Commissioning Poverty and Creative Authorship

Poverty in the Media – Commissioning Priorities

Poverty is a problem faced by both individuals and society.

Societies commentators are an exclusive group, selected via a hierarchy and instated within a system, how representative can their voice be of the individuals who, because of the restrictions of their experience, do not rise through this?

The stories that find there way into the mass media produce a profound impact on the public subconscious; all mediated by the editorial chain, with whom the conditions are set and must be met to be accepted. The commissioning editors of both BBC and Channel 4 documentaries present similar priorities in their commissioning guidelines: Their requests come in loaded language – requesting proposals to match.

Hamish Mykura, Head of Documentaries for More 4 lists ‘harrowing’ ‘obsessed’ ‘extreme’ and ‘compelling’ in the descriptions for previous successes, the titles of which are equally charged (Eight Minutes to Disaster, Killer in a Small Town).
Alternatively, there is a focus on the ‘cheeky’ (BBC3) or the BBC4 equivalent ‘witty’, with both seeking ‘onscreen talent’ just as Channel 4 emphasises ‘presenter-led’ documentaries; encouraging programmes that are less focused on informative or critical worth and more (as requested by BBC3) the ‘entertainment values in their DNA’.

None of these criteria are detrimental in themselves but with this blanket approach to issue based programming, there is an obvious conflict of interests, the end point of which is arrived upon by Mark Raphael.

“I want to make ‘Risk Taking’ films that shed light on subjects we thought we already knew. ‘Provocative’ films that stir controversy, and ‘Popular’ films that thrill and excite large audiences.”

Mass appeal and commercial viability, are not criteria that encourage varied and responsible reporting. Industry checks may happen but if the material never leaves this sphere, pre-public release, there can be no dialogue. Fact checking, largely to avoid any potential legal repercussion, only happens to concrete information, not implication and is far more perceptible in specific rather than abstract cases. Where backlash does happen, it tends to pass more quietly than the impact of the broadcast programme.

When RDF went head to head with the Queen (A Year with the Queen, BBC, 2007) the BBC placed all blame with RDF, whose misleading editing meant producer, Stephen Lambert’s, head rolled. Now he’s back (as Studio Lambert) with Benefit Busters and RDF are free to continue with programmes, Wife Swap and The Secret Millionaire. It is not the representation, but the victim and resource with which they can respond, that affects the reaction – but the personal harm and perceptual effect is no less dramatic for those without recourse.

The power the media wields in propagating and reinforcing hegemonic ideals has long been recognised: The veil of entertainment and pretext that responding to audience choice, removes the onus from the media, only highlights the need for institutional change.

This is just one of the issues that Spectacle’s ‘Poverty and Participation in the Media’ project seeks to address; finding alternatives, opening up discussion and challenging what is seen to be the authoritative voice. The project was commissioned as part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s ‘Public Interest in Poverty Issues’ campaign, and project content can be viewed online at:

Luton focus of ‘Changing Britain’, Channel 4 News

Luton was the focus of the Channel 4 News piece ‘Changing Britain‘ aired on Tuesday 23rd March.

On the streets of Luton and in the context of it’s pronounced industrial and migrant history, Jon Snow’s report examined crime, unemployment and the benefit’s trap, and inviting local perspectives on the upcoming elections.

The Snowblog ‘Hats off for Luton’, published prior to the broadcast, recognises Luton as “merely the tip of a very British reality, a snapshot of a country with vast social challenges extending far beyond what we mainly talk about – fixing the deficit.”

Glenn Jenkins (who extends the discussion in A view from the Marsh Farm estate) and other Marsh Farm Outreach members also feature in the programme. Spectacle have been working with the group for over 15 years, most recently on our Poverty and Participation in the Media project for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, but also during the early community activism and outreach principles of the Exodus Collective (now Leviticus and MFO), about whom Spectacle produced two films Exodus Movement of Jah People and Exodus from Babylon.

Reinvestigate 9/11 event archive now online.

To view Reinvestigate 9/11 click links below.

Reinvestigate 9/11 – Ian Henshall Talk
Reinvestigate 9/11, Cynthia McKinney Talk
Reinvestigate 911 – Dr. Nafeez Ahmed
Reinvestigate 9/11, Q&A – Part1
Reinvestigate 9/11, Q&A – Part2

Cynthia McKinney was a member of the US Congress for 12 years before being targeted for removal after challenging the official story of 9/11. Cynthia is a global campaigner for many human rights causes.

Ian Henshall is the author of ‘911 The New Evidence’ and a co-ordinator of Reinvestigate 911.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is a UK based terrorism expert. He is the author of ‘The London Bombings’ and ‘The War on Truth.’

The event covered the FBI Counterintelligence Programme (COINTELPRO), CIA, White House, Bush and Obama Administrations, foreign policy and ‘neutralization’ of internal threats, Chilcot enquiry, 9/11 commission, Israel, Lobbists, Dacajeweiah Splitting the Sky (John Boncore) case, civil rights, racial equality and social activism.

This was a non-funded shoot incorporating work placement participatory filming and editing

Victorian Pumping Station video tour

The Battersea Power Station Community Group were  given a short tour of the Victorian Pumping Station – soon to be demolished if REO receive planning permission for Rafael Viñoly’s Masterplan. There have been strong objections including The Victorian Society and Save Britains Heritage.

To view a short edit of the tour follow the link below.

Battersea Power Station, Pumping Station Archive

England, N. Ireland, Scotland, Wales – Devolution and Disadvantage

Planning Map
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
have released a series of reports to mark 10 years of devolution. The reports look at the impact of devolved policies and recognise a need for the Westminster to continue to reserve certain powers in order to improve conditions across the board but picks up on a failure to communicate feedback and learning between central and devolved government policies.

While concluding that much of the improvement in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales stems from UK policy, the reports acknowledge promising results from devolved policies, especially in the areas of social housing and elderly care. Athough their impact so far has been limited in size these results should improve as the administrations stabilise and imbed.

A less positive equalising factor was raised by report author Jim McCormick, who warns –

“The scale of the projected cuts in public spending will cause some of the gains seen in the last 10 years to unravel.”

Human Rights Watch report “Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Illegal Treatment of Terror Suspects’


Human Rights Watch report “Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Illegal Treatment of Terror Suspects” seriously undermines British Government denials of Intelligence service complicity in torture. Testimonials of Pakistani torturers included in the report allege that U.S. and British officers were “perfectly aware that we were using all means possible to extract information.”

This corroborates the statements of numerous ex-terror suspects who have come forward about their experiences. Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew’ and others while held illegally and subjected to torture in Pakistan and Bagram prison in Afghanistan.

His full interview, describing his first-hand experience can be viewed online:

Omar Deghayes on Torture and British Intelligence

This interview is an extract from the newly released documentary “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo’ (Spectacle 2009, Directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) which is now available on DVD:

BUY DVD – Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

Other excerpts and extras can be found at:

Poverty and Participation in the Media is now available to buy on DVD

Poverty and Partcipation in the Media is now available to buy on DVD from the Spectacle Catalogue page.

Poverty and Participation in the Media is a participatory media project examining how the media treats poverty and those affected. Looking at opportunity and exclusion; representation, stigmatisation and stereotyping. With the wealth gap on the increase and virtual segregation of the classes creating urban ghettos – Does the media bridge or increase the divide?

The Spectacle Catalogue page contains videos produced by Spectacle, Despite TV and others and all the titles are available to buy on both video and DVD.

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo is now available to buy on DVD

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo is now available to buy on DVD on the Spectacle Catalogue page.

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo is a new documentary film telling the story of Guantánamo, focusing on the stories of three prisoners, Shaker Aamer, Binyam Mohamed and Omar Deghayes. A powerful rebuke to the myth that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst”.

The Spectacle Catalogue page contains videos produced by Spectacle, Despite TV and others and all the titles are available to buy on both video and DVD.

‘Charlton Ladies’ Film

WS2_Training 00151922The 10 Minute film produced through video workshops, in association with Kickz and Charlton Athletic Community Trust is now available to watch online.

Charlton Ladies Film

Through the series of workshops, the participants shot interviews with Charlton Ladies players and coaches, with footage of them in action at their training sessions.

This has now been edited into a short film, profiling the Ladies Team, their current successes and future aspirations of both the team and individuals involved.

More children living in persistent poverty in Northern Ireland than Great Britain

More children living in persistent poverty in Northern Ireland than Great Britain

A report published today (12 November 2009), on child poverty in Northern Ireland, found that more families in Northern Ireland experience persistent poverty than in Great Britain.

What can we do to tackle child poverty in Northern Ireland by Goretti Horgan from the University of Ulster and Marina Monteith from Save the Children (Northern Ireland) explores the challenges faced by the Northern Ireland Assembly in meeting its target of eradicating child poverty. It found that persistent poverty in Northern Ireland (21% before housing costs) is more than double that in Great Britain (9% before housing costs).

The report points to four main reasons for higher persistent poverty in Northern Ireland:
·        High levels of worklessness: 31 per cent of the working-age population is not in paid work,higher than any GB region and 6 per cent higher than the GB average.
·        High rates of disability and limiting long-term illness, especially mental ill-health.
·        Low wages: the median wage for men working full-time is 85 per cent of that for British men.
·        Poor-quality part-time jobs and obstacles to mothers working.

The authors acknowledge that although there are some areas which need to be tackled that are beyond the Assembly’s control, there are issues over which the devolved administration has some influence. They recommend that the Assembly works on six key areas:
·        Increasing the supply of well-paid, good quality jobs
·        Supporting those already in work to increase their qualification levels
·        Alleviating the worst impacts of poverty on children
·        Addressing the lack of quality affordable childcare
·        Increasing educational attainment
·        Providing access to leisure and social activities for poorer young people

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the JRF, said: “The Assembly has already shown that it is possible to intervene to alleviate some of the worst aspects of poverty. Just as it provided the one-off fuel payment of £150 to families on benefit in winter 2008/09, it could make it easier for people to take ‘mini-jobs’, allowing those living on benefits to provide a little extra for their families. School budgets need to provide for all the costs of education including books, school trips and after-school activities. It must also address ways of giving poorer young people access to positive social and leisure activities.”

What can we do to tackle child poverty in Northern Ireland by Goretti Horgan from the University of Ulster and Marina Monteith from Save the Children (Northern Ireland), is available to download for free from the Joseph Rowntree website.

For more information view Spectacle’s Poverty and Participation in the Media project.

Poverty is defined as a family income below 60% of the median income.
Persistent poverty defined as being in poverty for at least three out of four years (in this case 2003-2007).