Channel 4: an apology

by Stephen Tall on June 5, 2007

I have in the past few weeks been rather unkind about Channel 4. In particular, I suggested its recent Dispatches programme abandoned objective reporting in favour of sensationalist editorialising.

May I therefore take this opportunity to commend Channel 4’s decision not to pull tomorrow’s documentary, Diana: The Witnesses In The Tunnel.

I do not fully understand why Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the private secretary of Princes William and Harry, has chosen to pick a fight, and to do it in such an emotionally-charged manner. His maudlin attempts to emotionally blackmail Channel 4 are simply tasteless:

Put simply, if it were your or my mother dying in that tunnel would we want the scene broadcast to the nation? Indeed, would the nation so want it?

Congratulations to C4’s director of television and content, Kevin Lygo, for standing by the programme and its makers, and for withstanding the typical inaccuracies and hypocrisy of the tabloid press. He points out that Mr Lowther-Pinkerton’s demands, if they set a precedent, would hamper serious documentaries investigating (for example) terrorist outrages, such as 9/11 or 7/7:

where there is the entirely responsible use of archive stills or footage depicting the immediate aftermath of the tragedy but where the dead or dying are, quite rightly and in accordance with regulatory provisions, not shown or identified. This is in our view a legitimate media analysis of events which, whilst inevitably personally distressing, concerns matters of immense public interest which have been (and are likely to continue to be) the subject of on-going and extensive world wide reports and comment over a significant period.

Mr Lygo then lists the various media outlets – including The Sun, The Sunday Times and BBC’s Panorama – which have previously reproduced the images which C4 intends to show without remonstrance from Mr Lowther-Pinkerton.

To answer Mr Lowther-Pinkerton’s question directly – no, if it were my dying mother I doubt I would want such scenes to be broadcast. Which is why the decision of whether they can be broadcast should not rest with me.