Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

We Ate in E8 (Day 35)

adrian dunbar

Went for my second session at the Joan Littlewood archive over in Hackney. Took actor Adrian Dunbar with as he has just finished playing Brendan Behan in New York in the play ‘Brendan at the Chelsea‘ by Janet Behan (niece), and is about to take the play to Dublin, Belfast and Derry. (“His performance alone makes “Brendan at the Chelsea” a must.” NY Times) He ploughed his way through all the The Hostage and The Quare Fellow material. Meanwhile I picked up from 1963 and the Oh What a Lovely War scrapbooks and worked my way via Mrs Wilson’s Diary (set designed by Damon Albarn’s mum) and Lionel Bart and the like through the 60s and 70s until 1974 when the archive ends and Littlewood’s Theatre Royal hits the buffers.

There’s a nice line about Joan in the play: “Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood, Brendan Behan wrote under Littlewood” – there’s more about how he wrote under her here [murray-melvin-on-brendan-behan] and more on the play, which Adie directed as well as strarring in, here [human-behan] and here [drinker-with-a-writing-problem]. It would be great to see the play on at Stratford in Joan’s anniversary year next year.

Our generous host again looked after us very well with cake, coffee, chat and fascinating insights and titbits from the world of Joan & Gerry. One of my favourite clippings that I came across during the afternoon was one telling of how she’d been arrested for what would now be called ‘Stealth Marketing’ or something, for painting pawprints from the high street and the station to the theatre as a means of piquing curiosity. So a gorgeous, chilled out afternoon was had by all.

On the way to pick up Adie I went to a brief Channel 4 meeting about a game I was working on prior to sabbatical. It’s a really exciting project because it is a game That Does Good.

On the way back I went to a very interesting discussion held by YouGov and the London Press Club at the Stationers’ Hall (which is on the same street as my home livery hall Cutlers’ Hall). The theme was the future of Investigative Journalism and the participants were:

Chair: Andrew Neil, journalist and broadcaster. 
Panel: Alan Rusbridger, Editor-in-Chief, the Guardian; Tom Harper, investigations reporter, The Independent; Tom Bower, author and journalist; Heather Brooke, investigative journalist; and Andrew Gilligan, investigative journalist. 

I’d been kindly invited by Carole Stone who I’ll be interviewing shortly for the book on the subject of personal networks.

My Other Half chatted to Gilligan and Rusbridger after the debate. I bumped into journo/writer Christina Patterson who recently left The Indy (to coin an Ardenism: It is. She Is.) after first meeting her at Julia Hobsbawn’s network-driven event in Portland Place the other week, the London launch of Names Not Numbers 2014. I also ran my thought-up-on-the-night notion of a Kickstarter for Investigative Journalism past Simon Albury who recently left the Royal TV Society (It may be. He is.). He had raised an interesting point about the potential charitable status of some IJ activities. I reckon the Storystarter idea has legs, driven by the issues people care passionately about and the institutions they distrust – doesn’t yet exist as far as I know…

investigative journalism debate

Journalism ain’t what it used to be

Matt of the Media Guardian

Tony Wells

A colleague sent me over a link to the last Media Guardian podcast in which I made an unwitting appearance. Maggie Brown saw a speaking gig I did last week and said it made her realise that “there are some people there [at Channel 4] with real knowledge driving the 4iP fund which I hadn’t expected” – I was talking about my Landshare project which goes live tonight as soon as the DNS switches over from the old Registration site .

So that much was spot on 😉

What The Guardian unfortunately failed to do with their careful fact checking and old school journalistic attention to detail was:

  • get my name right – I was Tony Gee (an amalgamation with the next speaker who was Tony Ageh of the BBC)
  • ascribe the project to the right source – not 4iP which is not behind Landshare but Channel 4 Cross-platform (since it is related to a primetime TV show, River Cottage)
  • grasp the purpose of the site – not getting allotments but sharing land (the clue’s in the name)
  • link it to the right partners – Royal Horticultural Society was singled out from a wide coalition including the National Trust, Garden Organic, Capital Growth et al, with no sense that Channel 4/Keo Films was the prime-mover

The thing that stands out for me about event where Maggie saw me speak (at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, chaired by Roger Bolton) was a rather odd question I got at the end from a lady in the audience:

– Why did you use all that jargon?

– Sorry, hadn’t meant to, was really trying to avoid it, what did I say?

– Well what did you mean by “pipes”?

– Those things water flows through

– Well what about “ether”?

– Sort of airy

Still, it was lovely to appear in the Media Talk podcast, not least in that it squeezed out a begrudging recognition that we do some good stuff at Channel 4 in the networked media world. Now I love The Guardian as much as the next white, male, Oxbridge-educated, middle class person – my own flesh&blood works there on the Sports desk, the luverly Jemima Kiss writes great stuff in it, a nice gardening man in G2 wrote a double-page spread about Landshare and Veg Doctors in it today – but it does bug me that the highly respected organ spends a lot of time having a go at C4 without declaring its vested interest (including vested interests in terms of the Guardian/Scott Trust’s media ownership such as radio stations etc.) in the Channel’s future not being secured by the Powers That Be as we travel over the crossroads of digital switch-over – how it would love to be the counter-balance to the BBC in the public service media landscape. But when we ask ourselves whether Skins viewers read The Guardian over breakfast every morning? whether the Sex Education Show viewers turn to The Guardian for a chance to talk openly about sex education issues? whether The Guardian can do a Jamie’s Scool Dinners? we understand why Channel 4 has its place in the landscape and why people of all sorts dig it.

The free range broadcaster

With all the speculation, misinformation, politicking and general bullshit flying around today with the release of TV regulator Ofcom’s blueprint “for sustaining and strengthening public service broadcasting (PSB) for the next decade” I’d like to take a moment here to highlight Ofcom’s recommendation for Channel 4:

Create a strong, alternative public service voice to the BBC, with Channel 4 at the heart

And pick up an article by Roy Greenslade, widely respected Professor of Journalism at London’s City University, writer for The Guardian and Evening Standard, and man about Donegal (believe he’s been spotted in The Bridge Bar, Ramelton where my wedding reached a satisfying, musical conclusion on Day 3). In tonight’s issue of the Standard (which I picked from the bin in East Finchley station – does Alexander Lebedev have any idea how few people part with actual cash money for it?) Prof G wrote the following insightful article:

Ofcom risks making a pig’s ear of C4 if we lose gourmet selection of quality TV
Roy Greenslade
21.01.09

Pig Business - a Channel 4 documentary

Pig Business - a Channel 4 documentary

On Monday evening I attended the preview of a Channel 4 documentary called Pig Business. It was a fine piece of work, a mixture of passion and compassion that raised all sorts of disturbing questions about factory farming, agri-business and globalisation, not to mention airing concerns about public health and the environment.

You can make up your own mind on 3 February, when it is screened on More4, but — even if you disagree with the polemic — it has to be seen as an extraordinary project because it was filmed over the course of four years by Tracy Worcester. After the showing there was loud applause for her and tributes from several speakers, including Zac Goldsmith and Chrissie Hynde. There was acclaim too from Tim Sparke, managing director of the path-breaking broadband TV documentary company Mercury Media, but he broadened his praise and struck a particularly topical note.

“If ever we need a demonstration of Channel 4’s commitment to public service broadcasting,” he said. “Then this is it.”

As C4’s chairman, Luke Johnson, and chief executive, Andy Duncan, peruse the Ofcom report released this morning that outlines how the channel will be funded in future, it is important to keep in mind the value of its output.

I know this is the channel of Big Brother, and that we are currently being assaulted by another instalment of a Celebrity Big Brother, a title that — given the crop of inmates — surely breaches the Trades Descriptions Act. But they are programmes that ramp up viewing figures, thereby attracting essential advertising revenue and enabling the broadcasting of serious public service broadcasting (PSB) content.

There is so much to appreciate about C4, not least its contribution to film, arts, drama and documentaries. There is a Channel 4 ethos, a distinctiveness, that sets it apart from both its commercial rivals and the publicly-funded BBC. I happen to be an avid viewer of Channel 4 News because it deals in some depth with the most important news stories of the day. It treats viewers as grown-ups and, significantly, attracts a young audience that clearly appreciates that fact. It’s a sort of early Newsnight.

Consider also the very different documentary and factual strands such as Dispatches, Cutting Edge and Unreported World. The latter, screened 20 times a year in peak time, takes viewers to stories in parts of Africa, South America and south-east Asia that never appear elsewhere.

Sure, the audiences are small. But the whole point of PSB, and of C4’s remit, is to widen the TV horizon. There is no point in sticking to a safe mainstream, agenda. Other broadcasters do that. There is a mix, with populist factual programming running alongside more esoteric stuff, but it works. C4 also commissions programmes that take risks or challenge our preconceptions.

Take the eight-part series now showing on Sunday evenings, Christianity: A History. It started off two weeks ago with a superb and counter-intuitive presentation from Howard Jacobson on Jesus the Jew. It was some of the most watchable TV I have seen in a long time, intelligent without being in the least bit pompous, provocative without any hint of bombast.

Turning to C4’s contribution to film, who can deny the virtues of a company that backed movie-makers such as Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting and Shallow Grave); Steve McQueen (Hunger) and Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Six Shooter)?

But let’s stop the tour here. The point of the exercise is to illustrate what we stand to lose if C4 is not adequately funded in the coming years. It is also to underline the point made by BBC executives, even if through gritted teeth, that rival PSB output is healthy for our society.

I realise the over-riding importance of C4 every time I call up the list of documentary channels on Sky and discover the endless loop-tape of what has rightly been dubbed a choice of sharks or Nazis.

What distinguishes C4’s factual output is that it rarely, if ever, stoops to the formulaic TV that populates the digital depths. That is one reason why I have been opposed to the notion of a merger with Five, a commercial channel that would erase the individuality of C4.

I have never seen the point of Five since its launch in 1997 and, going on the viewing figures, neither can most of the nation’s viewers. It is remarkable that a populist channel that screens wall-to-wall entertainment attracts only 4.6% of the total audience. Yet C4, with so much of its PSB programming specifically aimed at minority audiences, manages to get a 6.3% share.

I can well understand why the BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson, has advocated a C4-Five merger. He wants to protect the BBC’s licence fee and preserve the income from its own commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.

While I was thinking about C4’s dilemma I realised that the Pig Business documentary offered several relevant metaphors. In its current state C4 is a free range broadcaster, offering good meat that satisfies the appetites of its customers. If it is overly constrained, whether by tighter budgets or by an uncomfortable accommodation with a rival, there will be a reduction in both the quantity and quality of its meat.

Factory-farmed TV is junk food for the masses. C4’s programmes, by contrast, are a gourmet selection for niche audiences. We lose them at our peril.”

Update 22.i.09:
Last night while I was writing this post Channel 4 was winning the Broadcaster of the Year Award at the Broadcast Awards.

It also picked up awards for:
Best Documentary: My Street [a wonderful film]
Best Documentary Series: The Genius of Charles Darwin
Best Single Drama: Boy A
Best New Programme: Gordon Ramsay Cookalong Live
Best International Sales: Come Dine With Me

Update 22.i.09:

To ram the point home, this lunchtime (GMT) this year’s Oscar nominations have been announced and Channel 4’s Film4 have received 12 (yes, 12!) nominations:

Slumdog Millionaire

· Cinematography

· Directing

· Film editing

· Original score

· Original song – “Jai Ho”

· Original song – “O Saya”

· Best picture

· Sound editing

· Sound mixing

· Adapted screenplay

In Bruges

· Original screenplay

Happy-Go-Lucky

· Original screenplay

Osama fun in the Currant Bun

The dear old Sun has picked up on Osama Loves today in a full page spread on p22. Naturally enough they’ve brought their own special magic to it – like photoshopping out the male half of our dynamic Muslim duo.

Osama of Love global hunt Doctor

Osama of Love global hunt Doctor

Fear and Sex

Daily Mail

An oldie but goldie that came to mind when first reflecting on this subject on SP4:

Q: What comes between Fear and Sex?

A: Funf

One for the cunning linguists.

So the subject is Fear. From day-to-day personal development to the realm of global politics it’s a big driver – and very destructive.

I thought it would be interesting to try this experiment – take a newspaper at random (in this case the copy of the Daily Mail for Wed 21 May I was given getting on the plane to Glasgow that afternoon) and analyse it in terms of how big a role Fear plays in its headlines. I reckoned Fear’s main rival would be Sex.
I worked my way through the first 25 pages [the news pages] recording every headline without exception (they all fitted into either the Fear or Sex category). From page 26 to the Sports pages at the end I kept just a selection (though still the majority). Here’s the results:

Fear

Fathers not required (gender roles, redundancy)
IVF vote sidelines fathers
The girl crushed to death by a tree in freak bus crash (random death)
Pupils aged five get a spell in the sin bin (youth delinquency)
The prickly prince (decline of monarchy/social order)
Spend-it-all parents give their children a bad heir day (where money meets death) Party leaders at war on abortion (death before you’re even born)
10p tax debacle could still cost families £150 a year
With no friend, I really am a Solitary Man says Diamond (loneliness)
Let us strike say police (social disorder, crime)
Our editors have total freedom says Mail chief (lies, misinformation)
15 beers, 20 vicious punches… and 6 months in jail for England footballer
Soaring oil prices push diesel near £6 a gallon
The power bills stitch-up
Police car that killed girl of 16 ‘didn’t have blue lights or siren on’ (random death meets social disorder)
The micro-particles that could pose the same risk as asbestos
1M more Britons in just 3 years (immigration, foreigners)
We moved to escape the FEAR of crime
Beware scentists who insist they know best (science)
Sorry Fergie, I can’t stomach you or your porky pies (social disorder)
Where did all the real men go?
Why this horror makes me FEAR for the future of South Africa
Care home chief is jailed over death of Alzheimer’s patient (disease meets social disorder, distrust)
Suicide note in star’s pocket
Why do clever women fall for second-rate men?
Bosses ‘picked on’ registrar opposed to gay marriages
Tax payers will fund Sky ‘propaganda’ show
Labour’s pledge on farm cash in tatters
Milk float mobsters

Sex

Vicar’s war on ‘wicked’ Playboy (moral decline)
Gwyneth’s hitting the heights again
The real battle for Moscow (Wags)

Beyond p25

Bad parents are the villains of the age says Cameron
Crooked dentist put a dog on his list of patients
Heroic undercover soldier Robert Nairac was savagely tortured by the IRA
Exchange trip girl was killed jogging with iPod
Long-term care: a national disgrace
Insurers pocketing your pension
Don’t fall for this card trick
Fuming over BT cold call (anger)
Our care system? chaotic
So furious he’s lost for words
Will new stem cell research create monsters?
We work hard, but Britain doesn’t repay us
Yell cries out as £3.8bn debts pile on the pressure
House price crash could jeopardise Rock’s recovery
ICAP takes a dive
The mining prop begins to creak
Oil-rich Russian economy ready to takes off (money meets foreigners)
Shaw future in doubt
Make sure greed does not wreck 20Plenty
Horne is braced for long lay-off
It’s over for Faldo as he gives Open a miss (aging, mortality)
Essien won’t risk penalty pain
Why is it we can’t love Rooney?
Usmanov’s knives out for Gunners
Moscow’s hell, Michel
Guns, concrete and football’s new power base

What surprised me most was how little competition from Sex there was. Scary!

TV fakery travesty of a mockery of a sham

Undercover MosqueUndercover Mosque

Hot off the presses: A victory for Channel 4, decent journalism and free speech. This important, insightful film was commissioned by my colleague in C4 Commissioning, Kevin Sutcliffe.

DISPATCHES VINDICATED OVER UNDERCOVER MOSQUE FILM

The makers of Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation Undercover Mosque have won a public apology and six figure libel settlement from West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service which falsely accused them of TV fakery.

At the High Court this morning [15 May 2008] West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service apologised unreservedly for the comments which they have accepted were incorrect and unjustified. They have withdrawn the remarks and undertaken not to repeat them. They have said that they “were wrong to make these allegations… and now accept that there was no evidence that the broadcaster or programme makers had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity”.

Undercover Mosque included a number of excerpts from preachers and teachers uttering statements such as:

‘Allah created women deficient’

‘…it takes two witnesses of a woman to equal one witness of the man’

‘By the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her (young girls) to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her’

‘take that homosexual and throw him off the mountain’

‘Whoever changes his religion from Al Islam to anything else – kill him in the Islamic state’.

West Midlands Police and the CPS have also agreed to pay substantial damages to the programme makers. The programme makers will be donating all of the damages to The Rory Peck Trust. The Rory Peck Trust exists to support freelance news gatherers and their families worldwide in times of need, and to promote their welfare and safety. Established in 1995, the Trust provides financial assistance to freelancers in need, and to the families of those who are killed or seriously injured or suffering persecution as a result of their work. The Trust is totally independent and relies on its income from sponsorship, grants and donations.

The settlement followed the issue of libel proceedings by the programme makers in response to public statements made by West Midlands Police and the CPS about the investigative documentary (broadcast 15 January 2007) which exposed extremism in a number of British Mosques.

In August last year, WMP and CPS issued a joint press release falsely claiming the programme had completely distorted the views of Muslim preachers and clerics featured in the programme by misleading editing.

Unusually, WMP and CPS also referred the programme to TV regulator Ofcom who rejected their complaints and stated “each and every quote was justified by the narrative of the programme and put fully in context” (see below).

Kevin Sutcliffe, Deputy Head of Current Affairs at Channel 4 who oversees Dispatches, said: “This is a total vindication of the programme team in exposing extreme views being preached in mainstream British mosques. Channel 4 was fully aware of the sensitivities surrounding the subject-matter but recognised that the programme’s findings were clearly a matter of important public interest. The authorities should be doing all they can to encourage investigations like this, not attempting to publicly rubbish them for reasons they have never properly explained. We will continue to produce undercover investigations of this nature.”

David Henshaw, Executive Producer and Managing Director of Hardcash Productions, who produced the documentary added: “This was a thorough and detailed one-hour documentary, made over nine months and at personal risk to the undercover reporter. The abhorrent and extreme comments made by fundamentalist preachers in the film speak for themselves. They later claimed they had been taken out of context – but no one has explained the correct context for arguing that women are ‘born deficient’, that homosexuals should be thrown off mountains, and that ten year old girls should be hit if they refuse to wear the hijab.”

Hardcash Productions are a leading independent television company who specialise in documentary making. They produced the multi-award-winning Beneath the Veil and an investigation into the post office, Third Class Post, for Channel 4’s Dispatches strand.

Julian Bellamy, Head of Channel 4, said: “When the West Midlands Police and CPS refused to withdraw their damaging remarks we had no option but to support this action. As Channel 4’s flagship current affairs programme, Dispatches has an outstanding reputation for brave and incisive journalism. It was clearly vital to us that an important piece of journalism and the reputation of its makers was not undermined by these unjustified allegations remaining unchallenged. Journalism of this kind has always been, and will continue to be, central to Channel 4’s purpose.”

A bit of the background:

Following broadcast West Midlands Police launched an investigation into some of the individuals featured in the programme. They sought a production order for untransmitted material with which Channel 4 complied.


In August 2007 ACC Anil Patani (Security and Cohesion) wrote to Channel 4 on behalf of the West Midlands Police who, together with the Crown Prosecution Service, simultaneously issued a press release alleging some comments in Undercover Mosque had been ‘Edited together to change their meaning’ and/or ‘Broadcast out of context’. The press release also stated that the programme might ‘undermine community cohesion.’

In November Ofcom dismissed all complaints against Undercover Mosque and rejected evidence supplied by the West Midlands Police to support their claim of misrepresentation through misleading editing. It concluded:

“Undercover Mosque was a legitimate investigation, uncovering matters of important public interest. Ofcom found no evidence that the broadcaster had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity. On the evidence (including untransmitted footage and scripts), Ofcom found that the broadcaster had accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context.”

 

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