Sunday, 1 November 2009

Met Police caught out by The Firm.

Worrying news this past week, involving - on the face of it - deep embarrassment to the Met Police, but beneath that, an apparent deliberate flouting of the conventions governing police access to TV news footage.

The Met circulated 66 photos of supposed football hooligans from the recent trouble at the West Ham v Millwall match, only to realise belatedly and to their horror that the pictures included images from the recent Brit movie "The Firm".

Cue lots of jokes about hapless 'Knacker of the Yard', and a Yard spokesman putting it down to "a bad day at the office". But now the laughter has subsided, how exactly did this fiasco happen?

It seems that many of the 66 pictures had not come from CCTV or police camera operators. Instead, they had been taken - without permission or consultation - from a television news report which had made a comparison between the real and fictional images of violence. The Met was caught out because they had watched the news report with the sound turned off, so the person gleefully copying it was unable to hear the clear distinction made.

But what is most worrying is that the Met felt it acceptable to lift the news footage without asking for it through conventional routes. That deceit seems to deliberately flout a court ruling from 1999, where the City Of London Police were rebuffed in their attempt to get access to TV footage of anti-capitalist protests. The judge in that case refused the police demand, and agreed with the media that if the footage was handed over, the media might be seen as 'agents of the state' and attacked by demonstrators at other events in the future.

That ruling doesn't seem to have stopped the Met. Rather than risk a refusal, or another court case, the Met seems to have just bypassed the whole principle of legal access, and taken the footage regardless. The Met was caught out this time, but it begs the question: how many other times have police 'stolen' footage without permission or credit?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Citizen Journalism? Get A Life.

Skimming through the Daily Mail this morning, I spotted this photo of Steven Gerrard leaving court yesterday.

Look closely at it.

Now explain to me why at least seven - yes count them yourself - SEVEN of the teenagers are trying to 'photograph' Gerrard on their mobile phones!

What is that all about? I can understand the desire for an autograph. Perhaps the chance for a brief chat with their footballing idol.

But what possible souvenir value is there in a shaky video clip of his left ear? Or a blurred shot of the back of Gerrard's head? Do these kids all get together afterwards and compare the results? I would love to see them too, so I could point at them and laugh.

I've seen similar at movie premieres, when the stars "work the crowd", signing autographs. Tom Cruise is one of those who gets up close and seems to genuinely try to chat with the fans. Pity old Tom when the fans prefer instead to simply shove their mobile phone into his face and take snapshots.

I'd like to ask these teenagers, are the snaps intended to remember the moment by? Well WHAT moment?? You missed the moment because you were too busy trying to peer at the viewfinder on your stupid little phone! You wasted your chance for a real encounter with your idol, and a ridiculous 30-second clip will not recapture that.

Citizen journalism can be amazing. A video clip of a burning oil depot, filmed long before any TV crews could arrive? Excellent. Footage of the aftermath of a Tube train bombing? Brave and informative.

Blurry phone clips, probably of nothing more useful than the celebrity's feet? Get a life.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Try New Things. Daily.

Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman is coming to Britain to direct the Meltdown Festival at London's South Bank this month. In the Guardian newspaper today, a profile of the man features an inspirational anecdote from Eddie Vedder, the singer with Pearl Jam.

"I had this dinner with Ornette a few years ago. This beautiful, humble man told us remarkable stories about his remarkable life. After we'd eaten our main course, we ordered more wine and some sorbet. Ornette poured his wine into his dessert and said: "Ever had red wine and raspberry sorbet?" I said: "Er, no." And he said: "Neither have I!" I think that sums him up. He might be in his late 70s but that was probably the sixth or seventh new thing he tried that day."