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BBC: The Secret World of Lewis Carroll

31/10/2018

This programme was somewhat contentious as this report in Daily Telegraph shows:

A BBC documentary that suggested that Lewis Carroll may have been a “repressed paedophile” breached the corporation’s fairness rules, after programme-makers failed to tell experts interviewed for the show that it would cover claims about the writer’s relationship with children. 

The Secret World of Lewis Carroll, which aired on BBC Two in January, examined a contentious claim that the author may have taken a naked photograph of a young teenager, Lorina Liddell, the older sister of the girl considered to have inspired the lead character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Edward Wakeling, the editor of Carroll’s diaries and an expert on the author’s photography, along with another unnamed participant in the programme, complained that the corporation had told them the show was to be a celebration of the author’s work, and had failed to inform them that it would cover the hotly-disputed photograph.

In a ruling published yesterday, the BBC Trust said: “The image of the naked girl was a prominent feature of the programme and its discovery had meant that the nature of the programme had changed significantly from the original commission.

“The Trustees recognised that the BBC had made some effort at a late stage to inform the contributors of the programme’s changes.

“The programme should have gone back to the contributors at an earlier stage to inform them about the new image and to give them adequate time to consider whether they were content with their contributions to the programme.”

The governing body rejected complaints that the corporation had failed to be impartial by including the claim. Mr Wakeling dismissed the finding as a “whitewash”. He added: “I’m not happy that they’ve only partially upheld the complaint. They told us it was a celebration of Carroll. But then we found out that they were going to include this photograph. It is a terrible, misleading programme.

Prior to that was this review, also in The Daily Telegraph, from which this extract comes:-

The 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has hardly passed by unnoticed, but disappearing down the rabbit hole once again was this Martha Kearney-led BBC documentary The Secret World of Lewis Carroll. While the Royal Mail opted to celebrate the occasion with a series of stamps designed by award-winning illustrator Grahame Baker-Smith, and the National Theatre announced a new treatment by Damon Albarn and Moira Buffini, this programme burrowed into an altogether more volatile issue: the question of whether the world-revered author was – as one interviewee awkwardly puts it – a “Victorian Jimmy Savile”.

This was not the initial intention of the filmmakers, who had originally planned to celebrate the beguiling, fantastical work of Carroll – the third most-quoted book in English after the Bible and Shakespeare – in purely salutary terms. That is, until, toward the end of filming one of the team’s researchers discovered a photograph stored in France that, the makers suggest, is a startling contribution to a debate that has already been simmering for generations

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