Monday, 27 November 2017

"No lies are to be told"

When MOONSHINE became PINOCHIO (sic)

Disclaimer: I was employed by the BBC at the time of the 1982 war, and continue to be so. However, this is an entirely personal blog post, reflecting only my views.

Acknowledgement: I continue to be happy to express my gratitude to professional researcher Lee Richards for making available a number of declassified files from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Cabinet Office relating to British information and psychological operations in the Falklands War, including MOONSHINE, the codename for Radio Atlantico del Sur. Material from these files forms the basis for this blog post.

Key documents

I've discussed so far in this blog five key official (and originally classified) documents that set out the story of Radio Atlantico del Sur. In the order they were written they are:

1. "Annex to SPG 020" (or SPG 20 for short). This document, circulated within government on 28 April 1982, was the initial proposal by the Ministry of Defence's Special Projects Group (SPG) to set up a radio station to broadcast to Argentine forces in the Falklands. A revised version of SPG 020 was circulated the following day.

2. In an attempt to answer the Foreign Office's objections to the proposed radio station, the SPG issued a further revised document  "Special Projects Group - Paper No 6" – on 3 May. The text of this document was given in my post "The codeword for this operation is MOONSHINE".

3. In early May, RAdS's civilian manager, Neil ffrench-Blake, wrote the document "Programming - Interim Assessment" containing his suggestions for the station's objectives and methods.

4. In mid-May, after much argument between the MoD and the FCO, a formal proposal to set up Radio Atlantico del Sur was put to the War Cabinet, The draft text of the proposal was given in my post "The War Cabinet is invited to agree".

5. Shortly after the war, an overall retrospective was written in the document Report on Psy Ops in OP CORPORATE (the codename for the entire South Atlantic Campaign).  

Instructions for the staff
All of the above were written to be read at senior levels in the MoD and other parts of government. (The document noted in Point 4 was intended to be read by the prime minister and her most senior ministers.)
The document I give below is different. It was written as operational instructions for the team that would run Radio Atlantico del Sur.
The instructions were titled "Media Assessment Team Directive". (Media Assessment Team was the cover name for the station's staff, which included both civilians and military personnel.)

I have transcribed the text of the directive and its Annex below. A copy of the original can be found in the National Archives in MoD file DEFE 25/502. Unfortunately, this file is marked "Copy original destroyed due to asbestos contamination", and the quality of the photocopy of this particular document is noticeably poor. Unlike some of the other key RAdS documents, no other copies of "Media Assessment Team Directive" are in other MoD or FCO files.

The directive has a handwritten note dating it as 20 May 1982 (RAdS began broadcasting the previous night). The Annex has an almost illegible date, possibly 14 May. 

Unlike other formal documents in the files, there is no covering letter or memo, and no evidence that it was circulated outside the MoD (e.g. to the FCO).

[Explanations that I have inserted into the text below are in italics and between square brackets.]


[serial number illegible – a reference in another document gives it as SPG 28]



1. The Media Assessment Team (MAT) is the cover name for the radio station which has been formed under the authority of OD(SA) [Overseas and Defence Committee, South Atlantic – the formal name for the the War Cabinet]. The objective is to maximise the use of radio in support of operational plans to demoralise Argentine troops occupying the Falklands (particularly conscripted troops) so reducing their willingness to resist. MAT is to provide broadcasts under the name RADIO ATLANTICO DEL SUR (RAS) within the hours 0830-0930 and 2300-0200Z [GMT] (i.e. 0530-0730 [should be 0530-0630] and 2000-2300 Falklands local).

2. Content of Broadcasts. Ministers have agreed this radio station on the understanding that no lies will be told and that the output should be such that any accusations of "black propaganda" can be refuted. Initial guidelines are at Annex A. There is to be a daily editorial conference at which the themes and programme content of the day will be decided. [The daily editorial conference was held at 1130 GMT (1230 BST), according to Annex G to Report on Psy Ops in OP CORPORATE .]

Attendance will be:
 CO [Commanding Officer] MAT  SPG Member
 2IC [Second in Command] MAT  SPG Member
 Station Manager


3. Special Projects Group (SPG). The SPG will review editorial policy regularly and revise guidelines from time to time. Any important changes of policy will be notified to members of the committee to whom SPG is responsible.

4. CO MAT. CO MAT is responsible to SPC/CDS [the colonel who was the overall head of the SPG] for all aspects of MAT. 
[CO MAT was an RAF squadron leader. He is named in other documents in the MoD files, but I have chosen not to name in this blog anyone intimately associated with RAdS unless their identity is already published.]

5. 2IC MAT. Responsible to CO for all matters of administration and logistics. As a member of SPG he will assist in formulation of broadcast guidelines but will not be a member of the editorial team.
[According to Annex A to Special Projects Group - Paper No 6, written more than a fortnight earlier, 2IC MAT would be an officer with the rank of captain or lieutenant and would head the MAT's "Admin Section".]

6. Station Manager. Will be responsible for the programme content in accordance with the guidelines agreed by SPG. He will also run the studio, train the announcers and coordinate the compilation of each broadcast. The studio engineer will work under him. He is to have right of direct access to SPC/CDS in event of problems. [This post was held by Neil ffrench-Blake, the most senior civilian member of the MAT. The studio engineer was another civilian, and a friend of ffrench-Blake.]

7. Editor. He carries final responsibility to SPC/CDS for ensuring that the broadcasts conform with the guidelines agreed with higher authority. He will work closely with the Station Manager in preparing the content of the broadcasts and will be assisted in this by the Copy Taster, sub-editors and announcer.
[Annex A to Special Projects Group - Paper No 6 said the Editor would be a Spanish-speaking military officer (neither rank nor name was specified), while the Copy Taster would be a Spanish-speaking civilian.]


8. It is likely that HMG [Her Majesty's Government] will be obliged to acknowledge that it, not the BBC is responsible for the broadcasts. The main security considerations are:

 a. Broadcasts should as far as possible be Latin American in character.
 b. The highest priority in security is the concealment of the identities of those members of MAT who have family connections with the Argentines. Closely allied to this is the need to conceal the location of the studios.
 c. 2IC MAT is the Security Officer and is to issue detailed instructions in accordance with specialist advice.
 d. From the time of authorisation by OD(SA) the code-word to be used is PINOCHIO [see section below]. The meaning of this word comprises the radio station and its objectives. This is classified SECRET but may be downgraded in the future.

[serial number illegible]
DATED [number almost illegible possibly 14] MAY 82


1. In order to achieve its aim, Radio Atlantico del Sur (RAS) must establish credibility, obtain maximum audience attention, and thus increase the sense of isolation felt by the audience.

2. To establish credibility, RAS must present itself as being neutral and impartial. Its sources of information will be British and foreign [news] agencies. Argentine sources will only be quoted if compatible with our aim. No lies are to be told. [1]

3. To obtain maximum audience attention, RAS will produce a relaxed modern mixed programme, appealing to the target audience. This will include Argentine 'pop' music, request programmes, and speedy accurate reporting of non-political and world sporting events.

4. The audience sense of isolation will be increased by direct reference to events taking place on the Islands known only to the garrison, coupled with information about their own town on the Mainland; particular points on this subject will be agreed at daily editorial meetings. Some methods of achieving the overall aim have been discounted as being counter productive. Such things as decrying their loyalty to their flag or comments on their sovereignty claims will not be used. [In his memoirsNeil ffrench-Blake said: "Even my own broadcasters took some time to understand this lesson. They kept on writing editorials pointing out the incorrectness and injustice of the Argentine government position, and were quite upset when I rejected them."]

6[sic]. As operational situations change, various detailed methods of achieving the aim will be discussed and agreed at editorial meetings. SPG is to be kept informed of proposed developments in editorial policy.

[ffrench-Blake says in his memoirs that he drafted the above Annex himself, and quotes the text. His version is largely identical to that above.]


ffrench-Blake recounted the opposition mainly from the FCO, but also from some (though certainly not all) parts of the BBC, along with Mrs Thatcher's press secretary Bernard Ingham that threatened for a while to prevent Radio Atlantico de Sur from getting on the air. He said that once the War Cabinet had finally given its approval for broadcasts to start:
To take the pressure off, we removed all opponents to the scheme, including Mr Ingham, from our circulation list, and changed our code name [from MOONSHINE] to "PINOCCIO" [sic]. This somewhat idiosyncratic spelling of the deceitful Italian puppet was in honour of [Argentine President] General Galtieri's long nose and as a special tribute to the nature of his propaganda.
The "idiosyncratic" variants of the puppet's name – Pinoccio in ffrench-Blake's memoirs, Pinochio in the MAT Directive, both misspellings of the correct Italian rendering Pinocchio – are not the only curiosities of this affair.

When I first read the memoirs I assumed that the "PINOCCIO" code name was just a piece of fun, a harmless and inconsequential team joke.

But seeing the inclusion of the name in the MAT Directive puts it on an official footing. Was it just a means of shielding the MOONSHINE codename – used up to then in MoD documents – from the eyes of RAdS's civilian staff?

Or was it, as ff-B suggests, a way of concealing some of his team's activities from the unhelpful eyes of the FCO, who were, as both his memoirs and the declassified files show, a far more troublesome enemy to his work than the Argentines?


[1] According to the Report on Psy Ops in OP CORPORATE, news sources used by RAdS included British and international newspapers, Reuters, the Ceefax and Oracle teletext services of the BBC and ITN (Independent Television News), IRN (Independent Radio News) and BBC Monitoring.

© 2017. Material may be reproduced if attributed to Chris Greenway and any original source.

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