The Privatisation Tapes (1986)

Amber Current Affairs Unit

As the Conservative government unrolled its programme of privatisation the tapes looked at the prospects for local authority and hospital workers. Made by Amber’s Current Affairs Unit, it was part of the group’s engagement with the trade union movement – here, in particular, with the National Union of Public Employees (now UNISON).

Developed between 1983 and 1986, the tapes often reused material as versions were developed around the concerns and experience in different authority areas. This presentation here is based on the set of programmes included in The Privatisation Tapes VHS, produced for distribution in 1986.

During 1986, North Tyneside local authority unions organised a campaign of workplace meetings, to raise awareness about the threat posed by new government proposals, and consider what the members wanted to do in response. The Awareness Campaign (20 mins) documents how the Joint Trade Union Committee organised these meetings, and looks at the response from the membership. It also considers how Amber’s videos were used in the workplace discussions by shop stewards.

Amber played a key role in producing two videos as triggers to discussion, much as the earlier coalfield tapes were used. Value For Money? (16 mins) considers what the term means to the services delivered by North Tyneside Borough Council, and who will be affected by the proposals. Competitive Tender (16 mins) looks at local services targeted by the government for direct competition from private contractors. Both were shot and produced locally, and stress the likely local consequences of privatisation to members in a way that a national video could not do.

The Darlington Tape (15 mins) was developed for the campaign in that local authority area, The Ingham Tape (15 mins) for campaigns in South Tyneside hospitals. A final programme, The Public Good (8 mins) looked at the prospect of North Tyneside local authority services being privatised or made subject to ‘value for money’ exercises from the user’s point of view.

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1. The Awareness Campaign