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World in Action (1963-98)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment ltd

Main image of World in Action (1963-98)
Granada for ITV, 7/1/1963 -
13 x 35 minutes episodes in two series, colour
Editors includeTim Hewat
 Gus MacDonald
 John Birt
 Ray Fitzwalter
 Stuart Prebble
 Brian Lapping
 David Plowright

Reporters/Presenters include: Andrew Bell; Andrew Brittain; Gordon Burns; Michael Cockerill; Nick Davies; Andrew Jennings; Gus MacDonald; Donal Macintyre; John Nichol; John Pilger; Mike Scott; Mike Walsh; Narrators/Commentators include: Derek Cooper; Chris Kelly; Wilfrid Thomas

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Reportage and debate on British and world events.

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Together with Rediffusion and Thames' This Week (1956-68; 1968-92), Granada's World in Action was the flagship of ITV current affairs journalism for almost four decades. World in Action was the more innovative, populist and campaigning of the two, delivering quality journalism with popular appeal, and finding striking visual metaphors to illustrate its points, such as the long lines of coffins emerging from houses onto a street to represent deaths from bronchitis in 'The English Disease' (tx. 9/2/1965). Originating in the 1960s, it frequently covered issues concerning the young, such as the 1968 demonstrations against the Vietnam War in Grosvenor Square (tx. 18/3/1968), or an interview with Mick Jagger (tx. 31/7/1967) after his drugs trial. New lightweight film technology allowed a much faster turnaround of material and brought immediacy. The series also dispensed with presenters and placed its emphasis on thorough research.

In its early years, many reports considered the United States and the war in Vietnam, culminating in Jon Pilger's memorable 'The Quiet Mutiny' (tx. 28/9/1970), about the disaffection of US troops. In the 1970s, Northern Ireland became a particular focus, and its most celebrated investigation eventually proved the innocence and secured the release of the Birmingham Six, wrongly convicted of the 1972 Birmingham pub bombings. Another pioneering aspect of World in Action's approach was the dramatised reconstruction; the long Birmingham Six campaign eventually resulted in a feature-length drama-documentary, Who Bombed Birmingham? (tx. 28/3/1990).

In the 1980s, the programme considered the social effects of Conservative economic policy, and a particularly impactful edition ('For the Benefit of Mr Parris', tx. 23/1/1984) challenged Tory MP Matthew Parris to live on benefit for a week. With the 1990s' de-regulation of commercial television, World in Action became a focus in the debate on the future of public service broadcasting in the commercial sector. Despite its populist reputation, though, it was cancelled in 1998, a move widely interpreted as ending ITV's commitment to serious journalism.

World in Action was a career milestone for many. Editors included David Plowright, Gus MacDonald, Ray Fitzwalter and Stuart Prebble. Producers and reporters included John Birt, Denis Mitchell, Charles Denton, Michael Grigsby, Sue Woodford, Steve Morrison, Brian Lapping, Simon Albury, Charles Tremayne, Ian McBride and Dianne Nelmes. It also began perhaps British TV's most celebrated documentary series with 'Seven Up' (tx. 5/5/1964), featuring a group of children whose lives have been revisited every seven years since by director Michael Apted.

Steve Bryant

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Video Clips
Grigsby, Michael (1936-)
Hodges, Mike (1932-)
Pilger, John (1939-)
Granada Television