Dispatches - Tabloids, Tories and Phone Tapping

Peter Oborne outside the Houses of Parliament

On Monday night, an episode of Channel 4's "Dispatches" was screened. It was about the unfolding saga of "News Of The World" journalists and their utilisation of phone tapping. A lot of people are interested in this ongoing story. Some of them are interested in it because they can have a bit of a potshot at the former editor, Andy Coulson, who is now the current Prime Minister's right-hand man and communications manager. This is fair enough, but I'm a lot more worried at the relationship being nurtured between News International and the Metropolitan Police force. So, it seems, is John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister. Not to mention Brian Paddick who was a frickin' member of the fecking Metropolitan Police force. Also, I shed a tear for the poor girl who didn't have the label of a 'celebrity', but had her phone hacked by the "News Of The World" anyway. The police grudgingly sent her an unhelpful reply email three months after she'd made an initial allegation.

Anyway, my political paranoia started causing my neck hairs to prickle, as I realised 4oD and Channel 4's Youtube channel had pulled the documentary from Catch-Up. So, I decided to upload it myself. It'll probably be taken down, but Catch it while you can. By the time I'd uploaded the first part, it'd already got 200 hits within 20 minutes. Admittedly, this was probably aided and abetted by my colleague Graham Linehan tweeting it. Another online acquaintance, Mr Chris Coltrane, has also kindly pointed to a torrent site hosting the documentary - which, as I understand, has leapt up in the number of peers sharing it, thus proving you can't keep a good story down if people want to share it. If you can't torrent a video, you can also watch another streaming copy on Vimeo courtesy of Derfen, particularly since Youtube is rather more vulnerable to contentious material being blocked. But while it's not being blocked, you also have the option of a streaming HD (High Definition) copy embedded in this blog (or follow the link below each embedded video to go direct to Youtube). In fact, just for really good measure, if you suspect this newly-uploaded video will be pulled from Youtube, then use Keepvid to keep a copy of it yourself.

Since writing this blog entry, 4oD have since put the documentary back up, so you could watch it there too (although only for the next month). You might also be thinking that I (and a fair number of other social media chatterers) might have over-reacted. It wasn't pulled by mysterious Powers-That-Be, surely? You may well be right. But we've been here before, many times before. One great illustration was the crude super-injunction that was issued to stop coverage of Trafigura in newspapers, legitimate broadasting outlets and Parliament itself. In that instance, a lot of very alert social media users ended up being the watchdog, when our more traditional protectors and representatives (such as the CPS, journalists, PCC and even our MPs) were circumnavigated by big business. Frankly, it's happened before; it's happened since; and it'll happen again.

A lot of the old media brigade pour scorn on things like bloggers and the new technology. They may well have a point. I guess there'll be some of us that laughably think we're digital revolutionaries or internet anarchists. But if the professionals in Whitehall and Fleet Street are wandering around with black gaffer tape on their gobs, then why not let a few of us shout, tweet, share and upload? I think it's rather heartening that a load of "amateurs" can quickly spread the word of a must-see documentary, when the usual establishment bodies seemed anxious to draw attention away from it.

By the way, if anyone is interested, I also have Peter Oborne's fantastic 2008 "Dispatches" documentary entitled "It Shouldn't Happen To A Muslim" (July 2008, Channel 4), where he expertly skewers the anti-Muslim narratives that the newspapers have been peddling. He also shows how most of the stories are blatant made-up bollocks as well. Yes, a fair number of us knew all this already, but it's great seeing Oborne embarass the national press with such surgical precision. Give me a holler if you want me to upload that too.