Wodehouse in Exile’ BBC4 broadcast on 25 March 2013; BBC response to our complaint

Following is BBC's response to our complaint; the delay is because they asked the producer Kate Triggs to formulate the response.

Dear Mr Ratcliffe

Reference CAS-2057029-7B44BC

Thanks for contacting us about ‘Wodehouse in Exile’ broadcast on 25 March 2013.
Firstly we’d like to apologise for the delay in replying. We realise correspondents expect a quick response and are sorry you‘ve had to wait on this occasion.

We understand you believe the programme distorted the truth.

The following response has been provided by the producer, Kate Triggs.

“The intention of the film was not to tell a story about the experiences of all internees in prisons like Tost in 1940. The intention was to reflect Wodehouse's experience as recorded in his letters and in various biographies - not least the authoritative biography by Robert McCrum "Wodehouse: A Life".

It is a matter of record that Wodehouse travelled from Le Touquet to Tost (via several other internment camps) with several men he knew. Amongst them were the two men - Algy and Arthur Grant - that the film shows him associating with. It is a matter of record that they were both extremely fond of Wodehouse and along with a number of other internees, who have been interviewed in documentaries on the subject, enjoyed his reading from his camp diary. This is what the film shows.

The film does not show the internees reaction to the broadcasts and therefore does not suggest that all the internees were in favour of what Wodehouse did with his talks in Berlin. What it does show however is the understandable angry reaction to the broadcasts by many in Britain and in America.

We would hope that if you watched the film you’d feel that both sides of the argument are presented and the audience is left to make up its own mind.

However I must say that there is a very legitimate view which is held by the author of the film that Wodehouse was foolish and allowed himself to be manipulated, but that he was not a traitor. It is a view shared by huge numbers of people who have been largely silent on the subject. And it must be the right of an author to express his partiality in a piece of fiction whether it be 'inspired by real events' as this one declared itself to be, or not.

In researching the drama we saw pictures of Tost and I am quite aware that it was previously a mental hospital (which is referenced) of red brick construction with a wall around it. We were required to shoot the film in Northern Ireland and we did not have a location that matched the real Tost. So we decided to try to represent a composite of all of the camps that Wodehouse and his fellow internees stayed in - including Huy and Loos.

The scene on the train and of the arrival at camp in no way attempted to minimise the pain and discomfort suffered by the internees. The fact that Wodehouse may make light of it acts to illuminate the hardship more clearly.

My understanding is that the internees arrived at Tost in the winter of 1940 which was extremely cold. In fact I believe some men suffered and died from lack of food and the cold.

I am aware that the men arrived in the clothes that they left home with and I don't think showing some very warn overcoats diminishes the point of the arrival scene in any way.

As to the matter of the release of Wodehouse at age 59 and three quarters, the film makes clear that the Germans use this as an excuse for releasing him and manipulated him thereafter. It does not suggest that all internees were released when they reached sixty - in fact quite the reverse.

Central to the film is the contention that Wodehouse's style of describing his experience in the talks with an undercutting humour was a reflection of his desire to use his writing style to try and cheer up his other internees and to show the world that they were bloodied but unbowed.

We hope this goes some way to addressing all your concerns.”

We’d also like to assure you that we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards
Leanne Bennett
BBC Complaints


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Mis en ligne le 09/05/2013