Gerald Priestland, BBC Washington Correspondent – twice

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December 24, 2013 by dontbringlulubook

BBC 2 Power FailureGerry Priestland reading on BBC 2

Gerald Priestland was another of the high flyers posted to the U.S. for the BBC and covered the Washington ‘patch’ twice.

He worked in conjunction with Ron Onions to cover the growing social conflict in the late sixties.

Incidentally, he was also – earlier in the decade – the brave soul who was the on air face of BBC 2 the night it went on air – or rather, it didn’t quite.

The power failed and Priestland was reduced to broadcasting by candlelight. He referred to TV in his book ‘America The Changing Nation’ which he describes as a ‘medium which leaves nothing to the imagination, arouses little sympathy… for the performer, especially an amateur, it holds pitfall after pitfall’.

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Perhaps Priestland had more success as a reporter – as stated he was Washington Correspondent for the BBC twice. He clearly had a reporter’s ‘luck’ in that he was able to preview one of the most tragic assassination attempts of the civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King.

In his book America – The Changing Nation, he writes of the shooting on April the 6th, ‘By an extraordinary and horrible coincidence, viewers of the BBC’s second [sic] television channel witnessed an interview between myself and Dr King, only three hours before he was shot. It had, in fact been filmed in Atlanta several weeks earlier, but it concluded with a discussion of the threat of violent death, and with Dr King’s moving confession that he was well prepared for it every day of his life, and more convinced than ever of the redemptive power of suffering’.

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