BBC journalists represented "a larger collection of prima donnas than has ever graced Covent Garden", a senior Foreign Office diplomat noted in an internal document released yesterday at the Public Record Office.

The broadside came from Sir James Johnston as the FO's "news and guidance" department agonised over how best to complain to the corporation's journalists 30 years ago. Television in particular attracted "ambitious and often self-opinionated individuals out to make personal reputations for themselves", it said.

The FO also lamented that BBC journalists were subject "to no restraint equivalent to the Official Secrets Act".

It came to the conclusion that complaining all the time to top BBC executives and issuing instructions would be counterproductive. BBC staff were described as "not being amenable to regular direction".

Rather, FO officials should have "close and friendly contacts at the editorial, ie producer" level.

That, noted Johnston, would be the most effective means of "influencing the content, emphasis, and balance of BBC programmes directed at the home audience".

•Other official papers released yesterday show how the US was extremely reluctant after the second world war to share nuclear secrets with Britain.

By 1957 the FO was driven to propose "full-scale integration in the fields of nuclear weapons [and] ballistic weapons".

FO officials also advised the government that it should "support the Americans in their endeavours to prevent the establishment of a fourth atomic power" - a reference to France.



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