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The Zircon Affair



During the winter of 1985, Duncan Campbell is commissioned by BBC Scotland to make 6 half-hour television documentaries entitled Secret Society. One of the programmes was going to reveal the priceless detail that Zircon, a super-secret spy satellite, had escaped the statutory financial scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee. Director of GCHQ, Peter Marychruch, put pressure on BBC Director General Alasdair Milne (above) to shelve the programme. Milne complied. With this, an angry Campbell reveals the content of the film in an article for the New Statesman. Armed with search warrants, Special Branch raid the offices of the New Statesman and BBC Scotland. TV cameras capture it all. In retaliation, Campbell arranged a private screening of the film in the proximity of Parliament. A sanitised version of the programme was shown two years later. The affair led to the resignation of Milne in january 1987.

Duncan Campbell talks about the Affair on BB1, 23 March 2012 [click]

Secret Society Episode 1, Part 1 [click]; Part II [click]

Secret Society Episode 2, Part 1 [click]; Part II [click]

Secret Society Episode 3, Part 1 [click]; Part II [click]

Secret Society Episode 4, Part 1 [click]; Part II [click]