just two people (herself and her husband) to about 150,000 members at its peak; lamentably, it has declined somewhat with Mary's sad demise, and now appears to lack 'teeth' but Mary has rarely been given the credit she deserves for what she accomplished.

During the 1980s, Mary Whitehouse found several allies in certain members of the Conservative government, particularly in Premier Margaret Thatcher (a former Methodist preacher). Mrs Whitehouse enjoyed Mrs Thatcher's warm support.

Few were surprised that Mary Whitehouse was appointed a CBE in 1980 for her outstanding service to British life. The award was richly deserved.

I hope that just these few facts about Mary Whitehouse will explode the myth (much-loved by liberal media types), that Mary was simply an out-of-touch prude who accomplished nothing. She was an outstanding communicator who contributed much to British life for around 25 years - right now she is much missed - and sorely-needed! Will a major British Christian leader or churchman step in and follow in Mary's worthy footsteps? Many of us would love to think so, but don't hold your breath!
Robin A. Brace, June 2008.