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Mary Whitehouse

Mary Whitehouse (June 13, 1910 - November 23, 2001) was a self-appointed campaigner over British "morals and decency". She was founder and first president of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association[?].

She was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire and educated at a grammar school in Chester and went on to do teacher-training at the county college, specialising in art. Her first teaching job was in Wednesfield, Staffordshire. She joined the Oxford Movement[?] (later Moral Rearmament[?]) in the 1930s. At MRA meetings she met Ernest Whitehouse, and they married in 1940.

While a teacher at Madeley school in Shropshire she became incensed at what she perceived as the declining moral standards in Britain of the media and especially the BBC.

She began her campaigning in 1963 and among her first targets was Sir Hugh Carleton Greene[?], she claimed the director-general of the BBC was "more than anybody else... responsible for the moral collapse in this country". Greene ignored her and from 1964 she began to gather wider support for her campaign, at her first public meeting in Birmingham over 3,000 people attended and the Clean Up TV Campaign was created. The National Viewers' and Listeners' Association was also formed in 1964.

When Greene left the BBC in 1969 she was quick to claim credit for his departure; other sources point to a more political struggle between the BBC and the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Outside of television Mrs Whitehouse brought a number of notable actions including a private prosecution for blasphemous libel against Gay News[?] in 1977, the first action for over fifty years. Her attacks on A Clockwork Orange contributed to the film's withdrawal in Britain. From 1972 she campaigned for public decency and her efforts played a part in the passage of the Indecent Displays Act[?] (1981) and in 1984 she helped develop the outrage at "video nasties" that led to the Video Recording Act of that year. She also had a role in the 1990 extension of the Broadcasting Act[?] and the establishment of the Broadcasting Standards Council[?].

Many commentators noted her ability to be offended by almost anything - her attacks on the use of the word 'bloody', her outrage at Alf Garnett, Dr Who or the "fuck" scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral and her tendency to take any sexualised activity on television or the theatre as an affront. This led her to attack so many targets that she was an easy target for mockery and caricature. One publisher of pornographic magazines named a new magazine Whitehouse, apparently in an attempt to annoy her.

In spite of this, Whitehouse still had a deep base of support; for much of the 1960s and 1970s she had over 250 speaking engagements every year and in 1980 she was honoured with a CBE.

In the 1990s her activity was reduced by illness and a fall which damaged her spine in 1997. Her husband died in July 2000. She died in a nursing home in Colchester.

The National Viewers' and Listeners' Association was renamed Mediawatch[?] in 199? and Whitehouse retired as president in 1994; the current president is John Beyer. The organisation had around 150,000 members at its peak; current membership is under 40,000.



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