The War Game, a case study
in Supreme emergency
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This chapter considers the BBC decision not to broadcast The War Game; it is based on an interview with the director. The core message of The War Game, a 1965 BBC docu-drama on the aftermath of a nuclear attack on a Kent town, echoed a 1954 top secret Cabinet Office report that civil defence contingencies were completely inadequate. The film was withdrawn prior to transmission after the BBC consulted the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence. Peter Watkins (the director) resigned from the BBC in protest, and questions were raised in Parliament and in the media, leading to extensive public debate, in which an unofficial pro-government case was made by proxies. The documentary was given a limited cinematic release, winning the 1966 Venice Film Festival Award for best documentary, and the 1967 best documentary Oscar. The BBC screened it in 1985. The director insists still that the film was suppressed because of its political impact. Whatever the BBC decided, it decided only after extensive consultation with government officials, which both denied publicly. The withdrawal of The War Game highlighted the almost total government public silence on nuclear weapons, but even then the government did not participate in public discussion.

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Supreme emergency

How Britain lives with the Bomb


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