British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

UPITN – September 1973: A Month in the Life

A new digital resource from BUFVC examines the entire output of the global television news agency UPITN for one month. Linda Kaye, BUFVC Research Executive, explores the significance of the agency in our understanding of television news and the value of its content.

About the Author: Linda Kaye is the BUFVC’s Research Executive and is resposnsible for the News On Screen web resource and is part of the team behind the Channel 4 and British Film Culture project ( Her publications include Projecting Britain: The Guide to British Cinemagazines (2008), co-edited with Emily Crosby.

On 11 September 1973 the democratically elected government of Chile, and its Marxist President Salvador Allende, was brutally overthrown in a military coup led by the commander-in-chief of the army, Augusto Pinochet. It cost Allende his life and replaced his government with a military junta that remained in power until 1990. It was a seminal event in the history of Chile and the Cold War that was reported on television screens across the globe. Some of those images are now part of our collective memory of the event but the process that delivered them to our television screens is still a largely hidden one. Who filmed this event? How was the film transported out the country? When did it reach Britain? How much of the original footage did people end up viewing?

It is a well-known axiom that you can only truly understand a film if you have a working knowledge of the production process that gave rise to it. The same surely applies to television news raising questions about the production and supply of content on a global scale. The new BUFVC resource UPITN – September 1973 tries to answer some of these questions by looking at the entire output of the global television news agency UPITN for one month. It focuses our attention on the beginning of the news supply chain in order to inform our understanding of the final output as broadcast news.

UPITN and its Role in the News Supply Chain
The roots of UPITN go back to 1948 when the news wire agency United Press joined up with the newsreel company Fox-Movietone to form United Press Movietone (UPMT). They anticipated a step change in demand for news and pioneered a transformation its provision. They were aware that the arrangements that resulted in newsreels viewed twice a week on cinema screens would be inadequate for the more voracious demands of this new industry, television. With television stations springing up across the United States UPMT established a newsgathering service dedicated to providing them with newsfilm. In doing so the shifted the supply from one predicated on production and exchange between companies to a centralized source of content provided by an agency. This happened gradually but within a few years the company became the first television news agency to operate on an international basis when the BBC became their first European client.