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February 16, 1986|HOWARD ROSENBERG

"NORTHERN IRELAND: AT THE EDGE OF THE UNION," Tuesday, 9 p.m. (24); 10 p.m. (28)--It was the no -show of the week in Britain.

This 43-minute British Broadcasting Corp. documentary on terrorism in Northern Ireland was originally scheduled to air on the BBC Aug. 7, 1985. But it was abruptly withdrawn after being condemned by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and then Home Secretary Leon Brittan. They charged that it glorified a leading member of the outlawed Irish Republican Army--Martin McGuinness--and did not adequately show the effects of the group's violent acts.

Although urging journalists to deny terrorists "the oxygen of publicity," Thatcher denied charges of government interference.

At the very least, though, withdrawal of the program was thought to be government-inspired.

The action was widely criticized both in Britain and in the United States. It thrust the BBC into the biggest crisis of its 58-year existence and damaged its reputation for independence.

Cancellation of the program triggered an unprecedented 24-hour strike by BBC employees, during which time the troubled and financially ailing broadcast institution went dark and silent.

The BBC--affectionately known as the Beeb--is supported by a tax on TV sets. However, Britain's commercially supported Independent Television Network (ITN) also suspended news programming when its news personnel joined the BBC strike in sympathy.

After slight reediting, though, the BBC aired the program on Oct. 16. It is this altered version--plus an update shot in Northern Ireland by WETA-TV of Washington, hosted by Time magazine London bureau chief Christopher Ogden--that is airing on KCET Tuesday.

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