Tuesday, April 14, 2009


pieced together from Wikipedia:

Mary Whitehouse CBE (13 June 1910 – 23 November 2001) was a British campaigner for what she perceived to be values of morality and decency derived from her Christian beliefs. She began by focusing her efforts on the broadcast media, which she regarded as highly influential, and where she felt these values were particularly lacking. Later, she made notable interventions over publications and theatrical productions of which she disapproved, becoming involved in several cases of litigation. She was the founder and first president of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, now known as mediawatch-uk.

Mary Whitehouse began her campaign in 1963. Among her first targets was Sir Hugh Greene, then director-general of the BBC, who she claimed was "more than anybody else [...] responsible for the moral collapse in this country". Greene ignored her concerns and blocked her from participation in BBC programming. Over 2,000 people attended the 'Clean Up TV Campaign's first public meeting in April 1964, which was held in Birmingham's Town Hall. The National Viewers' and Listeners' Association was formed in 1965; she obtained a total of 500,000 signatures on her 'Clean Up TV' petition to be sent to the Queen, then a record for the UK.

Some of Whitehouse's opponents claimed that she had an ability to be offended by almost anything, pointing to her complaints about the use of the word "bloody", her concerns about the TV character Alf Garnett, Doctor Who, and the violence in Tom and Jerry cartoons.

The disagreements between Mrs Whitehouse and the BBC were the basis of a drama in 2008 entitled Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story, written by Amanda Coe. Julie Walters played the part of Mary Whitehouse, Alun Armstrong her husband Ernest, and Hugh Bonneville played Sir Hugh Greene. The Wall to Wall production was screened on 28 May 2008 on BBC2 and aired in the United States on 16 November 2008 as part of the Masterpiece series on PBS.

The show drew heavily on the Max Caulfield book Mary Whitehouse and featured a degree of dramatic licence. For example, Whitehouse and others supposedly called their nascent group "Clean Up National TV" until her husband pointed out the unfortunate acronym - they then changed it to "Clean Up TV."

Overall, this drama contrasted with the vilification typical in media references to Whitehouse and painted a fairly sympathetic portrait of her.

Toby O'B

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