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John Reith: A Nazi Sympathizer

John Simkin

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After the First World War John Reith worked for the Conservative Party. In December 1922 was appointed general manager of the British Broadcasting Company, an organization was set up by a group of executives from radio manufacturers.

During the 1926 General Strike Reith created controversy when he allowed the Conservative government to impose radio censorship.

In 1927 the government decided to establish the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a broadcasting monopoly operated by a board of governors and director general. The BBC was funded by a licence fee at a rate set by parliament. The fee was paid by all owners of radio sets. The BBC therefore became the world's first public-service broadcasting organization.

Reith was appointed director-general of the BBC. Reith had a mission to educate and improve the audience and under his leadership the BBC developed a reputation for serious programmes.

Recently, a book was published by Reith's daughter, Marista Leishman (Reith of the BBC: My Father). In the book Leishman quotes from Reith's diary. On 9th March 1933 Reith wrote "I am certain that the Nazis will clean things up and put Germany on the way to being a real power in Europe again.... They are being ruthless and most determined". Later, when Prague was occupied, Reith wrote: "Hitler continues his magnificent efficiency."

Has Marista Leishman provided a public service or has she committed an act of betrayal?


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