Dorothy Byrne is the head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4, and has worked in journalism for more than four decades. In 2018 she received the Outstanding Contribution Award at Royal Television Society Journalism Awards, and her recent commissions include the Channel 4 News investigation into Cambridge Analytica, the Michael Jackson expose Leaving Neverland and the BAFTA-winning documentary For Sama, about one family’s life under siege in Aleppo, which also won an Oscar nomination. She began her career in journalism in her mid 20s on the Waltham Forest Guardian, after writing a cheeky letter to 50 local newspaper editors - just one responded. She later moved into television, joining the acclaimed World in Action team at Granada, where she argued that the programme's agenda was male-dominated and needed to change. Dorothy gave the MacTaggart Lecture at the 2019 Edinburgh International Television Festival, in which she argued that the scrutiny of politicians through broadcast interviews is important for the health of democracy. She also described herself as 'just about the oldest female TV executive working for a broadcaster'. DISC ONE: Greatest Living Creature by John Grant DISC TWO: Non-Alignment Pact by Per Ubu DISC THREE: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, composed by George Frideric Handel, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult and performed by Dame Joan Sutherland and London Symphony Orchestra DISC FOUR: Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense by Fela Kuti DISC FIVE: Dido's Lament: When I'm Laid In Earth, composed by Hendry Purcell, conducted by Raymond Leppard and performed by Jessye Norman and English Chamber Orchestra DISC SIX: World in Action by Matt Berry DISC EIGHT: The People United Will Never Be Defeated by Igor Levit BOOK CHOICE: Physics text books LUXURY ITEM: The back catalogue of In Our Time / the voice of Melvyn Bragg CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, composed by George Frideric Handel, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult and performed by Dame Joan Sutherland and London Symphony Orchestra Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Pvc sounds music, radio broadcasts, hallo, unlearned event, and this is the desert island discs podcast every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island for rights reasons, the music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening My castaway this week is dorothy. And the head of news and current affairs a channel for for almost twenty years. She is the trailblazing award winning ground down of television journalism. She spent a lifetime.
making stories, many of which would otherwise have gone untold. Her recent commissions include the channel for news investigation. Into the cambridge analytic, a scandal that Michael Jackson, ex Bossi leaving neverland and for summer, the bath to winning documentary about one families life under siege in Aleppo, which is also one an oscar nomination. Last year she made headlines herself at the edinburgh television festival when she used her platform as keynote speaker to issue a clarion call in support of broadcast journalism. As a pillar of our democracy. She demanded that politicians should submit themselves to scrutiny and that, Journalists and broadcasters should stand up and speak out when political leaders lie at a time of mistrust and disinformation she's a firm believer in the importance and power of mainstream news. She says we hold power to account and at our best we investigate wicked
so it can no longer damage society and individuals. We should be really proud of what we do. Dorothy been welcomed. It as island discs low value for this extraordinary owner The newsroom has changed enormously over your tenure since he joined the profession of an overly. We now have twenty four hour news: rolling news of a type on social media. Are we better informed as a result of these changes? Do you think? I think there is a role for all sorts of news. Journalists have attend see to share the same agenda and that agenda, the really very narrow we have a strand, for example, unreported world, which literally does what it says on the tin covers stories. The other journalists are not covering I think all journalists when the rule talking about breaks it that concerns me
because there were so many other things happening in the world. The eye fell were not being covered and we need to do a better job. Bricks have shown us that the different parts of society and of our country don't understand each other well enough and that sir, a task where we as journalists have to improve, because so much to talk about today, Dorothy we're gonna do more of that. But of course we have your discs to hear too. So I think we should start with your first at what it can be and wisely chosen it. My first is john ground on the greatest mother, something in the world. I dont normally swear by
in this sense. There is a point to swearing. We want here the swearing version. I love this because it's beautiful and absolutely hilarious. You can listen to this without bursting out laughing. I also think that when John Grum describes himself, it reminds me a little bit of me and sometimes when I listen to John grown songs. I think I wonder if John grant is my long lost, identical twin, because we have certain similarity, about our bad points, but maybe also he says in the sun has a good point to you.
Yes, John. And greatest living creature, dorothy bird, you first, subtitled. You recent book trust me, I'm not a politician as a simple guide to saving democracy. Do you really think that democracies in peril? I do yes, it doesn't seem to people as if it's in peril, because I just had a general election and we ve got her clear winner and we should congratulate them because it was a fairly fought election, but I
I am concerned by the public's low opinion of politicians. In fact, journalists don't share the public's low opinion of politicians. Because we meet them- and we know that in fact the entered politics, because they thought that they had something
to give to society, but when politicians dune come on to television, the most trusted medium and explain their policies and hold them selves accountable and allow themselves to be challenge. I think that that is bad for democracy, because the people who elected them want to hear them justify their policies and want to hear them stand up to scrutiny. As I said, your mc target lecture at last year at a pretty festival made headlines, particularly when you called boris Johnson elia. Were you surprised by the reaction my job is to?
speak truth to power, and my concern about politicians not telling the truth is not some eccentric view of my own. It's one shared by the british people. It was really depressing when we surveyed two thousand voters in the election campaign and only ten percent said that they be believed that candidates were generally telling the truth, and I think politicians have to listen not just to me but to the voters who are saying we don't trust you, because if the people stop trusting the politicians. They will lose their trust and faith in democracy,
you ve seen not happening in america, so if we want to preserve democracy, we have got to get people to trust the politicians again, it's time to take a break for some music dorothy. But have you chosen as your second disk? sometimes when you feel really wild and the world is killing. You might imagine that the sort of music that you should listen to would be calm, peaceful, music box or something I find when the world is wild, and you feel that your jangling, You should listen to wild and jangling music and the best one I recommend is pair. Blue non alignment tat
how on non alignment pact dorothy burn. Let's go back about your scottish, but you were only that for the first eight years of your life, for your memories of being brought up there in paisley and I think, Edinburgh, for a little while the happiest time of my
childhood was actually living with my grandmother in edinburgh. We didn't go to school, our great on live next door. They were retired teachers and we got up at school time and we went next door think they taught my elder sisters more. I remember just sitting in the corner rating this children's encyclopedia just starting a a b c: why were you going to school? My mother wasn't very well, so we went to live with my grandmother forbid. I think they thought it would be more stable for us tell me than about your parents. They met in the civil service and they were both catholic. Was it quite a religious household? Yes, it was villages, and I was very well when I was a small child. Yes, when I was nearly, nine we move to england and our whole.
Family life was quite unhappy at the time and I became more and more unhappy in for some reason, I became obsessed. I'd committed lots of sins and I was a really bad person and I had to die, and the only way I could think of dying because there was no end. Then thank god was to starve myself to death, but nobody noticed and also I kept getting hungry. So I did get thin, but I didn't starved death, but I was so unhappy that childhood memory is incredibly vivid for you. Then, what's the legacy of that, I am not happy person because I realized tat, I had borrowed the unhappiness of the people around me, but sometimes when I'm watching television
and I see a little girl talking about maybe having on the rex year or bulimia, or feeling really unhappy in a moment. The terror- well the feeling that I used to have the pain of it was like this terrible pressure inside me as she talks about. I suddenly feel again. It makes me want to reach into the tv and say to that girl. It can get better. You think you can become happy again, but you can be happy, it's possible to be happy it's time for some more music. Your third disc, then, will one of the first pieces of music I ever had. when we got a small record player as a child was handles messiah, and although I dont know that my redeemer liveth, I love the music
knew that my redeemer liveth, because I think it's about the spirit of hope that is within human beings,
I Oh, that my redeemer liveth from handles messiah performed by dame jones sutherland with the london symphony orchestra conducted by some adrian bolt, dorothy ben? attended. A catholic school is a teenager after your family moved to potent defiled just outside blackpool. One of your claims to fame is that you the english speaking union national schools, debasing competition, which must have been quite a big deal, the nuns they didn't think they had themselves the wherewithal to teach me. So a man was brought from the christian brothers school up the road and I went into a room alone with him. That would never happen now and heat.
Me to stand on the table, so I stood on this big victorian table and he gave me a subject to start speaking about and as soon as I started thinking about it, he started shouting and swearing me saying words. I couldn't possibly say here and I at once stopped unease that you don't stop. You don't stop. It doesn't matter what anybody says to you. You have to keep going and obviously were both. I won the competition under were over the years. Sometimes horrible men have sworn meum call me dreadful sexes, names and I said to them. I'm sorry. It has no effect, I'm trained. It doesn't matter what you say out just carry on talking. However,
It's done sites as well. Sometimes I should stop to turn your next track. What are we gonna hear? Well, I after university was a teacher in nigeria and I think there is nothing more spectacular in the world than dancing in africa. When I first arrived, I dunstan credibly quickly- and I was also very bad at dancing, so the girl next door to me and said you're really bad dancer and taught me to dance so the music that I've chosen. This fella cootie teacher. Don't teach me nonsense, it's actually about colonialism and corruption in africa,
but really it's just great music to dance to sally cootie and teacher to teach me nonsense, so dorothy Ben after university, you went to nigeria with vs, so as a teacher, but you have to come home after just eighteen months due to a broken leg. What happened? I fell on my mind: the bike and was flown home and I was put in full length plaster for a year.
so. I ended up in the ward for old ladys that I used to visit ass, a volunteer, ass, a volunteer and at night I can't describe it. They would cry in How will they would beg the nurses to bring them back palms, but the nurses were really cruel to them and didn't common shouted up, a lot of them had broken their here. I have since discovered that hip replacement were available in that period, but they didn't get them. They just lay there and as far as I could make out, they didn't receive any physiotherapy or other occupational therapy. They just lay there, and eventually they die, after the operation at doktor came to me and said you will almost certainly
reward normally again. You will definitely never work again, but we want no for a year because you'll be in full and plaster very year. If I think about that now, that was a terrible thing to say many people with no legs work. I mean that was just the killers, but it was a hard time. When I came out of plaster. I couldn't work very well, but gradually I started to walk a bit better. It was very depressing because all my friends were starting their great jobs I was on invalidity benefit. I feel great sympathy for other people. Were things go wrong in their life? They get some form of disability and they can find ways to get back
in to work. I think it so easy to blame people who on work. king and who are living on benefits and disability benefits, but have lived like that. I know how difficult it is and this idea that everybody wants to employ you if you suddenly says a disabled person. Yes, now I've decided em well enough to work and now want to employ. You isn't like that. I moved to london. I thought I have to get away from baku and lived in a bed set. I've been told accurate by one person. I could live on invalidity benefit for the rest of my life, so one day went to get my and validity benefit and, as such, the man have. You got any jobs here and he said you don't need a job here on invalidity benefit and I said no, but I can't stand it. I want a job so the first job I go after breaking
My leg was working on a new benefits for people who had one child. Let's take another track dorothy and will talk more about that in a moment, but we can here before we do that. I think self pity is a really important part of surviving as a human being, and this is die. Those lemon by personnel No, if I die to it being my friend when Anne s left her I'd have said, look you're, really good. Looking put up, it should make up put the crown on the, albeit very appealing to men, get yourself on a website. Put yourself in tinder, stop the whining bah, I have to say there is no better self pitching piece of music I've ever heard than this.
die. Those lament from die due underneath by personal, some by jesse norman, with the english chamber orchestra conducted by raymond leopard sue. You talked beds getting yourself a job at such a ban for office in hounslow and also by night to make extra money. I read that you were whipping up dead people. What does that mean? Well the war's over time available that you could work nigh chairing the files of benefit claimants who died? The warrants renders then but I was desperate for money and it was in this tower and hounslow. So I would say, looking all over the darkness of
I'm slow tearing up all these files of people who have died and you couldn't help reaching bits of them or some of the letters would drop out and the people woods. say things like my mother has temporarily gone into hospital anything it's not temporary mate she's doomed, because when you looked the letters you knew that there was nobody there who had died. It was depressing beyond belief. It was written and definitely one of the below
points of my life. You have a kind of had space where you and I was really worried that my life would never start up again. I started applying to journalism, trainee ships and I kept getting letters back saying your twenty four sue counters another entrance, but your trained and therefore we have to pay more and were not prepared to do that, and we, I thought, what should I do and at that time reaches die, just used to send o unsolicited e mail saying you're lucky reader, you have one, you have one you have one. This is for. You will actually receive an. I wrote.
fifty newspaper register thing dear lucky deter you have one. You have one, you have one. You have won the trainee journalist of a lifetime, but this is what you will actually receive, and then I described myself and forty nine editors ignored that bought rex poor too, of the wolf them forest guardian, contacted me and said that was really funny It gave me a job, it's time to go to the music you, sixth, today Dorothy. What are we gonna here and why from local papers I managed to get into television, and I managed to get a job on world inaction which war was nearly as good as being on desert island is it was. I couldn't believe that I was working this programme. I admired all my life full of
million men at the time I joined her. I happened to be the only woman which was slightly strange, bought. It was thrilling even before working, When I heard the music of world inaction, I felt that I was tingling all over, and this is a version in fact played by the brilliant. Very the scene from inaction performed by mac. Bury so dorothy benefit
spells in various newsrooms ass. He said you got what should have been a dream job granada tv was, however, a dream job with some downsides. You spoke about sexism and horsemen in your book, tuckett lecture. What sort of things were going on well some men of power regularly assaulted women and everybody. New knew they were. I dont mean all the men were dreadful at all. You know most were fantastic, but there was a level of sexism and sexual assault that was accepted. Subject matters for proper current affairs we regarded as being things like the cia or nuclear power and, I think, fought a group of us as women cross current affairs tv programmes. At that time.
Did was change the definition of what was regarded as a suitable subject for current affairs. When I was promoted to being a producer director, I said that the first form I wanted to do was about rape in marriage, which was then not a crime, and one very senior person told me that that wasn't really a suitable subject for television current first, it was more suitable form morning tv which would be a bit surprising watching
Look I'm about rape in marriage with your tumblr and one other man told me: that's not a story. A now subjects like domestic violence against men and women and subjects about women's everyday lives are accepted as being at the heart of all. Current affairs should be less. Have some music. What are we gonna hear next? Well, I am one of those women who merely forgot to have a baby, but luckily I remembered just in time, and I went to a clinic- and I didn't think I would get pregnant because I was nearly forty five, but I did it was like a miracle. You know the day they told me I was pregnant. I
just a lay on my bed and I laughed and laughed and laughed, and I thought I'm going to have a little girl and she'll be called hetty and we'll be happy all our lives, when my daughter was very small. I would tell her that story and she would say, and the amazing thing is- I am called ahead to my mother- didn't think it was so good at first she Even said to me, what will the neighbors think- and I said funnily enough when I decided to try and get pregnant I wasn't thinking about your neighbours that in fact the queen neighbour, queen of the coffee set when she met hetty, said well. If this had been available, when I was young, I wouldn't have bothered with a husband.
it was hard being a single parent on the editor of a tv programme had to go back to work five and a half weeks and. Driving hatchie random, my own when she was very young with nobody else to entertain her. The wars for a long period, just one piece of music which would keep per quiet. I hated it would definitely remind me of her views on the bus some of us all day,
the wheels on the boss performed by leonard pc and mary thomas dorothy Ben alongside your career as a campaigning journalist, has also been a health campaigner. As someone who's experienced giant cell otter writers. Tell me a little bit more about that. Yes, I was diagnosed with two related or to immune condition. put a milder america on joint so or to write us with giants seller to writers. If it's not diagnosed and treated in time, you can lose some or all of your site and every year, the cause doctors, don't diagnose it quickly enough and then don't refer people to hospital quickly enough. Hundreds of people lose some of their site. This is absolutely preventable and its also irreversible
facts women three times more than it affects men and what we need as people with Jesse a is a fast track for treatment. So you looking for something similar to what has been done with strokes quite recently. Yes, some hospitals and I held areas have achieved this and they could all do it. I have interviewed women who have borne completely blind because they lost their site because the doctors didn't diagnose and treat them in time and what are the symptoms? Dorothy. You often get very tender scalp and terrible pain that you my mistake for being terrible, Eric or terrible to think, and then your jaw may stop moving on. This is because the joint
cells in your artery are inflamed and not in The is moving up your head and is potentially going to press, Onto your eye, and you will lose your site, and you need absolutely urgent treatment and a high dose of steroids. Given immediately will save your site on my site was saved it's time for your final disk. What's it going to be for the first time I had this piece of music. I cried in a concert hall and you're, not even meant to breathe in the british council. Also, that was quite embarrassing. It's the people united, would never be defeated by
if ski and it was dedicated to the people of chile who had four pinochet, why it is so moving. Is that at the beginning, you can hear that the people a walking forward in worry and then the music tells you that everything goes wrong and you feel that everything is destroyed. But then the end, the thing begin again, and you realize that the people united will never be defeated and that's what makes you cry
The people united will never be defeated by frederick Jeff ski played by eagle and love. It so dorothy burnham about two maroon, you on your desert, island how'd. You picture the place. Well, I'm a bit worried about it because of
the rising ocean some slightly concerned I may just end up hanging onto a palm tree but, let's hope not you'll, be given the bible and the complete works of shakespeare. To keep me company, which other book would you like? I would like some physics textbooks, because I never really studied physics school and I think, if you're going to be on a desert island, it would be a good use of your time to find out all the secrets of the universe. What about a luxury item? My luxury is the voice of melvin brag. If I can't sleep, I find that if I put on melvin brag particularly talking about paypal, infallibility is
he has got a certain sound to it, and then I I flew away what we don't really supposed to give your communication devices or anything like that too. I can give you a radio as such, but as we have provided people with, for example, the back catalogue of the arches in the past, I can give you the back catalogue of in our time which, I have to say, is hugely popular one of the most downloaded programmes. Millions of listeners can't be wrong. It's yours and joy and finally dorothy. If the tight threatened to wash away your eight discs, which would you dive into safety, think I know that my redeemer liveth, because that is the piece of music that would give me who that at some point, perhaps a little gretta sailing too
climate change conference would come by and rescue me. I would love to see that Dorothy ban. Thank you very much for letting us here. Your does. Island discs will thank you. It's just been such from hello, a radio you enjoy that interview with dorothy ban their awesome, fascinating journalists in archive, including Alex Crawford John pillaging and kate. Eighty joint meeting veteran journalists telepathic at the end of twenty eighteen. She told me about amazing korea reporting on some of the most pivotal moments in world history pablo his eyes. The songs of the birds with public his house on cello
and me anxious: wife, hush of ski on piano recorded, live at the white house on november, the thirteenth nineteen sixty one with kennedy, audience helping who you met, wealth meeting slight exaggeration, I've got to know quite well. Pierre sullen Jehovah's said kennedy, spokesman and them invited me to join the morning high on its port. Now today home for a party and penal took me up to canada and somehow managed to stumble in full straight into his arms but it is a very brief comment. While in who s he reported on the nineteen sixty five selma march, lad, of course, by martin luther king to Montgomery alabama. Tell me about that. Experience will in many ways: unforgettable. It was such an event that margins in red the I realise that I could very well have been murdered,
on that day because I was lucky enough to be able to rent a car, and I both thought the way, but always went back to the car and the end of the first days march. I was talking to one of my colleagues from, the Washington post leave is black and I said, let me give you a ride back rich redundant and, of course that does of an invitation to be shot, because that too and june of people were shot because, like woman black man mecca sitting together was simply not done, but we got back but when we got back to the hotel when they went to the bar, they also to leave and a cup of coffee, lot of the other civil rights events during that period and it was announced and the whole march of the end. You knew something change,
most life was never going to be quite the same again, helping speaking to me back in van by twenty eighteen. Her programme is available to download now by a bbc sounds next time. My guest will be the author and illustrator chris widow. I do hope you'll join us
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-08.