Which Side Are You On? was commissioned for transmission as part of the South Bank Show (ITV, 1978-), but was not shown because of its "highly partial view on a controversial subject...展开". London Weekend Television, the commissioning company, felt that it was more of a political film than an arts film.
Loach's brief was to make a programme that showed what the striking miners were writing and singing. He felt that this was what he delivered and was angered that the programme was banned on the basis that it overstepped official guidelines on political impartiality.
Loach has always felt that no documentary can ever be neutral or 'balanced' (and nor can the news) and he acknowledges that he made the film entirely from the miners' point of view. Following the decision to pull the programme he said "It is clear that only approved people can make comments about a struggle as decisive as the miners."
The programme was made partly to counter what Loach saw as the anti-union position of the mainstream media and it shows the miners' dismay at the way in which they are depicted. Loach felt himself a victim of media bias in the banning of the programme. He declared: "The way the news is covered is crucial to who wins this dispute and certainly some people are allowed to comment and others are not. People hold down their jobs by making the kind of programmes they know will win the approval of their masters."
However, the programme went on to win an award at an Italian film festival and the attitude of British broadcasters changed. After negotiations between LWT and Channel 4, it was shown on C4 on 9 January 1985. It was followed by a 'balancing' programme a few days later showing an alternative view of the miners' strike.
Police officers at a road block stop striking miners and question them. A miner reports a policeman saying that if the miners succeeded in getting rid of the government then the police will be the next government.
In a working man's club a miner sings a folk song asking 'Which side are you on?' and calling for working-class solidarity with the miners.
A group of miners discusses the reasons for the strike and describes how the closure of collieries causes the loss of whole communities because of the effect on ancilliary industries such as the railways and engineering.
Miners' wives talk about the financial hardship of being on long-term strike and the difficulties of supporting their children. The older children understand that their fathers are striking for them in the hope that there will be jobs for the next generation.
Hundreds of meals are provided for miners and their families in a canteen run by volunteers. A miner's wife reads a poem on the struggle faced after 26 weeks without pay and the desire to avoid the indignity of the dole queue.
A miner reads a poem which equates taking voluntary redundancy with selling a job. The wife of a miner speaks about how the women have organised themselves in defending the miners.
A miner tells of his realisation that the police are not neutral. Miners and their wives describe the massive police presence and give details of police violence towards both men and women. A song declares that whatever the struggle, the police will be on the side of the bosses.
Working miners are bussed through the pickets and strikers describe police violence at Armthorpe Colliery. A woman describes how the police tried to force entry into her house near to the colliery.
A traditional song about the dangers of mining is sung over newspaper cuttings accusing miners of thuggish behaviour during the strike.
A child reads a poem contrasting the official condemnation of police violence in South Africa with the response of the authorities during the miners' strike.
The concluding song is, again, 'Which side are you on?' calling for support for the miners or it declares that the next to be affected may be yourself.