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Dramatising intelligence history on the BBC : the Camp 020 affair

Murphy, CJ

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While there is a considerable literature that considers post-1945 British intelligence
historiography, little attention has been given to non-print media, such as factual
depictions of intelligence affairs broadcast on television or radio. Using previously
closed material from the British Broadcasting Corporation’s written archives, this article
explores how factual intelligence and security issues were represented by the BBC as the
1970s drew to a close, through an examination of the Spy! television series, which
approached episodes of recent intelligence history in a drama-documentary format. The
second episode of the series, seen by millions of viewers, proved controversial owing to
its depiction of a physical assault during interrogation at an MI5 facility, Camp 020,
during the Second World War. The article explores the fallout from this episode, as
numerous Camp 020 veterans made great efforts to point out that such physical violence
had never taken place. For the most part, this struggle was played out in private
correspondence with the BBC, while the general public was left with little reason to
question what had been shown, thereby allowing the association of wartime British
intelligence with physical abuse to go unchallenged.


Murphy, C. (2019). Dramatising intelligence history on the BBC : the Camp 020 affair. Intelligence and National Security, 34(5), 668-702.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 12, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 8, 2019
Publication Date Apr 8, 2019
Deposit Date Mar 14, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 8, 2020
Journal Intelligence and National Security
Print ISSN 0268-4527
Electronic ISSN 1743-9019
Publisher Routledge
Volume 34
Issue 5
Pages 668-702
Publisher URL
Related Public URLs


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