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BBC to Mark WWI Centenary With Four Years of Programming

BBC hq - H 2013
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BBC headquarters in London

Among the 130 programs and 2,500 hours of content for TV, radio and the Internet will be an interview with media mogul Rupert Murdoch about his father's role as a whistleblower on a botched military campaign.

LONDON – The BBC on Wednesday unveiled plans to mark the centenary of the First World War with four years of programming that it called its most ambitious long-term TV project ever.

Set to launch next year, the project is designed to match the 1914-1918 time span of the war. It will feature 130 programs for TV, radio and the Internet with 2,500 hours of content, including dramas, documentaries and interviews.

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Among the programming will be a documentary featuring an interview with media mogul Rupert Murdoch about his father's role in reporting on the Gallipoli campaign, a British and French naval campaign in modern-day Turkey.

"This season is going to have a profound impact on the way we think about World War One," said BBC director general Tony Hall. "On television, on radio and on digital, we'll be exploring how this conflict, above all others, shaped our families, our communities, our world -- and continues to influence us today.''

Hall, who took over the U.K. public broadcaster in April, last week outlined his vision for the BBC, saying he wants it to be a place to which Britain turns for big events. The scale of the World War One coverage is seen as rivaling the BBC's coverage of the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

"The BBC will be shining a spotlight on the First World War across all of our services," said Adrian Van Klaveren, controller of the BBC's World War One centenary coverage. "What we offer over the coming four years will be much more than a chronological historical record. We are setting out to broaden people's understanding of the war and to commemorate and remember those who died. Through documentaries, drama, news coverage, children’s programs and arts and performance, we will tell well-known stories from fresh perspectives and original stories so far untold."

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BBC1 dramas include The Ark, which focuses on nurses and volunteers, starring Chaplin and Hermione Norris, and The Passing-Bells by Tony Jordan.

Among the various other planned offerings will be a documentary called Britain's Great War by pundit Jeremy Paxman and content targeting younger audiences, including a special edition of kids show Horrible Histories.

BBC Two will look at what led to the war in The Necessary War, hosted by historian Max Hastings, and its consequences in The Pity of War, hosted by historian Niall Ferguson. The network's Gallipoli will "present a fresh look at the British Empire’s most humiliating episode of the First World War, featuring an exclusive interview with Rupert Murdoch about his father’s role as the whistleblower who told the world the truth about the botched campaign," the BBC said.

BBC's Radio 4 network will air one of its biggest-ever dramas, Home Front, which will follow characters as they deal with the realities of war-time Britain.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai