Peter Taylor (journalist)

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Peter Taylor, OBE, born in Scarborough, North Riding of Yorkshire, [1] is a British journalist and documentary-maker who is best known for his coverage of the political and armed conflict in Northern Ireland, widely known as the Troubles, and for his investigation of Al Qaeda and Islamist extremism in the wake of 9/11. He also has a distinguished track record in covering the issue of smoking and health and the politics of tobacco for which he was awarded the WHO Gold Medal for Services to Public Health. He has written books and researched, written and presented television documentaries over a period of more than forty years.[2]


Taylor's reporting on terrorism and political violence began with ITV’s This Week in the '70s and continued with BBC TV’s Panorama through from 1980 to 2014. His most recent Panorama Special, The Spies Who Fooled the World, investigated the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq. In addition he has made many authored series for BBC 1 and BBC2 on the security and intelligence services and five documentary series since 9/11 on Al Qaeda and Islamist extremism, culminating in his acclaimed The Secret War on Terror [3] to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 which the Financial Times described as “a small masterpiece of clarity as to our present condition.”[4]

Taylor has written eight books on terrorism, his latest being Talking to Terrorists. A Personal Journey from the IRA to Al Qaeda. Others include Beating the Terrorists? Interrogation in Omagh, Gough and Castlereagh, and his Northern Ireland trilogy on the Troubles called, Provos: The IRA and Sinn Féin,Loyalists, and Brits: The War against the IRA. Each book deals with the Northern Irish conflict from the perspective of one of the three main parties involved: the Provisional IRA; the various Loyalist paramilitaries; and the British government and security forces. The trilogy provides a unique insight and understanding of all the main groups involved and the violent and political events that occurred throughout this turbulent period in Anglo-Irish history. Taylor's books feature interviews with people connected to some of the most significant incidents and landmark political events in Northern Ireland during this time. In 2007, he wrote and presented the BBC four-part series, Age of Terror. In April 2012, he was presenter and reporter for the BBC2 two-part series Modern Spies", in which he interviewed serving members of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (anonymously). The Guardian described it as “meticulously researched and enviably sourced”.[5]

His ground-breaking documentaries on smoking and health and the politics of tobacco include four for ITV in the 1970s: Dying for a Fag (ITV’s This Week 1975); Licence to Kill; Ashes to Ashes (ITV’s This Week 1976); and Death in the West. The Marlboro Story. In the 1980s he continued his investigations into the tobacco industry with BBC TV’s Panorama programme: A Dying Industry (BBC 1980) and The Habit the Government can’t Break (BBC 1985). He also published his seminal book, Smoke Ring. The Politics of Tobacco in 1985. In May/June 2014, a new BBC series, 'Burning Desire' was aired with Taylor as the presenter.

He was married to fellow journalist Susan McConachy from 1974 until her death on 16 November 2006. They had two children, Ben and Sam.[6] He is the older brother of John Taylor, the former London Weekend Television and London News Network news reporter.[citation needed]


Three Royal Television Society (RTS) Best Home Documentary awards 1987. "Coincidence or Conspiracy?" (Panorama on the Stalker Affair) 1990. "The Volunteer" (from "Families at War") 1991. "Enemies Within" (Inside Story Special on the Maze Prison)

RTS Judges Award for his contribution to television journalism (1995) RTS Judges Award for his Irish trilogy, "Provos", "Loyalists" and "Brits" (2001).

Elected Fellow of the Royal Television Society

RTS Journalist of the Year (2003) John Grierson Award for Best Historical Documentary "SAS. Embassy Siege" (2003) James Cameron Award "for work as a journalist that combined moral vision and professional integrity" (2008) 

Honorary Doctor of Letters, Bradford University, for his work on terrorism and political violence (2008) 

Christopher Ewart-Biggs prize for lifetime’s contribution to Anglo-Irish understanding. (2013) 

Four BAFTA nominations for "Dying for a Fag" (1975), "SAS. Embassy Siege" (2003), "Brighton Bomb" (2003) and "Generation Jihad" (2010)

Lifetime achievement award from the Royal Television Society (2014). [8]


1980    Beating the Terrorists. Interrogation at Omagh, Gough and Castlereagh  Cobden Trust prize for contribution to human rights. 

1984    Smoke Ring. The Politics of Tobacco   

1986    Stalker. The Search for the Truth 

1989    Families at War 

1993    States of Terror. Democracy and Political Violence 

1998    Provos. The IRA and Sinn Féin  

1999    Loyalists 

2000    Brits. The War Against the IRA 

2011    Talking to Terrorists. A Personal Journey from the IRA to Al Qaeda