5 May: Mary Whitehouse Cleans Up TV

It was standing room only at Birmingham Town Hall on May 5, 1964 – the day legendary anti-smut campaigner Mary Whitehouse launched her ‘Clean Up TV’ campaign.


Claiming the BBC’s Director-General was “responsible for the moral collapse in this country”, she went on to attract 366,355 signatures to her petition opposing the “disbelief, doubt and dirt that the BBC projects into millions of homes through the television screen”.

In this episode, Olly, Rebecca and Arion revisit her objections to ‘filth’ as diverse as Chuck Berry’s ‘My Ding-A-Ling’ and concentration camp footage; consider whether her M.O. influenced modern-day ‘cancel culture’; and ask if, in a world of 24-hour news, her feelings about war reporting have achieved some merit…


Further reading:

• Letters from Mary Whitehouse in the National Archives: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/sixties-britain/letters-mary-whitehouse/

• Mary Whitehouse’s obituary in The Guardian (2001):


• From the Huntley Film Archives, the night Clean Up TV launched their petition: