BBC Will Strip Conan Doyle of Racial Overtones

Source: The Telegraph,, November 12th 2000

BBC Will Strip Conan Doyle of Racial Overtones

By Oliver Poole

THE BBC is to adapt The Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale of dinosaurs and empire builders, for television in a way that eliminates its “tone of racial superiority”.

The £10 million drama will be one of the highlights of next year’s schedule. Conan Doyle packed his adventure story with references to “sub-human natives noted for their savage behaviour and low intellects”. The two-part adaptation will, however, portray the strange tribes encountered by British explorers as equals to the white men who invade their hidden territory.

Names that the corporation considers offensive to modern sensibilities, such as Zambo, the giant “negro” described as being as “faithful as a dog”, will be expunged. To bring the story further up to date, a love interest, in the shape of the beautiful niece of a missionary, is to be introduced.

Christopher Hall, the programme’s producer, said that although the drama would remain as close as possible to the original work there were elements that would not be acceptable to contemporary audiences.

Mr Hall said: “Some of the Victorian obsessions and concerns are now viewed slightly differently. There are things about Conan Doyle which are old-fashioned, particularly his view of natives. We feel differently now.”

Conan Doyle’s story of a scientific expedition by four high-spirited Englishmen who travel deep into Amazon jungle in South America was written in 1912, when views of Britain’s imperial destiny and the superiority of the white man were common.

The BBC hopes that its adaptation will prove a ratings winner by combining the strengths of its costume drama department, responsible for successes such as Pride and Prejudice, with the special effects developed for its award-winning series Walking with Dinosaurs.

Nicknamed “frocks with teeth” by the makers, the two 75-minute episodes have gone into pre-production; filming will begin in New Zealand in February. It will then take five months for the computer-generated dinosaurs to be added. The drama will be directed by Stuart Orme, who made The Sculptress; the script was written by Tony Mulholland, who has worked on previous Conan Doyle programmes.

Philip Webber, the president of the Arthur Conan Doyle Study Group, said that the book was a classic that should not be altered. Mr Webber said: “It is true the treatment of the natives is very strange. It may not be politically correct but to judge Conan Doyle for this is to be anachronistic – you are applying standards that did not apply then.”



The most powerful man at the “British” Broadcasting Corporation is Alan Yentob, Director of BBC programmes. According to Broadcast magazine (14.6.96) this “gives him control over all non-news BBC programmes including those for satellite channels and those in English for the World Service.” Yentob is a close personal friend of the immensely powerful independent TV bosses Michael Grade and Michael Green. The three have shared holidays in the Caribbean and, together with Charles Saatchi, are referred to by coy insiders as the “St. John’s Wood Mafia”. The Saatchi and Yentob families have been closely connected since before they moved to Britain from Iraq.

Behind the scenes, Jews are well represented among the Governors of the BBC, who include former president of the merchant bank S.G. Warburg Sir David Scholey, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and Janet Cohen. Holders of important BBC managerial posts include Sarah Frank, Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide Americas; Controller of Publicity and Public Relations, Keith Samuel, and David Aaronovitch, who is Managing Editor of the BBC’s weekly programmes. Anne Sloman is Deputy Head of BBC News Programmes; Ruth Caleb is the Head of Drama, and Louis Marks has been Producer of Drama since 1976. Another key figure in terms of the BBC ‘s relationship with the rest of the world, Commercial Director at BBC Worldwide TV Tony Kay, is responsible for deals with American networks such as NBC. International Director of US cable operator TCI, Adam Singer - son of former BBC Director-General Aubrey Singer - has also been responsible for a number of recent big deals between the BBC and TCI’s British subsidiary Flextech.

Head of BBC Comedy Entertainment is Jon Plowman. He is responsible for “alternative comedian” Ben Elton’s Thin Blue Line, a person who likes being interviewed in th “respectable” Jewish Chronicle.

Jews in prominent positions in BBC regional TV include Rod Natkiel, Head of Network TV at BBC Midlands and East, and Roy Saatchi, Head of Local Programmes at BBC North.

The host of lower level functionaries who implement the wishes of the media masters in such stations also includes a vastly disproportionate number of Jews, such as Geoffrey Goodman, who broadcasts on BBC Current Affairs and LBC/IRN- BBC TV’s legal correspondent Joshua Rosenberg. Naomi Goldman is not only a Producer on Newsnight, but is also a member of the Jewish Socialist Group. Another militant Zionist in BBC is writer and broadcaster Lisa Jardine.