John Willis – Cover ups and double standards in the asbestos industry

this series is being run together jointly with frontline in the center for investigative journalism at City University it was intended to show most of these international investigations particularly those that cable loudhailer to those without a voice and told the story many companies and officials would rather not have been told the subject tonight as you know is its best OSIS which is a mass-produced industrial material that has literally killed thousands of workers and was very little known by the public and certainly there was no encouragement for the kind of an investigation that John mounted John worked in investigations as a documentary maker at Yorkshire and he did two other films that are quite well known and one is Johnny go home and the other is the Rampton Hospital story which had a huge audience at the time and this one of course I think in many ways was even bigger because its effect medically and legally and politically was probably greater general could talk to you about that but but he then went on to do first Tuesday I’ve made some notes are quite a lot channel 4 controller of factual programs he was involved in cutting edge true stories and secret history which are probably the best things that they’ve ever done in 2003 he was chief executive even other productions and to join the BBC’s executive committee in 2003 his head of factual and learning and prior to that he ran national programming at WGBH in Boston the subject tonight is extremely important in terms of the medical question of mesothelioma and the issues around it but without my saying anything further John Willis well I think so I feel I should be singing brings an archer hit sexually with the microphone so close but thank you very much for coming and Gavin thank you for that gracious introduction it’s quite strange looking at a film again that you made 25 years ago this year and you suddenly start to see it in a different way you remember people who’d have forgotten places you’ve been to that you got to remember where they are but it was a very important moment I suppose in the lives of all of us who made the program I’m particularly pleased that one of my colleagues on the program Peter Moore who’s sitting in the third row who was one of the researchers on the program but since gone on to be a commissioner of channel 4 and win lots of awards for programs like Jamie’s kitchen but Peter and I formed a kind of great bond working on that program so it’s great that that Peters here and sing it again I was just struck by a number of things the first was how I TV it was this was a program that was two hours long was shown at nine o’clock the first hour and then at well it was meant to be at ten-thirty but i’ll come on to that at ten thirty five for the second out i was two hours on itv it was very much Gavin hinted it it feels now like giving a voice to the voiceless to giving a franchise to the disenfranchised and giving a platform to people who in some ways can represent and symbolize ITV the ITV viewer who had been left out of the rather tragic as bestest equation and forgotten and we just gave a voice to them it’s also quite striking how completely thorough the film is in the sense that we covered so many aspects of advice vessels whether it’s fraudulent death certificates corporate dumping of asbestos in third world the levels of asbestos dust we seem to cover the story from every angle in a way that was if you watch the film all the way through which of course I would urge you to do he’s completely relentless it is a film like a bit like a sledgehammer and it was partly that it was an ITV program partly that I remember one of the things that the Peter said during the making the film which is we have to make this film on stop we’ve got to make it unanswerable and in a way that’s what we tried to do and it’s quite when you see the whole film now it’s quite clear that that’s what we set out to do and I suppose also it feels like a journey of discovery which I think the best documentaries probably are we don’t quite know you start out in one place and you finish up in another and you’re not quite sure how you get there you try to take the viewers along with you and we as we went through the process of the film which took probably about a year as we’re making it we’re learning new things meeting new people and we’re you twisting and turning in terms of how we told that particular story over a period of time so you get quite a strong sense I think from the overall film of a journey and what did the film achieve well I’ll come back perhaps at the end just to sort of outline the things that the film change but I suppose that the the most sort of clear-cut or powerful thing that someone said about the film afterwards was from someone called dr.Alan Dalton who was an asbestos but environmental campaigner really and one of the sort of inspiration for the film and he said a couple of years after it was made there is no doubt that Alice changed the world landscape in relation to asbestos a Swedish trade unions came here and asked why has the law changed here it’s because of Alice no other reason asbestos is now finished is got us the bestest bestest laws in the world and probably when I die if that was on my tombstone and probably quite happy if if we’d have achieved that much so perhaps just to get you some feel of the film will will I’ll let’s show you a few minutes just from the beginning of the film there’s a very brief clip at the beginning of a very handsome attractive young man who’s now no longer with us or he’s no longer attractive and young but that’s just a fleeting moments I don’t let that put you off and it just gives you a sense of the sort of style and nature of the film so if we could play the first bear the first clip for those in the booth thank you very much we believe that the allegations we have to make a true our story begins thousands of miles away from here in a strange Canadian mining town they’ve actually named asbestos these Canadian mines supply over half the Western world’s white asbestos including most of the ninety-five thousand tonnes imported into Britain every year despite health scares in the mid-1970s mining is still on a massive scale asbestos in Canada is big business exports are worth 300 million pounds a year once the valuable as bestest fibers are extracted from this rock they’re pushed into every corner of our daily lives asbestos is all around us in water pipes pipe legging sheds and garages oven gloves ironing boards simmering paths of indoors DIY wall plugin protective clothing for firefighters and the breaks and watches every car thousands of trained asbestos can also kill you please raise your right hand you do solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give in this matter will be the truth it’s the asbestos from that same Canadian mind that’s probably killing this woman please state your full name sure will to go to court lawyers videotaped her evidence can you describe how you would see the asbestos particles as they affected you a little like snowflakes your own little stringy and come down there trick at that one what is it that you’re presently suffering from yeah its business is growing slowly like grapes are admitted from day to day you know since then how has your physical condition progressed look at next day Mary Johnson died of cancer she was killed by us best of fibers so tiny they can’t be seen by the naked eye two million of them could fit on a pinhead to most of us Ray Price is the traditional public image of asbestos disease in this 1975 film ray is suffering from asbestos disease we’ve known about for generations lungs scarred and clogged by asbestos dust Alice has been hit by a recent to discover disease more insidious and deadly than asbestosis asbestos cancer Alice’s cancer is called mesothelioma or cancer of the lung lining it’s invariably fatal it’s only established cause that just from asbestos alice is 47 years old 30 years ago when she was just 17 Alice worked for nine months at Cape asbestos in Yorkshire well I came off a phone you know how to work them right in Lincolnshire thank you Mike was just like here making I mean does you know I was just white the thickness no fire in your eyes and your nose and it used to collect on my nostrils you know use that to a big leap so to stun your nostril and then used to spit on your hands to get all the dust off your clothes you know mr.Swing put three and four times a day anymore you know I think it where it was just like in making our Hindu us we were you ever worn that sir working there could be dangerous intersection mr. soul about you like a weeks out an actor you know I a fool about it will used to let wings out of asbestos and piranhas edson you know that’s dangerous at all sorry just to set a context for that so you get an idea of the style of the film right from the beginning and this is ITV it’s nine o’clock we wanted are going to grab people with the human consequences of this as well as explaining a bit about asbestos they had at this point being a string of films made about asbestos mainly by world in action balls by panorama in the early part of the 70s would really make an impact and had helped lead to a government inquiry in 1976 I think about the asbestos industry but while all of those recommendations had not been acted upon and by the time we made this film 1982 the asbestos industry said there’s little concern about asbestos the energy has gone out of the campaign against it so i think the asbestos industry were feeling quite comfortable with how they’d written out quite a difficult few years and in terms of the context of how we made it as Gavin said we formed a little team of investigative documentary makers perhaps not really journalists but we were kind of one foot in journalism one foot in documentary making and we’d made a film about runaway kids called Johnny go home and then made a film called goodbye Longfellow Road about housing and homelessness in East London and then rampton the secret hospital and they’d all made quite a noise and we’d sort of almost inadvertently developed a sort of sub genre which was in a way you can see here beginning to form which is I will sort of mixed a very strong documentary powerful human experience mixed with investigative journalism and quite often you would see us at a mixture of kind of social inequality mixed with in the end what turns out to be criminal behavior in the case of some the nurses in Rampton or some of the people exploited young boys on the streets of London but the success of those films they between they’d got one of the prizes and great a lot of attention put us in a position where we were able to not quite decide exactly what films we made but we were if we had a strong and passionate belief in a particular subject there’s a pretty good chance we would we would get it made and in those days of course we had no commissioning Edison’s which was of course you know heaven-sent universe in the end we have to hope there’s not many commissioning editors here then if there’s I didn’t really mean it and my proposal be on your desk in the morning but I think that was you know that that meant that Yorkshire television had a in a certain number of slots each year we could just we could we could we could get on and make it but because of that sex success I say as we know we had some control of our own destiny but also we’d set the bar rather high in every program we’ve made had been very successful we’ve got big audiences we all not surprised is what do you do next and so I suppose I did and James Cutler who was the the researcher on on three of those films who you know is probably for me the kind of best investigative journalist television in a verb has probably ever had and he was obviously fantastic if mad but that’s probably comes with the territory and we were always you know cutting out things meeting people just working it and we’ve got an interest in asbestos and I’d read a couple of books and I’d been in quite interested though I wondered how we could move the story forward and we had the idea that what had happened in the intervening 10 years between those uncertain world of action films and this was that asbestos cancer had really become story and the nation and the legislators religious orders that of old-fashioned asbestosis sort of industrial disease and as sometimes happens when you start when you’re thinking about starting a film he just begins by accident and I happened to be I was going to make a film in Central America in Nicaragua about the conflict in Nicaragua and I went for an injection at Thomas Cook’s and the surgeon the surgeon the doctor who was injecting me I just noticed the name and he’d actually been a doctor in Hampton bridge where Alice lived and where Kapus bestest and it’s called Bertram man and I said all you did are you the Bertram and of course he was very flattered but that someone who’d just come for a jab for yellow fever and recognized him we began a conversation we talked about the various issues and that started to give us an idea that we should really work phone when I asbestos that we then made contact with a lobby group which is actually one person in a in a semi in enfield called Nancy Tate and she had all these documents she opened the fridge to get the milk out for tea and the fridge was full of documents about asbestos so we thought well as something it must be something here and in a bit by bit we started to get more interested in the story and Nancy put us on to some some cases because we knew we needed to find some the kind of human consequences of it all and we met a marvelous woman called Georgina Stanford lived in Canning Town and she was a sort of cockney version of Alice in lots and lots of ways but quite quickly after filming her she died and I think to be honest about it it just made us really angry we were just so angry that someone who had such fantastic dignity was so appalling the treaty not just in terms of dying but trying to get compensation and proper medical treatment and that just sort of galvanized as and drove us some on and we decided that we would go ahead with this Yorkshire television were very very supportive partly on the base of our track record and if we proceeded we proceeded with the film and we realized that we needed a spine to the film and we found Alice and formed a close relationship with her and in a way to make these sort of films and building to the relation people almost got to be something like a love affair i think you know we saw so much of alice that we became very friendly with her and in a we became to sort of the door oh really achieve such an amazing person and that’s what kept you going every time Peter or James or I was well what going around the streets rochdale hebden bridge looking for another victim looking for another bit of evidence you were driven on by the knowledge there was Alice somewhere down the road and you know she was on her last legs but of course the portrait this sort of films got to be mourned as the portrait of one woman it was dying and as we started to go on that journey of discovery we we moved beyond cape asbestos who’d been dealt with in world an action that we came to company called Turner renewals because they were the model in Britain they employed 5,000 people it was their factories which was seen as the the beacon for health and safety in this particular industry they also had owned mines in in Canada they owned companies in the USA they companies in the third world and they were clearly the biggest UK and indeed one of the world’s biggest asbestos manufacturers and we thought that if we tackle them rather than a smaller company then we might get somewhere but we knew as a hard target so just to give you an idea of a sort of Investigation really led by Peter and James that we did here’s a sort of investigative part of the film which is a lot of boring documents really but you know I hope you’ll get and understand what we were trying to do and how much work went in just to changing one statistics it could we play the second tape marina thanks Donald who is married with four children was told he had the asbestos cancer mesothelioma Donald Robinson is age 39 Turner’s also told the asbestos inquiry but in the weaving shed the factory showpiece which were 30 years is kept to below the legal limits for asbestos dust they had no disease whatsoever but not one single Weaver is contracted asbestos-related disease but what about this man who worked in the weaving shed records show he had suspected asbestosis that was in january nineteen sixty eight fully eight and a half years before Turner’s stated they had no disease whatever amongst weavers he wasn’t the only one as these records from that same year 1977 show the number of weavers with suspected asbestosis not nil but 13 among them Joe testa ferrata dinoto the medical records show he had asked best doses that was in 1977 but Turner’s let him continue work with asbestos and didn’t move him out of the danger area we’ve got a document which shows that that mr.Donato had it was a definite case of asbestosis did you ever know anything about that no no he wasn’t it was never to all that well I’m this document here says you know it’s a lot just a minute I knew jordan also there’s nowhere that your knew anything about this after all this is disgraceful was he ever moved as also didn’t I work with me for the last ten years we went back-to-back darkness there’s nowhere that you join you in that he got asked best office a few months off that last checkup and nearly six years after the company doctor first diagnosed lung damage Joe dinoto died of lung cancer was 54 turners also stated to the asbestos inquiry that they had 48 cases of mesothelioma but that none of these could be described as cases of slight exposure to asbestos but Margaret crimes worked here as Turner telephonist in the marshall was Turner’s office cleaner but they both died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma this is Turner’s own list of mesotheliomas among the exposure times 16 months one year seven months five months three years the last one a woman exposed for just ten days in this 1980 questionnaire Turner’s told one of the union’s the number of mesothelioma zin the previous four years was just three the same period we found 6 Turner’s also told the unions in 1980 the level of asbestosis between 1950 and 1979 was just 20 we found 81 even two years before that questionnaire turneth knew at least 31 as their own list complete with dates certified by the government panel shows we found 50 more cases on death certificates the total not 20 cases but 81 the real figure must be higher because death certificates often failed to record industrial disease Margaret priestly for example for the Jolly seventeen stone woman before she died she shrank to an unrecognizable eight stone officially she was seventy percent disabled with asbestosis but there was no mention of asbestos on the death certificate yet this government panel report reveals her death was due to asbestos Edward Wellings died in 1981 he had asked best doses for sixteen years before he died his death certificate stated he died from heart trouble the rochdale coroner even refused to hold an inquest but this pathologist report shows the Edward Wellings in fact asbestos in his lungs even worse he had cancer of the lung but neither cancer no asbestos was on the death certificate as a result is Widow never got the special pension which Turner’s normally give to asbestos widows and I’ll see why I should suffer to 16 years from let’s say I got it nothing one of your sick genders ok know where we murder Turner’s told the asbestos inquiry in 1977 the prevalence of us best of disease in their British factories was no more than 1 in 300 yet dr.Jeffrey Morris then Turner’s chief medical officer and a former university lecturer was within months concluding the definite or strongly suspected cases of asbestosis at Turner’s rochdale was not one in 300 but more than one in four after just 10 years at work soon after Turner’s and dr. Morris parted company the main asbestos inquiry authors never received dr. Morris’s vital one in four findings from Turner’s and they were never published I think that no scientific fact which is properly conducted should be hidden under the pillow it should be allowed the light of day and given the chance of the eminent scientists in this country and others to criticize is that what happened in this case was hidden under filler it was never asked for so hope that gives you an idea of the amount of work that went in we spent 1200 pounds just on buying death certificates which is one of the high probably the only item in a budget has ever had death certificates 1200 pounds and there was a huge amount of work went on just day by day week by week just doing what what we what was called shoe leather epidemiology just sheer sheer perspiration and shoe leather she getting the getting the information um well we got the figures of death from a whole range of different sources from trade unions some from a shop steward some from the doctor some we found him put me in either some tucked away in publications so we just scoured every but every possible source to get all the as much information as possible so just to go on to the next clip what we we also wanted to show and it’s part of the sort of unstoppable ax t that Peter described was that this wasn’t just illness that affected working-class people in the north of England or in Scotland but actually was much broader than that so we spent a lot of time filming in the USA where there was some quite dramatic and shocking cases that just gives you an idea of how casual and how ubiquitous this particular illnesses you want to show the third clip marina what’s his hurry died peacefully in her sleep this little boy has never seen his father Frank weeks before he was born his father died of asbestosis cancer John Rossi was a Wall Street lawyer thus bestest exposure was incredibly slight age 20 he loaded White House best of sheets on two lorries for just two weeks but those two weeks were enough at 32 he died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma was the most important thing in my life it gets very lucky with one man and one woman and can somehow find each other and love each other as much as John and I did best friends to each other laughed a lot had great plans for our future together look forward to growing old together I it was just taken away from me America’s most famous as bestest cancer victim Steve McQueen exposed to asbestos as a marine and in some of his films he tried every treatment his money could buy at a mexican clinic he recorded this tape congratulations to be a wonderful country on the magnificent work that the Mexican doctor is assisted by American doctors are doing at the players and hilaria hospital and helping in my recovery from cancer and thank you for helping to save my life god bless you all Steve McQueen but even Steve McQueen couldn’t beat us best of cancer he died soon afterwards Don Carson is a heavy goods mechanic but work he used to blow white asbestos dust got of brake drums when he was changing the linings in their holidays his sons used to help him here in 1980 when his eldest boy johnny was 11 his parents were told their son had the asbestos cancer mesothelioma oh I really went to pieces and so did John I think we just looked at each other and John said why me and I couldn’t answer him and I called Dodd and I told them that they were malignant and he just went to pieces too yeah this always happens somebody else it’s not going to happen to you you know that was and I think we’re really yes he’s like you know what I was told what it was I knew it was incurable because they had told that yeah there wasn’t anything we could do we had to sit and watch her son died and not be able to stop it I never had anything hurt so bad in my life John could do 50 pushups last summer and then just before he died he couldn’t even lift his foot back up on a wheelchair and that just just killed me because he was so athletic we watched his especially his hard too late he’s shrunk did just nothing there was no muscle left and if you went to touch him was very painful because all they left this ball I couldn’t hug if he hugged him it hurt kindle him he could sit next week he tried he’d be quiet about it but you know it hurt just a routine Davidson tucky if there’s nothing left on April the 13th 1981 Johnny Carson had a small party at his home that night he died peacefully in his sleep he was 12 years old just for one day what they I’d like those as bestest manufacturers to have the paid they have the cancer for one day just watch him and I can guarantee they never do it again running through that was a sort of secondary theme of the film one of the other new things that we were trying to sew or the other new things were trying to say and as a sort of theme in the film was that actually asbestos industry and for quite a long time said blue asbestos is what kills you that’s the one with a particular kind of fiber and white asbestos is safe so that engendered a sense of complacency probably in quite a lot of places and it was quite clear from that sort of evidence where someone was blowing white asbestos out of brake drums which is not working in a factory that makes blue asbestos that the white asbestos for some people wasn’t safe either and you know we were complacent had apparel but we were able through going on our journey to Canada and the USA and to India eventually to come back to rochdale and to bring back a kind of contrast between what the compensation was like in in the USA and what it was like in Roscoe so this is the last clip and then we can talk about it if you if you want but this is the last lipstick we play that clip marina thanks palatial face his leads in Hackney told us more about him Dana bond has been widowed because of asbestos her case with American legal history her husband Richard who work for just a few months with asbestos using a process invented by turn renew exported to America then this healthy fit man developed as bestest cancer his lawyers recorded this tape so I swear the testimony you’re about to be truthful to me dr.Something odd wena state your name sir it’s going good where you live sir the whole family little tall and NRI 32 are you married or single maybe what is your wife’s name thank you have any children three sir prior to your health problem one had been your business or occupation what was it siege here first varsity basketball coach football are you suffering a particular illness at this time sir what is or do you understand what it is or what they call it through business customers asbestosis and mesothelioma three days after this testimony was taken richard von died aged 32 Turner’s and their American agents he’d his widow 1 million four hundred thousand dollars compensation as nearly three-quarters of a million pounds compare them the fortunes of Dana bond with three quarters of a million from turn to ease her financial worries to those of a Dubrow of rochdale like Dana bond she’s a turn as asbestos Widow like Dana bond her husband died of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma soon after he died a man from Turner’s visited her he sat down had a chat with me and not you know I’m said well tear has it decided to give me this gift of 200 pound and the time I was very upset because I thought so awful another I call number just torn about Christmas when you say it was all for 200 pounds what do you mean what you mean turn a man’s right and a little like comenda so when when the film was shown weed we’ve been trying to get turn renewals to appear in the film for about four or five months and written the many letters and actually they’ve made a decision not to appear in the film which in one way was a relief because we didn’t have to insert them into the film but it did mean that we had to test every piece of evidence every thought in the film against our own some journalistic standards about whether they stood up and we were pretty ruthless about what we included or what we didn’t include when the film was shown at nine o’clock it got I think 8.1 million viewers at nine o’clock and then in a way more powerfully at ten-thirty 1035 after news at ten what happened was that it was the day when the IRA bombed horse got the horse guards so lots of horses and soldiers were killed that day and the news was extended to 10 50 so we didn’t actually get on a tour 1055 you but only if you’ve spent a long time on this that you could hardly imagine a worse but of timing but actually 5.7 million viewers stayed up to watch the film despite the grisly news and despite the nature of the subject and they stayed up till nearly midnight to watch what’s the film the next morning the shares of Turner and Newell lost 60 million pounds on the stock exchange they went down from 65 p 2 23 within 10 days the government reduced the level of asbestos dust in factories and there a whole string of other smaller a licensing system for the lag as some inquiries some of the asbestos regulations from the 76 77 inquiry implemented and eventually in a way almost for us one of the pleasing things about is that one of the ones you saw it saw and I think the second or third clip Jessie Wellings whose whose husband had died and the death certificate got it wrong we actually managed to get that decision overturned a new death certificate and she got 25,000 pounds as a result not much about 25,000 pounds and I remember that she went with a friend on a cruise around the world and as far as I can see just parted and drunk the 25,000 pounds away and had a fantastic time which actually I think made us feel pretty pretty good about it and that’s it really the the that’s how the story ended and it had quite a lot of consequences and in a way what really gave it its strength was actually the people in it particularly Alice and I think one of the things that spearheaded change was not what the press said or what we said or what the legislators said we had quite a lot of actually hostility from the legislators before transmission Turner’s room roped in Barbara castle and Cyril Smith local MPs who were very hostile about the film even though viable Castle never actually seen the film and after transmission we had appear in front of a select committee and we were basically accused of being communists would we knew communist was used and turn renewals hired hired a detective a private detective to talk to as far as I can see to stalk something’s now was fine I was a director but the researchers were deeply dangerous and were seen see that someone who in a worm were dangerous enemies of the state so what their tactic was afterwards to dig up as much dirt about as we could and rubbish it while not appearing in the program but in the end it was ground upwards and there were I remember a march in the streets of sheffer where people had their own placards which I said remember Alice with the picture of Alison or actually it was the story of Alice that meant that many many ordinary people wrote to us to grow to their MPs and actually lobbied for change because actually what was happening in asbestos factors and in the astrology was affecting people like them so the story of the film and happy to answer any questions or discussion please speak into the mic rose water has I teach at City University I’m interested to note to turn on you all coming up it really clammy one two one two three doesn’t work can you put it up try it’s just we’re filming okay yeah is it working now okay yeah just did them turn renewal ever threatened to sue and how did they try to counter your allegations I remember I don’t think they I’m Shirley what we said that they were going to sue but I think they realize that they made an error not appearing in the program or maybe it wasn’t an error but they made that decision and I think when they realized that it was a going to be a difficult program to say the least for them then they started to try to find out the way the dealing with it so if they rang the chairman of Yorkshire television for example the chair of Turner and yours rang the general gulps television said your boys are baiting badly what are you going to do about it we pick off together sort of thing they got all of their MPs Barbra castles simple Smith as I said but it was afterwards really that they started to try to rubbish our fingers get their own investigations going tried to undermine the credibility of the search odem’s really is really afterwards I think that most of the campaign against the program came because I think they underestimated how much effect the film would have identities with you’ve got any memories of you will give the one it was thought I bumpy I’m at all so old and it dates from very M decrepit old journalists but I when I work with another guy called James cutlet James usually say I think we’re being followed nice say you I think you’re paranoid James since any much later on that’s in discovery documents in an American trial we’ve realized we were being followed and that cause James are absolutely right as always but they’re looking at anything yum the whole we they tried to discredit the film after it was made and ultimately they change their ways the the company diversified out of asbestos and and and did a lot better actually so the buses of strange a morality tale that you know they did stop purveying asbestos and they became much more profitable by changing the products that they made no no I definitely tried in judges actually most of the other programs i wish i hadn’t but they didn’t try to injunctive i think that he was until very very late in the day i think they only realized when it started to have some advance publicity in near the ready of times and anyone a to present that they suddenly started really and it contains either only they happy we did before but it was only at that point and i think by then we had offered them the writer would apply or more than one occasion and they turned it down so it was actually getting quite difficult for them to say that we treated them say unfairly because the day we had evidence that they’d turn down that opportunity hey don’t even and you’ve mentioned a lot of the reasons why you think it was effective and ineffective change such as this a personal one chase the sort of new sub genre or can I documentary making and also the bottom of people who watched it initially I’m just wondering how how did 8.1 million people come to watch it in the first place was their loss prior press about it that I mean I just amazing that was one of the key reasons why so many people were able to put pressure on the government and for these things to take off but I think in those days you know we weren’t living in a multi-channel landscape so there was less competition even channel 4 hadn’t been invented so this was this was only a choice of three channel near manuals I think he was in there he was in the top 20 programs of that wake up he was at number 19 and actually the other program I’ve mentioned to all got in the top 20 so these were very you know popular programs and I think one of the reasons was that they were there wasn’t a huge amount of advance publicity a block from just before transmission when we obviously assemble a bit of a press campaign we started show people the tapes and started to be articles appearing about it so it started to look like it was something that people going to talk about and therefore the orders didn’t want to miss it and also was heavily trailed on air we pushed it hard on air but i think we thought hate me in viewers and particularly in 5.7 million million viewers at 10 to 50 55 at night was pretty amazing considering the subject matter is there is not a barrel of laughs is it so but it was it was promoted it was promoted hard it’s two hours writing you know it’s two hours of a sort of four or five-hour night television channel and therefore I TV did get very behind it in terms of on-air promotion just a follow-up question and do you think that actually then with kind of online streaming of video content no kind of becoming more and more than norm that that sort of shield experience of everyone watching the scene documentary at the same time and being able to exert that so pressure on nor the way top body politic as well do you think that will actually have any impacts or negative or positive in fact it’s really more difficult now there’s more and more channels but you can sometimes when I was at the BBC my department made a film of the secret policeman about racism in the Manchester Police and let go five and a half million viewers but the police try to stop in a blanket tried to stop it became a front-page story as well as pretty scandalous story and I felt that he was a subject of radio phone-ins newspaper editorials and actually did still hold together quite a large body of the British citizens who talked about it and watch it too it’s even still just about possible but it’s clearly much more difficulty with it is hard to imagine a two-hour film about asbestos on ITV is how to mention a half an hour at 10 minutes long but as best as night at me probably now though it’s clearly it’s clearly difficult but um channel for bbc2 and actually secret police was you know big time would be busy one so it’s still just about there but it’s by its fingernails really and I think there is an effect that mass television can have that it can be quite powerful that is getting [ __ ] more more difficult to to achieve I’m still reeling from two hours nine o’clock and I TV for two hours as a documentary I would you were talking about the sort of slings and arrows of thrown at you communists whatever one of the slings and arrows which actually is work is I found in my time doing this sort of thing is more difficult to cope with his out of your campaigner and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all but do you not in those those films which were very campaigning films where’s the line did you feel yeah I’m a campaigner or did you think no I’m not I’m a program maker and I will move on it’s a difficulty isn’t it what are your thoughts on the cat the campaign a labor I made me I don’t think that we were convinced we made films about subjects that we cared about and we thought were important but what we did in a way was lay our evidence in front of the viewer albeit shaped in a way that we thought was as effective as possible to be communicate with that fewer but in terms of campaigning that’s not what we do there’s lots of charities politicians trade unions who actually can campaign about a whole range of different subjects and so you present the material and you have to leave it to others to continue if if for a moment asbestosis and it right up the ladder of public interest then you have to allow it for others to to campaign and use it for a campaign if if if they wanted but I don’t think we saw it as a campaign we saw it as a investigation or a discovery that we then present it happen to be something that we felt keenly about otherwise we wouldn’t have spent so long doing it but I think you were going to campaign about asbestos we would have gone on and made you need lots of other films about it how much were you worried about your budget during that year how often were you look at your tickets we have a budget remember that well I think we were we were lucky I mean in the end that this film cost in those days budgeting 60,000 pounds above the line and in the end we got with the discussion area we got three hours of television in a year for 60,000 pounds what it didn’t include was this was the salaries which were below the below the line cuz I don’t know exactly what they came to we energies budget in those days above the line because Peter James and I were all on the staff that was of caring for in central casa in so we’ve concerned about it of course here we wanted to keep in budget but I think we got ourselves in a rather privileged position where because we’ve had a lot of success in the past never was really gonna stop us and say no to us but also in we were we were kind of send someone careful and we didn’t go mad but we knew that investigative journalist it doesn’t come cheap yes I’m Adele farm at a very expensive year that year i think because of the expenses yes well the death certificates on their budget earthing up Jason are they are a living rock tale and I’m not a journalist but I must say that this fight for life has changed my life my question I think shadows were a lot of other people have said here today’s is 25 years since Alice fight for life was produced the story of us bus stops for decades has been one of lies and obfuscation and your diligent research in the most stress it’s not campaigning I’ve got a lot of the documents that you used to research from a nun documents frontier and afterward self probably 20 30 boxes for the documents so I know just the amount of work that yourself and your researchers did my question is that could there ever be a documentary like that again again I’m not a media person I’m not a journalist but what I do see is that you were given the remit and you were given a year expenses to to challenge a multinational company head on and win burned in the truck past 25 years proven time and time again to be vindicated my observations now in 2007 is that unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be television companies and broadcasters with the guts and the determination to stand by their reporters and fight such fights I think it’s yeah I think that I think there’s a I’ve speeches now I think it’s a you know I think it’s a fair point it’s if we were lucky we were at a particular moment and we got ourselves into position where we had control of her own destiny in terms of what we made him we went on after that to make another film about about windscale so we did I think four or five of of these films and in other things that I’ve done since we have done it quite a lot of investigative journalism but it is indeed d I think it’s really hard to imagine in the conversations that I have with broadcasters on a day-to-day basis which a lot of which are very serious and they’re very interested in what’s happening in Iraq and lots of really important issues or the environment and global warming things that are really critical to the future of the world there’s a lot of keen interest in them but I think in terms of this kind of investigative journalism about a subject that seems a bit rochdale and doer and you know and and and difficult I think that it’s much more difficult to achieve I think one of the reasons for it is actually that I TV has lost its its regional routes one of the great things about ITV’s that there were people like us living in Leeds and actually almost at the end of the street where your television was was eternal Neil’s factory JW robbers which let him as lethal of them all and I remember a woman who worked in the canteen at your television telling our husband had died this was actually after we made the film not fall for it and he was in it was the end of your street now it’s all centralized into London people aren’t living outside London and having a story on their doorsteps that affects them and affects the wrote in the rest of the nation so i think it is much more difficult now well innovates perhaps is impossible isles you don’t I don’t know but if I went into even channel 4 and said i’d like to make big film about asbestos for these reasons i think it would be I think it would be pretty pretty hard gaming sorry yeah Johnny said she had a lot of editorial freedom at Yorkshire um as 10 renewals turned up the heat on e in this film was there any time that your journalism was scrutinized o ye father you weren’t supported by broadcaster I think we were I think we were we were lucky in that Yorkshire livers and then I was run by paul fox who was been a senior figure in the BBC had come up through panorama he he was a robust journalist himself and we made that programs we had lawyers all over them and with almost all of them he would come and he would come on sir I thought there’s been a phone call from the Chairman internal mules there’s been a complaint from barber castle there’s been any way in other one you know the minister hell’s been on the phone and he’d come down in something he something look at the Breville usually would just say just you know go through it with me and you would explain what it was about why he believes to be true and what the evidence was and he’s inning on this occasion he just said they deserve it and walked and walked I didn’t even look at the film so he was in a very trusting of us and of the looking ahead to departments called Ron fairly he was also very good journalist and he trusted us to get on with it and and we are some very robust questions about our methodology and you know what our intentions were but as soon as he was satisfied he then just saw off all comers really we were lucky we had a culture same thing happened a ganar de Granada had you had a journalistic culture at its heart and it meant that people could be it could make these programs without fear just like mental we are now so even as I work together now so it’s the same I hope yeah yeah just lazy sort of guy can I see have to slightly concur with what the gentleman said earlier about this is seemingly much more difficult to do nowadays is actually t corn corporations head on a suddenly for funding reasons but also possibly because of the savviness that large corporations have kind of fun how to deal with and set up large press shield against such reporting I’m just very interesting I see your experiences when you were contacting turn on you I mean well you in direct contact with them and at what level and just if you could all have anyone out be fastening and of course no we were in contact with them I think that now the sort of procedural rules in a tougher than they were then but we were in contact with the press office will contact the chief executive we wrote them a letter to make your film about as best Dorset reach their factory you know we didn’t go into how many deaths we’d found and all the big toe that we enemy we asked them from cooperation to film in the factory and and and for an Internet they’d they’d made a decision not to I think that you’re right that what’s happened is that lots of corporations become more sophisticated and this is seemly 25 years ago I more sophisticated in how they deal with the media they have lobbyists they have members of parliament they they understand how to how to delay things out of skate how to make it more difficult to make the program I’ll actually even at that time I will fall two terminals as a big international company would have been a bit more a bit more sophisticated funny if I think being Yorkshire television helps helped because they probably thought with somebody you know tipping little piddly TV station up the road you know it’s not tens or you know anyone we’ve ever heard of much so you know it’s focused a bloody local program maybe that was a sort of sir I didn’t think they just spotted the danger but you’re absolutely right um lots of organizations government included that become much more sophisticated at how they deal with the median understand it much much more than they did in those days I made one of the world’s nations you are very kind about back in 1971 and I think the thing you and I have to say to today’s generation sitting here is essentially what’s happened since your film and our film was made his mrs thatcher deregulated british television and whereas back in the old days pull flops daily playwright were but rest’s by regulation in the media that said you will have tough journalism as poles of the mix of your programs you do not know have any such regulation secondly another major difference between television now in television then there was a chasm and absolute chasm between the money coming in from the commercials of the money going out to make programs that is now a misty area money comes in and in some cases he clearly directly goes into the making of programs I mean that motoring programs have always been notoriously in the in the pockets of the metric companies that’s sort of obvious but there are more subtle examples of that both would say that the particular thing about asbestos that makes it of all the topics you we ever investigated particularly insidious is the way in which you had a one-night stand with asbestos 25 years ago and now you get me something yoma the the the worst gap that many cases show between the time when that brief time seven days you did a holiday job when you were stint and now our quarter of a century later suddenly you’ve got this killer disease one of the most ironic things about it which Gavin knows about his we could not have made that program in 1971 in the mid-1980s shortly after your program Granada was refurbishing its studios and it turned out the serious had asbestos lagging in the roof and now 25 years later various electricians and that one producer a good friend of ours died lost your mr.Lover now he had nothing to do anywhere in his life with asbestos but the studios were being cleaned obviously not particularly carefully here ingested one microscopic bit of asbestos and 25 years later from diagnosis to his death that was eight months and all he done was eating the canteen at the same time as the men who were cleaning the studios the reason why most of the deaths in former Granada people our electricians is because the asbestos is principally in the roof feelings electricians as you know spend their time on gantries high up near the roof it appears that the asbestos may have been gently letting dust down into the studio and the people who were nearest to that dust were the electricians up on the gantries the problem is of course that the Granada that is now faced with there’s compensation claims as a homely different company to the canal de that made the television programs and in the 1970s no I mean the time lag makes it a pretty frightening but I don’t quite agree about about television I agree but I TV and you know for those was it worked in ITV it didn’t have a really really strong sense that one of the ways it related to its audience was strong journalism very often on behalf of its limits of his average viewers and for yorkshire and thames and in FN granada the programs or ensure that they passed all the quantity thresholds to win their franchises back so it was a valuable to them and it’s really sad that I TV doesn’t do that anymore and that it’s out of competition but actually still in public funding broadcast from the BBC and we have channel 4 as a public remit and there shouldn’t be in it despite the increased competition there should still be more space than there is now for investigative journalism particularly on the BBC I think it’s there I never been involved with quite a bit of it but nonetheless I don’t feel it’s right at the heart of what the BBC feels it does unlike newsgathering say and in the way that it felt like right in the center of Yorkshire television and at the center of Granada when we were there so I have to confess I’ve not seen your film but for no other reason that 1980s available afterwards psycho cop is an extra five balance okay oh well Carson same as h2 nine o’clock was way past my bedtime obviously well the best we have seen it’s obviously very powerful extremely persuasive so I’m curious to know as ultra was shown on what basis did the company try and defend itself and to people like Barbara Castle try and attack you presumably the existence and integrity of the symptoms must have been beyond dispute so were they just denying that it was asbestos that caused the more they denying that they knew it or I think they were denying they wouldn’t they deny the evidence the figures you know our doctors say one thing our statistics say one thing these people on doctors there any of the journalists how do they know what they’re doing all the government inspector show we have very clean Factory and how could this have happened this has been made up we haven’t had our right to reply you know we haven’t we haven’t appeared in the program you haven’t heard outside of the story although a week later we did it in a way that kept the debate going in the press for another week and then there was in cydia new insidiously when we appeared at the parliamentary select committee and the first question from the chairman jang cost was about our communist leaden leanings so there’s a bit of smearing going on while they’re at it as well so you know I think they just tried everything they possibly could but in the end it was quite difficult for them to really deny the figures even if well you know we were right you know we very very carefully underestimated the figures the figures were worse than we put in the program but if we weren’t absolutely under % sure of a death certificate a cause of death we didn’t include it so instead of being 81 it was probably more than that in the weaving shed but we stuck it at 81 we bleed safe so that if you know if it came to around to weed Blauser more if we had to so he was an attack on our integrity attack on the methods and attack on I meant on on our politics I suppose or lack of it um I’m at how cut and I’ve been improved on a magazine about the rochdale factory that’s featured in the documentary predominately because and the party developers got hold of it now and is trying to build 600 homes on the site window I mean that seems to me quite a good example I’m especially given the fact that you know the subject to acre site is clearly extremely badly contaminated with asbestos I wonder they sent to which she feel and that you know the story of asbestos is kind of has been told and that there is sufficient public attention about it and I mean as a filmmaker he’s done so much I mean do you find that you keep a tab on exactly kind of how stories run their courses over sort of the time did you finish that well I think you I think you do I suppose you you know you you take a sort of amateur interest so yes of in your I if I see a book about Ghostbusters i buy it if I we’ve seen there’s an article on page three at the time today I’ve you know I’ve read it so I keeping it and in a little bit of something in the back of my mind thinks in 25 years of other should I make enough you should we make another film and then I look in the mirror and think oh maybe not yeah but so yet you didn’t keep an interested but we know the story’s changed and actually in the intervening time there are a couple of follow-up films that Yorkshire television did and the debate moved on to things like the pressure gorani insurance companies in purpose your stories in private I so people are worried about the dust levels in fact is now but they’re worrying about compensation for people dying many years later or whatever the so if the story is still there and you keep an interest in it but you know i’m not an expert in as best as anymore but I’m I take an amateur interest in a space there has been identical amount of maneuvering by presumably very well paid lawyers to claim to counter claim you have to prove that they are supposed us that is given you your disease with my asbestos but you got it in my factory unless you can absolutely prove that your claim falls no I think I think that that has been one of the one of the any of the key issues in all compensation claims which is where where did you where was your where where was your the lining of your lung abused and in some cases people may have worked police say the lagging industry they flagged for different companies they might have worked in the services and they’ve worked in error for a private company and they work for a local authority and they’ve they’ve lacked with lots of different employers there maybe seven or eight employers so which is the one what was the what was the deadly fiber they got them and that’s amazing more difficult thing to get to get compensation yes I am you’re the lawyer yes I do and the nicest possible that’s no more especially i happen to know that about it what i was going to say is that you’re quite right one of the things you have to prove in a claim is that the negligence you’ve shown that we cheated cares actually cause the disease and also now that you would have to show that it was your particular asbestos or suppose we’re me else’s asbestos actually quite a complex disease because it’s not cumulative it could just happen one day or not happen and that’s it but what term what’s happened in this particular law is that they’ve made a new rule largely just for asbestos cases which is that if you can show that all these employers have been negligent and it doesn’t matter which one calls it that all teams who have done so they all will have to compensate you and I think as ice age for specialist cases halves except that the PO new rule and the sense that’s quite sensibly still sound sensible you for a lawyer that means a little army I’m also a lawyer and I actually do practice in this area the river where there’s a top of journalists there any commissioning energies here that’s what I’m really worried about just to clarify what the gentleman in front was saying he is correct that there is a new law that specifies that any exposure can be held liable that is only applicable in mesothelioma cases where the claimant has s best OSIS which is a dose-related disease which is cumulative disease you have to pursue all of the exposures the other issue about that you raised about proving that it was necessarily or asbestos it’s a civil case so you only have to show it’s probable that it was somebody’s asbestos that caused your illness to succeed against them but actually what won’t the interview in the state’s the changes that you’ve been driven by lawyers and it’s partly that I almost showed a clip there’s a fantastic American Lawyer in the film called Ron motley and quite young man who’d grown up in the southern part of the United States with people who then own des Festivals companies and he just set out together many but it was partly that the the laws in America meant that if he was successful he became incredibly rich and so American lawyers are actually driven I mean it’s in a war any between the lawyers and the companies and the lawyers have been one of the driving forces behind changing things in the States I’m not going to reduce himself as a lawyer even though I am a barrister but stop sir just put your hands up I actually oh no no it’s been a world oh you know I’m so a horrible what where I was no yes going back to 25 years on and all of the facts that you established and have been vindicated over the years the one regarding wants us best dose which I will say categorically is air cause of mesothelioma undisputable however if there’s anybody here from The Sunday Telegraph please turn your recorders on know for the past four years a chap called Christopher Booker has written in the new section of the sunday telegraph and over the last four years has written articles regarding us best dose he has said on repeated times that white asbestos he’s harmless has never cause mesothelioma and all this is a billion pound one of the reasons why I became a competitor and made sure that I could not be called ambulance chess or anything like that so what’s we’re from the law is he saw that I can challenge gentlemen like that in 2007 people are still saying that white as bestest is harmless they’re crockpots there’s people that I would I would liken to the Flat Earth Society but they’re out there and there are people reading hundreds of thousands of newspapers reading that nonsense and it must still be said that White’s us best of all forms of asbestos and respirable fibers can cause irreversible lung disease including mesothelioma I agree and that’s key one of the points of our film was to try to challenge that perspective which the asbestos companies kaylee promulgated at that time with a lot of because it suited them pretty well but you could see from some of the cases we haven’t lonely been involved like the Johnny Carson the young twelve-year-old boy only white as best as was his only exposure so I’m absolutely sure that that you’re on your right and actually it’s a terribly irresponsible dangerous things to do to say that it’s some you know it’s a calm in kicking isn’t and all the evidence suggests that it isn’t so good luck


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