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For months, there had been occasional newspaper reports, mainly tucked away in the foreign pages, of nuclear material being smuggled out of the former Soviet Union for sale illegally in the West. In just twelve months, the German police had made no fewer than 160 seizures of radioactive chemicals - all of it on its way to, so far, unidentified groups keen to obtain the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons.
The World Trade Center in New York had just been bombed by Moslem extremists. Was it only a matter of time before one of these fanatical organisations got hold of enough plutonium to rig up a small bomb to be detonated in another Western city?
Clive Entwistle and Paul Calverley were on the case. Some friends of Mike Garner worked for Greenpeace. They were in touch with a young Russian journalist who had contacts with the gangs selling weapons-grade plutonium, and much more besides.
Entwistle went to Moscow to meet the reporter - Kyril - to see if he would help. Subject to certain conditions -that neither he nor his contacts would be filmed or identified in any way, he agreed. He reminded Entwistle that the people we would be dealing with were dangerous and that we had to be very careful. I flew out to Moscow to meet him. He was young and, understandably, nervous. We per-suaded him that we had the expertise and the resources to carry off a 'sting' on his contacts.
The plan was that I would pose as the representative of a Middle Eastern organisation keen to buy Plutonium 239- the essential ingredient for putting together a small nuclear bomb. Back in Britain, we hired - a consultant nuclear engineer, John Large, to see if it would be possible to make such a weapon. The simple answer was yes. In fact, the prospect of an attack using one had been worrying the experts for some time. It already had a name - a 'dirty bomb' - so called because it would be rudimentary, inefficient but, nonetheless, deadly whether it triggered properly or just dispersed millions of nuclear particles over the immediate, highly-populated area.
John Large built us a replica 'dirty bomb' small enough to fit into a briefcase. It was frightening to click open such -a commonplace piece of baggage and see the tubular, pre-assembled nuclear unit inside, complete with plutonium core and battery-operated timing and detonation devices.
Another expert told us in interview that a small terrorist group would quite easily be able to. find the necessary components if they were properly funded. In Moscow, we were hoping to prove that he was right.
Mike Garner joined Entwistle and me in Moscow. He and secret filming equipment wizard Alan Harridan had hurriedly created two cameras that were built into clothing, which Garner was to use when meeting the gang. In a series of cloak and dagger meetings at the Slavjanskaya hotel, Kyril helped us to plan our visit to the gang's HQ. He was begin-ning to have second thoughts about what was about to hap-pen, and was only just holding his nerve.
The following morning, Garner and I were joined by Kyril and two heavy-looking characters with bulges under their coats - Kyril's underworld 'contacts' - and we set off in an impressive-looking hire car for one of Moscow's outer suburbs. Eventually we stopped in front of a gloomy, low--rise, pre-war apartment block in a surprisingly leafy street. Kyril led us to the front door of a scruffy, ground-floor flat and rapped nervously on the frosted glass.
The door opened and a dishevelled man in his thirties waved us quickly inside. He invited us to sit down in a makeshift office, which centred on a rickety desk, bare but for a telephone. Gamer sat down last, making sure he could get a good shot of our host with the camera which was built into the breast pocket of his denim jacket.
The man introduced himself as Gennady. He said that he could obtain most nuclear materials from a variety of sources. He pointed to the telephone. We just had to tell him what we needed and he would make the call to his 'business partner', who would arrange delivery. I told him that we wanted twenty-five kilograms of plutonium for our Middle Eastern clients. Gennady didn't bat an eyelid. He picked up the receiver and dialled his friend. They spoke in Russian for a minute, then Gennady put the phone down and talked to Kyril. The journalist translated that weapons grade plutonium would cost $15 million dollars a kilo but that for a large order such as we were placing; Gennady was prepared to close the deal for $200 million dollars. Had we wanted a uranium/plutonium mixture, we could have had it straight away. As it was, pure plutonium would take a little while to obtain.
He had uranium and plutonium straightaway? I asked.
Gennady smiled and told us to stay where we were. He walked over to a cupboard under his staircase. He reached inside and, with a grimace, hauled something into the room - a lead-covered container about two feet high. Suddenly Gamer dropped forward onto his knees. My God, I thought. 'He's been irradiated. In fact, he was just trying to film the lettering and codes stamped on the outside of the canister with his secret camera, while appearing to want to check out the details for his own professional satisfaction.
Before we left, Gennady gave us a small sample of nuclear material from the container so that 'our people' could have it tested to prove he could deliver what we wanted. I hoped to God that the small container he'd given us was leakproof. Everything seemed so ramshackle and amateur - a scruffy man in a cardigan operating from a shabby flat with weapons-grade nuclear material hidden under his stairs. My . blood ran cold. We left Gennady with a handshake and agreed that we would come back to him as soon as we had spoken to our clients in the Middle East.
After the meeting, it was clear that Kyril wasn't happy with what we were doing. It was just about the last time we saw him - and I can't say that I blamed him. We were all very nervous. In his absence, however, we were without an interpreter for our covert meetings with Gennady. We could hardly approach one of the translation agencies and ask for someone to come and tell us when the Mafia man was planning to deliver our plutonium.
In the meantime, our sample had been taken to the Atomic Energy Ministry laboratories in central Moscow. Screened by residential developments, the laboratories were housed in a series of low, cream-painted buildings which, on the inside, reminded me of Dr Who's Tardis. A worried -looking scientist opened the sample with his hands encased in heavy silver gloves built into the side of a radiation-proof cabinet. He emptied the contents of the phial into a glass dish, and we filmed him testing it.
Sure enough, it was exactly what Gennady had said it was. We interviewed a Ministry spokesman. It was obvious that he knew that his country was haemorrhaging nuclear material through the Russian Mafia, but he put a brave face on things and vowed that he would do everything he could to stop it.
Back in Birmingham, programme manager Pat Harris had had a brainwave. Central had just finished filming one of its most successful dramas - 'Sharpe', starring Sean Bean as the swashbuckling soldier hero of the Napoleonic Wars - in Eastern Europe. An English woman who spoke fluent Russian had been working on the production as an interpreter and she was coming back to the UK via Moscow. Would she help?
Surprisingly, given that I had to tell her exactly what we were involved in, she agreed and cheerfully set off with us for our second visit to Gennady. This time, he had brought in his partner, Ilya.
They had had an idea. If, as we said, we wanted the plutonium so that we could make a nuclear warhead, why not just buy one ready-made? They had an SS 20 ballistic missile they could provide for us - what did we think?
As our interpreter translated, I felt a sense of unreality wash over me, as I had the first time I had met Gennady. f we were finding it so easy to obtain these things, what he hell was there to stop a genuine terrorist organisation with real money behind it from doing exactly the same?
I obviously wasn't looking keen on the idea, because Gen-nady and Ilya were now outlining to our interpreter how the original order of weapons-grade plutonium was to be smuggled out to us. It would be coming through Vilnius in Lithuania. When would we like delivery? And would I please take the details of how we should make the payment to their company? Fine, fine. We took down the details and arranged to talk later. We had all the evidence we needed that the fissile material for our 'dirty bomb' could be found here in Moscow. We flew back to Britain to prepare for the final stage of the programme.
We had decided to take our dummy 'dirty bomb' to the United. States. The totally reasonable thinking was that the bomb set off by the Moslem extremists at the World Trade Center could so easily have contained nuclear material. If not this time, maybe next time. We wanted to ask the auth-orities there if they had contemplated such a threat and, if so, what plans they had to deal with it.
We wanted to carry out our plan sensibly and without causing any panic, so we informed both British and US Customs exactly what we were doing. The briefcase was thoroughly examined at Heathrow Airport and again when we arrived in New York.
Understandably, perhaps, the New York authorities -from the Mayor's office to the civil defence department -refused to meet us.. The story of what we had brought with us and our exploits in Moscow were picked up by New York radio stations.
In Washington, however, I interviewed Bob Kupperman, a former US National Security Adviser who looked at the briefcase's contents and said, 'Oh, my God. My worst night-mare is coming true!' A chilling comment from the man who was once the chief scientist for the American side in the SALT Two disarmament talks. He had warned several times that the ready availability of small amounts of nuclear material on the black market would ultimately give the ter-rorists the power they had wanted for so long.
Here, in theory, was a bomb small enough to fit into a briefcase but big enough to obliterate Manhattan.
When news of our visit to New York was picked up in Britain, we were lambasted by the Sun, which accused me of being 'irresponsible and naive' for trying to 'sneak' the 'dirty bomb' into the US with me. This really annoyed me. We had moved heaven and earth to avoid scaring people. We had informed all the relevant authorities in Britain and the USA and, after all, we were making a very valid point, given our Russian findings.
I insisted that Central complained to Kelvin MacKenzie, then the editor of the Sun. Our press department advised against it. 'If you cross the Sun, they'll never give you pub-licity again - not good publicity anyway,' they warned.
I insisted, however, and, a couple of weeks later, an apol-ogy appeared in the paper, printed as prominently as the original, condemnatory article. And, despite the fears of the Central Television press department, when we broadcast the first programme about the terrorist activities of Martin McGuinness a few weeks after that, the Sun described me as a 'national hero'. This was one 'national hero' who was ready to lie down and sleep for a year.
Scribd published version is here
Available as a word document - please download this book here
Until the early 20th century Bristol had a healthy tradition of varied, locally owned newspapers. A diversity essential to share local information and to substantiate and debunk gossip. A counter to any interest group or ideology that might stifle cultural life.
Bristol's first ever newspaper, the Bristol Postboy, began in 1702. The 91st issue of this, published in August 1704, is one of the earliest surviving copies of a provincial newspaper in the world. It was produced weekly as a single sheet.
By the late 1920s there were three locally owned daily newspapers: The Bristol Evening News; The Bristol Times and Mirror and a morning paper the Western Daily Press. But in 1932 the first two papers found themselves in dire straits due to fierce competition from a heavyweight newcomer, the 1st Viscount Rothermere, Harold Sidney Harmsworths, Evening World.
Before he died, on 14th August 1922, Lord Northcliffe, founder of the Daily Mail and Rothermere's brother, was extraordinarily candid about the power of the press. 'God made people read so that I could fill their brains with facts, facts, facts - and later tell them whom to love, whom to hate, and what to think.' As well as, 'Heaven forbid that I should ever be in Downing Street. I believe the independent newspaper to be one of the future forms of government.' (a)
The World was a well-financed loss-leader and fairly soon the Bristol Evening News collapsed through lack of sales. But Times and Mirror readers refused to let their paper die, paying over the odds to support what they saw as the only true local voice. Not to be thwarted Rothermere bought up the shares... and closed it down. After hundreds of redundancies the Bristol market was clear for the Evening World.
The World had been launched, complete with a new headquarters 'Northcliffe House' next to St Mary in the Quay church, as a regional arm of Rothermere's Associated Newspapers. To this day each night's priority print runs are for Wales and Westcountry copies of The Daily Mail. Local papers such as the Western Daily Press have to wait.
According to Bristolians who can remember it, the Evening World didn't feel like a Bristol paper. And many of Bristols citizens didnt like the bully-boy tactics employed in what they felt was an intrusion into Bristol life. An attachment to the old Times and Mirror emerged that Rothermere, with all his money, couldnt quash.
Meetings were organised by impassioned Bristolians, shoulder to shoulder with sacked Times and Mirror journalists and technicians. An appeal was launched, with the Bishop of Malmesbury at the helm, to form a rival to the Evening World. Local business interests too joined the movement, and contributed to a campaign fund for a new paper for Bristol. This popular out-cry was entirely unexpected for Lord Rothermere. He had taken over regional newspaper markets in other parts of the country virtually unhindered.
Enough money was soon raised and many sacked staff from the Times and Mirror hired. The first edition of the Bristol Evening Post on Monday April 18th 1932 carried the fitting sub-title The Paper all Bristol asked for and helped to create.
As the first bundles were carried out for distribution on that bright Monday afternoon, an impromptu crowd cheered. In the streets alongside the hastily refitted factory, men flung their hats in the air with delight. Rounds of applause could be heard streets away.
The old leather factory on the corner of Silver Street and Broadmead was to be home to the Post for 42 years. The paper was printed in its early days on unreliable second-hand presses and conditions were anything but comfortable. Staff put up with sub-standard facilities including a leaking roof.
The news desk had to call in a supply of umbrellas one day to stop water pouring over that mornings typed stories. Mice nested in the piles of old newspapers stacked up in the newsroom.
According to those that worked there in the 1930's and forties the day began with the odour of frying onions from the Seven Seas Chinese restaurant next door, the aroma pouring in through the fan above the crime reporters desk.
There was a genuine flair for independent reporting. Refusing to cow-tow to any one interest group, big business, police or government, it maintained an authoritative independence putting the interests of the people of Bristol first and commanding popular respect as a result.
Circulation rivalry between the Post and the World became heated as it became clear the Evening World was still a real contender. There were battles of words, price cutting, gimmicks, and scoop wars as the Bristol Evening Post took on the far better financed World and beat it, blow by blow.
Those who had rallied to the Bishops call had more reason to celebrate than they might have known back in 1932. As the decade progressed Rothermere proved to be a shameless supporter of Hitler and the emerging Nazi regime in Germany. Rothermere explained how only Hitler and Mussolini could save Europe and Britain from the Red Russian peril.
Perhaps the most famous of the many pieces published by Associated Newspapers' Daily Mail in praise of Hitler was the leader article entitled "Youth Triumphant" written by Rothermere himself in July 1933. The editorial praised the Nazi regime "...for its internal accomplishments, both spiritual and material". If it were true that there had been "...minor misdeeds of individual Nazis", Rothermere added, these would be "submerged by the immense benefits the regime is already bestowing upon Germany". The article was so complimentary it was circulated by the Nazis as propaganda.
Rothermere was an avid supporter of Oswald Mosely's British Union of Fascists. On 15th January 1934 in the Daily Mail he wrote that 'We must keep up with the spirit of the age. That spirit is one of national discipline and organisation ... Britain's survival as a great power will depend on the existence of a Great Party of the Right with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini have displayed'. This was in an article headlined: HURRAH FOR THE BLACKSHIRTS.
Following in Hitler's footsteps today's editors and leader writers at the Evening Post take a particularly hard line towards gypsies, beggars and trades unions. A recent front page headline read 'Beggar Off'. In another report, gypsies were not approached for their side of the story in a piece about an 'illegal' camp. Only described as 'filth' and 'parasites' by local residents. A recent public statement by the Fire Brigades Union was edited to misrepresent the union's position.
Mike Lowe, the current editor of the Evening Post publishes a 'Devil's Advocate' column under the anonymous penname Barry Beelzebub. Bristol Racial Equality Council took 'Beelzebub' to the Press Complaints Commission for writing racist remarks about Iraqis in the Autumn of 2002. Supporting the US led push for war with Iraq, Lowe had suggested British soldiers be armed with 'pork bullets' to shoot at the 'towelheads'.
Even as the first bombs were being lined up to drop on the British mainland Rothermere received a personal invite to attend the first dinner party Hitler gave at his official residence in Berlin. Among the other guests were Goebbels, Goering and von Ribbentrop. The two continued to correspond, Rothermere even taking the time to send the Fuhrer a birthday note: "may I join the myriads of those who, on your birthday, will be wishing you long life to crown your efforts to achieve good government, liberty and peace".
In the 1940's and 1950's the Post established itself as a rival to the Evening World that was not going away.
The previously independent Western Daily Press, founded in 1858 by Scotsman Peter Steward Macliver, merged with the Evening Post in 1960. The two newspapers have been printed on the same presses ever since.
In 1962 the Evening World brought out its final edition as it was absorbed by the Bristol Evening Post and the Western Daily Press to form Bristol United Press (BUP). Rothermere's Associated Newspapers had a big stake in the new venture.
In 1974 Northcliffe group, the Daily Mails regional newspaper company, provided a new headquarters and printing works. Both remaining daily papers moved with the Daily Mail presses into todays purpose-built premises, at the junction of Temple Way and Old Market. Rothermere now had an even bigger stake in the peoples paper set up to provide a permanent alternative to his Bristol operation.
During the 1980's the Observer series was added to BUP's range of titles.
By the early nineties Northcliffe had set up The Daily Mail and General Trust to manage the entire group, one of the UKs six media giants. As well as the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday the DM> owns the London Evening Standard, Metro group (another loss leader), Teletext and has a 30% stake in Bristols GWR Radio Station.
With a higher auction bid for the licence than the local competition could muster, Northcliffe added Eagle radio to their portfolio in 1999. Now re-branded as Star FM it follows a great tradition of licensed Bristol radio stations that fail to do justice to what is recognised as one of the cutting edge music producing cities in the world.
In 1998 Northcliffe Newspapers bought out Bristol United Press's last remaining independent shareholders. The paper Bristol fought so hard to put in place, to break the Northcliffe monopoly, had itself become a wholly owned Northcliffe paper.
In the summer of 2000 BUP also bought up Bristol and Baths news and listings paper Venue, one of the only two independent publications with news content in the region. Soon after, BUP brought out a new free listings magazine, This Is Bristol, to compete with it. A strange move which would seem to indicate Venue may be closed down.
The Big Issue South-West is now the only weekly print outlet with a reasonable news content and circulation in Bristol able to publish this critical history of the Post today.
The Northcliffe group of regional newspapers have been dragging their feet across the country over Labours new union recognition laws. They have singled out unionised journalists for intimidation. Northcliffe is the first newspaper group in the UK to force the National Union of Journalists to consider legal action which would force them to allow a union recognition ballot in their newsrooms.
In what was possibly an unwitting acknowledgement that the paper was now controlled from London the new owners decided to drop Bristol from the paper's name, it became simply The Evening Post.
The Posts official commemoration of its sixtieth year in 1992, 'Hold The Front Page' by James Belsey, tells the story of the rivalry of the thirties only it doesnt mention once who the proprietor of the Evening World was. A piece of deliberate blindness that attempts to distort history for its own ends.
The lessons at the Post are an uncomfortable reminder of how news can be controlled in a feudalistic fashion that flies in the face of popular opinion and deeply erodes democracy.
Changes of ownership notwithstanding The paper all Bristol asked for and helped to create remained under the title on the papers front page until recently. It can still be found at the top of the Posts daily editorial column. Is it an oversight... or a habitual printer's error?
It should read: The paper now controlled by the monopolist it was set up to stop
The Daily Mail was started in the late ninteenth century by Alfred Harmsworth, later to become Lord Northcliffe. His brother was made Lord Rothermere and he took the business over in the 1920's after 1st Lord Northcliffe died in mysterious circumstances. Vere Rothermere, the 3rd Lord, died around 1999.
Daily Mail and General Trust owns newspapers, teletext and radio stations,
Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday) and Northcliffe Newspapers (regional newspaper arm operating in Stoke, Hull, Leicester, Gloucestershire, Bristol) owns...
Bristol United Press (otherwise known as Bristol Evening Post and Press - BEPP ) owns...
Evening Post, Western Daily Press, Venue etc.
a The Prerogative of the Harlot, Press Barons and Power, Hugh Cudlipp, Bodley Head, 1980, ISBN 0 370 30238 9
All the News that's Fit to Print, A short History of Bristol's Newspapers since 1702, John Penny, Bristol Branch of the Historical Association, 2001, ISSN 1362 7759, £3.00
'A Brief History' - pub. 2000 - Section from BUP handbook given to all new staff.
Hold The Front Page, 60 Years Of Great Stories From The Evening Post - James Belsey, 1992 - Redcliffe Press - ISBN 1 872971 42 3 (thanks to a contact on the Evening Post staff who took home the last remaining copies of this book - saving them from being pulped by managers)
Daily Express - 21Feb01 - One Believed That Hitler Had The Right Policies For Britain, His Grandson Thought So Much Of His Family That He Kept A Mistress For 15 Years And Drove His Lonely Wife To Drink.
Daily Express - 22Feb01 - He Preaches About Single Parents, So Why Does His Own Illegitimate Son Have To Live With His Mother On The Other Side Of The World?
Thursday September 6, 2001
Rupert Murdoch's influence over editorial policy at his most prestigious British title, the Times, is so great that journalists are censored by executives frightened of offending their proprietor, according to a former member of the paper's foreign staff.
Sam Kiley, who resigned last month as the Times's Middle East correspondent, claimed yesterday that his reports were regularly censored by editors living in "terror" of irritating Mr Murdoch.
In a stinging attack in the London Evening Standard Mr Kiley wrote that Mr Murdoch's friendship with Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, and Mr Murdoch's extensive Israeli investments led executives to extensively rewrite copy.
"Middle managers flew into a hysterical terror every time a pro-Israeli lobbying group wrote in with a quibble or complaint, and then usually took their side against their own correspondent," he wrote.
Mr Kiley wrote that he was asked not to describe the killing of Israel's opponents as "assassination", and was directed to use less emotive phrases such as "targeted killing" instead.
Peter Stothard, editor of the Times, disputed Mr Kiley's version of the events, adding: "[Rupert Murdoch] has never played any part in stories that appear in the Times about the Middle East, or any other subject."
To date, the newish Criminal Case Review Commission has examined claims from 3,218 convicts that they were falsely imprisoned. Can you make a stab at estimating how many have been upheld? Before you speculate, remember the cynical wisdom that everyone in jail will swear on all they hold sacred that they're innocent. The cynics aren't all wrong. I've no doubt that some lags were trying it on when they attempted to persuade the commission's civil servants to raise doubts about their convictions before the Court of Appeal. You shouldn't forget either that jail cells are a fourth-rate substitute for closed mental hospitals. They hold luckless beneficiaries of 'community care' who can protest that they've been framed with genuine sincerity. Unfortunately they can also be howling mad.
You must therefore discount the chancers and the deluded, while remembering there is no fouler offence than the state jailing the innocent. Once you've made the necessarily loose calculations, you're ready to play fantasy justice and give your best guess of the percentage of complainants who have good grounds for arguing they're the victims of incompetent or malicious prosecutions.
My guess is a conservative Observer reader might imagine that the commission and appeal judges have a love of truth strong enough to push them to examine a quarter of disputed verdicts. An ultra-conservative might go as low as a tenth. Actually the commission has decided that only 136 cases should be referred to the court. Of these, the judiciary ruled that a paltry 53 convictions should be overturned. The hit rate is 1.6 per cent.
There's nothing as terrifying as a vicious policeman. He can attack with the privileges of the law as his Praetorian Guard. If you fight back, you're committing an offence. Passivity is the only safe response; safe, that is, unless your injuries are fatal. Hollywood got the unaccountable power of violent authority just right in 48 Hours when it had Eddie Murphy bellowing at a bar stuffed with rednecks: 'I'm your worst nightmare. A nigger with a badge.' Flash the badge and the swaggering opponent is transformed into powerless prey.
Between 1969 and 1999, 1,000 people died in police custody, prisons and secure psychiatric hospitals. Caveats must be made once again. Many deaths were unavoidable suicides or accidents. Nevertheless, not one death was followed by the successful prosecution of an officer of the law. The hit rate in this instance is no fraction of any per cent whatsoever. It's zero. The criminal justice system can forgive with the empathy of a doped-out aromatherapist when necessary.
The civil libel courts are just as permissive. The Police Federation combined with its solicitors Russell, Jones & Walker to form the most successful suing machine of the 1990s. Together they won 96 defamation cases in a row. Typically, Russell, Jones & Walker would not file a writ for libel until the last minute before the statutory deadline expired. Memories had faded and witnesses had vanished: resistance was all but pointless.
The typical target would be local papers or TV stations without the resources to risk hundreds of thousands in fantastically expensive court hearings. They might have thought they were on firm ground because they didn't name names in innocuous reports of an inquiry into police going over the top on a Saturday night, for instance, or an investigation into an anonymous officer. Their restraint didn't bother The Fed. All Russell, Jones & Walker had to do to get the cash flowing was to produce associates of the officers, such as wives who said that they knew the reports identified their dear husbands as suspects in some misconduct inquiry and swear that their marriages were in danger until their men's names were cleared.
It was easy money and a standing joke. Officers called them 'garage actions'. They were far too modest. The damages they sucked up as a matter of course were on a scale to buy a new conservatory or second home.
The imbalance between the hit rates isn't a coincidence. There's a rough inverse proportion between the ability of police officers to intimidate and the failure to remedy false convictions and examine suspicious deaths.
To the makers of Injustice, a film about a few of the many deaths in police custody, Britain seems like a former Soviet republic. Cinemas are cancelling screenings after being hit with Russell, Jones & Walker warnings that they might be sued - delivered, as ever, at the last minute.
The documentary follows the campaign of the family of Brian Douglas, for one, who was stopped by two officers in south London. He was restrained and arrested. After 15 hours in a station he was taken to hospital to die. He had a fractured skull and brain damage. According to evidence given at the inquest into his death, his head injuries were consistent with being dropped onto his skull from a window 60 feet up. (One of the arresting officers told the court that his baton had slipped accidentally when he hit Douglas on the shoulder.)
The only way to see the documentary is to contact the director via www.injusticefilm.co.uk and, in the manner of old Soviet dissidents trying to find a samizdat , convince him it's safe to tell you about 'guerrilla' showings at a secret location in your area.
Advertised viewings in a free country are thin on the ground. Three cinemas have pulled the film. The manager of the Metro in the West End of London was cautioned that a planned screening was an 'imminent libel' of the police, and told: ' It must be a matter for you whether you see fit to go ahead with the screening of this film. Obviously our clients' position is that you should not do so. On their behalf we would suggest that it is only reasonable and responsible that you should at least not do so until you have taken proper steps to satisfy yourselves that you are justified in disseminating such devastating accusations against our clients.'
There's no 'reasonable and responsible' way for a cinema manager to investigate the terrible deaths Injustice reports, as Russell, Jones & Walker must know. Ken Fero, the director, and his crew spent seven years covering the families of the dead's fight for an explanation. He went to Channel 4 for funding, but was turned down because the station was worried about Russell, Jones & Walker. He and his colleagues didn't give up. They worked for nothing and made Injustice on a pitiful budget of £40,000 - half the cost of one episode of Home Front in the Garden .
Praise for his inspirational drive might be a back-handed compliment if it makes Fero sound like a fanatic. But note that ' it must be a matter for you... ' I spoke to the Police Federation and Russell, Jones & Walker on Friday and neither said they intended to sue him or the families, who would just love to have their day in court after all these years. The Fed and its lawyers prefer to go for the distributors who can't defend a documentary they haven't researched.
Some of Britain's greatest sleazebags - Robert Maxwell, James Goldsmith - rehearsed this tactic when they threatened newspaper distributors in the Seventies and Eighties. Neil Hamilton, who appeared last week to believe he had a reputation left to lose, tried it against small bookshops in his Cheshire constituency in 1997 when they stocked accounts of his corruption. The forces of law and order are keeping exemplary company.
Unless you've been through a miscarriage of justice campaign, you can't know how hard it is to take the smallest of steps. The Court of Appeal generally doesn't want to know about claims that the prosecutors or the police suppressed or fabricated evidence.
These aren't minor fouls, like a judge misdirecting a jury, which can be punished with a yellow card before the game proceeds. They're the legal equivalent of a Malaysian betting syndicate fixing a match and making whole sport a joke. That prospect, as the late and truly cowardly Lord Denning said when he rejected the first attempt of the innocent Birmingham Six to appeal, is 'too terrible to contemplate'.
On top of judicial reluctance to admit the game isn't worth the candle is the nicely named 'chilling effect' on the media. Even if a newspaper is willing to take up what looks like a rotten conviction and campaign for years to find evidence to get it overturned - an enormous 'even if' - it will be deterred by the laws of libel.
Every case has an officer in charge. If you find he missed evidence, aren't you accusing him of negligence or worse? If he doesn't recognise that a dead man in a cell has been beaten senseless, aren't you accusing him of covering up for his colleagues? Better to forget the story and move on to how much leg this season's dresses are showing.
The Government is supposed to be preparing itself to take on the Police Federation. But New Labour is a party without a liberal cell in its tiny mind. It shows no understanding of how restrictions on free inquiry thwart justice and cannot see the connection between the licence to kill and the licence to print money.
* The size, increasingly concentrated ownership, owner wealth and profit orientation of the dominant media outlets;
* Advertising as the primary source of income for most media, influence of advertisers over channel style and overall agenda;
* The reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and `experts' funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power;
* `Flak' - criticism by the powerful, particularly business-supporting elected politicians, of negative media statements - used as a means of disciplining the media;
* Demonising control mechanisms: `anticommunism', `muslim fundamentalism', and so on.
After months of supreme indifference, our nine-month-old son has just started taking notice of what's on television. His interest wanes after about sixty seconds, perhaps just as well since he insists on watching from a distance of three inches.
Alongside the usual parental glow at another developmental milestone, I surprised myself with the depth of feelings stirred up by the beginnings of his relationship with television.
There was no TV in our house until I was ten years old. To cope with this deprivation we read furiously, seethed with envy and went round our friends houses to watch there. Eventually our parents gave in and we joined the masses.
Ever since I have carried a strange ambivalence about television. It was I think good for me that I watched little and read a lot as a child.
On the other hand the sense of exclusion from the shared culture of other kids was intense. TV held all the fascination of forbidden fruit.
My son's burgeoning interest in Pingu is just one more prompt to think harder about the role of television in our lives. Others include the cabling of our street, the current advertising blitz as digital TV is launched and the superb, prophetic Huw Wheldon lecture by Andy Hamilton.
The television our children will take for granted will be massively different from the meagre three channels I was so desperate to gain access to.
We are at the threshold of a revolution in television, which promises to have a major social impact and needs to be accompanied by thoughtful and watchful critique, not least from within the Christian churches.
While there was only three, four or five channel terrestrial television, most of us often watched the same things. Television constructed shared experiences on a mass scale as we all watched Coronation Street, the Generation Game or the Six O'Clock News.
With 200 channels we are going to experience ourselves, our own sense of society in a more fragmented and disparate way. When we surf channels and hit on transmissions in German and French, our sense of where Europe is will shift.
When we can choose CNN, Sky News and BBC World, our consciousness of the global context will move up a gear. We will simultaneously find ourselves part of much larger audiences and much smaller ones, as we zap between CNN and that specialist angling channel.
Reactions to this revolution are interesting. Many people groan whenever hundreds of channels are mentioned, yearly sales of digital packages are booming.
Various elites are deploring the (still further) vulgarisation and popularisation of what is already a pop medium. This predictable pattern of huffing, puffing, then capitulating is a seriously inadequate response.
We need to think hard and ask hard questions about what is happening. We need to use our power as consumers and work together to make a difference.
I believe a Christian response which cherishes freedom of expression and cultural diversity must oppose the monopolistic workings of media moguls, with Rupert Murdoch's empire offering most cause for concern.
We might also care to reject those cable or digital packages which pre-bundle channels in favour of those where we can choose what we want from the menu.
On the plus side, more channels could mean more access to programme making for local groups and minority groups.
Of course there will be dreadful TV evangelists, but there might also be room for some genuinely creative Christian contributions instead of the bland horrors of religious programming past and present.
'And finally' - we will have to give up on the excuse that there's nothing much on TV tonight and take responsibility for switching off and doing something better.
I, Richard John Charles Tomlinson, former MI6 officer, of Geneva, Switzerland hereby declare:
1.I firmly believe that there exist documents held by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) that would yield important new evidence into the cause and circumstances leading to the deaths of the Princess of Wales, Mr Dodi Al Fayed, and M. Henri Paul in Paris in August 1997.
2.I was employed by MI6 between September 1991 and April 1995. During that time, I saw various documents that I believe would provide new evidence and new leads into the investigation into these deaths. I also heard various rumours which though I was not able to see supporting documents I am confident were based on solid fact.
3.In 1992, I was working in the Eastern European Controllerate of MI6 and I was peripherally involved in a large and complicated operation to smuggle advanced Soviet weaponry out of the then disintegrating and disorganised remnants of the Soviet Union. During 1992, I spent several days reading the substantial files on this operation. These files contain a wide miscellany of contact notes, telegrams, intelligence reports, photographs etc, from which it was possible to build up a detailed understanding of the operation. The operation involved a large cast of officers and agents of MI6. One more than one occasion, meetings between various figures in the operation took place at the Ritz Hotel, Place de Vendome, Paris.
There were in the file several intelligence reports on these meetings, which had been written by one of the MI6 officers based in Paris at the time (identified in the file only by a coded designation). The source of the information was an informant in the Ritz Hotel, who again was identified in the files only by a code number. The MI6 officer paid the informant in cash for his information. I became curious to learn more about the identity of this particular informant, because his number cropped up several times and he seemed to have extremely good access to the goings on in the Ritz Hotel. I therefore ordered this informants personal file from MI6s central file registry. When I read this new file, I was not at all surprised to learn that the informant was a security officer of the Ritz Hotel. Intelligence services always target the security officers of important hotels because they have such good access to intelligence. I remember, however, being mildly surprised that the nationality of this informant was French, and this stuck in my memory, because it is rare that MI6 succeeds in recruiting a French informer. I cannot claim that I remember from this reading of the file that the name of this person was Henri Paul, but I have no doubt with the benefit of hindsight that this was he. Although I did not subsequently come across Henri Paul again during my time in MI6, I am confident that the relationship between he and MI6 would have continued until his death, because MI6 would never willingly relinquish control over such a well placed informant. I am sure that the personal file of Henri Paul will therefore contain notes of meetings between him and his MI6 controlling officer right up until the point of his death. I firmly believe that these files will contain evidence of crucial importance to the circumstances and causes of the incident that killed M. Paul, together with the Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed.
4.The most senior undeclared officer in the local MI6 station would normally control an informant of M.Pauls usefulness and seniority. Officers declared to the local counter-intelligence service (in this case the Directorate de Surveillance Territoire, or DST) would not be used to control such an informant, because it might lead to the identity of the informant becoming known to the local intelligence services. In Paris at the time of M. Pauls death, there were two relatively experienced but undeclared MI6 officers. The first was Mr Nicholas John Andrew LANGMAN, born 1960. The second was Mr Richard David SPEARMAN, again born in 1960. I firmly believe that either one or both of these officers will be well acquainted with M Paul, and most probably also met M. Paul shortly before his death. I believe that either or both of these officers will have knowledge that will be of crucial importance in establishing the sequence of events leading up to the deaths of M.Paul, Dodi Al Fayed and the Princess of Wales. Mr Spearman in particular was an extremely well connected and influential officer, because he had been, prior to his appointment in Paris, the personal secretary to the Chief of MI6 Mr David SPEDDING. As such, he would have been privy to even the most confidential of MI6 operations. I believe that there may well be significance in the fact that Mr Spearman was posted to Paris in the month immediately before the deaths.
5.Later in 1992, as the civil war in the former Yugoslavia became increasingly topical, I started to work primarily on operations in Serbia. During this time, I became acquainted with Dr Nicholas Bernard Frank FISHWICK, born 1958, the MI6 officer who at the time was in charge of planning Balkan operations. During one meeting with Dr Fishwick, he casually showed to me a three-page document that on closer inspection turned out to be an outline plan to assassinate the Serbian leader President Slobodan Milosevic. The plan was fully typed, and attached to a yellow "minute board", signifying that this was a formal and accountable document. It will therefore still be in existence. Fishwick had annotated that the document be circulated to the following senior MI6 officers: Maurice KENDWRICK-PIERCEY, then head of Balkan operations, John RIDDE, then the security officer for Balkan operations, the SAS liaison officer to MI6 (designation MODA/SO, but I have forgotten his name), the head of the Eastern European Controllerate (then Richard FLETCHER) and finally Alan PETTY, the personal secretary to the then Chief of MI6, Colin McCOLL. This plan contained a political justification for the assassination of Milosevic, followed by three outline proposals on how to achieve this objective. I firmly believe that the third of these scenarios contained information that could be useful in establishing the causes of death of Henri Paul, the Princess of Wales, and Dodi Al Fayed. This third scenario suggested that Milosevic could be assassinated by causing his personal limousine to crash. Dr Fishwick proposed to arrange the crash in a tunnel, because the proximity of concrete close to the road would ensure that the crash would be sufficiently violent to cause death or serious injury, and would also reduce the possibility that there might be independent, casual witnesses. Dr Fishwick suggested that one way to cause the crash might be to disorientate the chauffeur using a strobe flash gun, a device which is occasionally deployed by special forces to, for example, disorientate helicopter pilots or terrorists, and about which MI6 officers are briefed about during their training. In short, this scenario bore remarkable similarities to the circumstances and witness accounts of the crash that killed the Princess of Wales, Dodi Al Fayed, and Henri Paul. I firmly believe that this document should be yieldedby MI6 to the Judge investigating these deaths, and would provide further leads that he could follow.
6.During my service in MI6, I also learnt unofficially and second-hand something of the links between MI6 and the Royal Household. MI6 are frequently and routinely asked by the Royal Household (usually via the Foreign Office) to provide intelligence on potential threats to members of the Royal Family whilst on overseas trips. This service would frequently extend to asking friendly intelligence services (such as the CIA) to place members of the Royal Family under discrete surveillance, ostensibly for their own protection. This was particularly the case for the Princess of Wales, who often insisted on doing without overt personal protection, even on overseas trips. Although contact between MI6 and the Royal Household was officially only via the Foreign Office, I learnt while in MI6 that there was unofficial direct contact between certain senior and influential MI6 officers and senior members of the Royal Household. I did not see any official papers on this subject, but I am confident that the information is correct. I firmly believe that MI6 documents would yield substantial leads on the nature of their links with the Royal Household, and would yield vital information about MI6 surveillance on the Princess of Wales in the days leading to her death.
7.I also learnt while in MI6 that one of the "paparazzi" photographers who routinely followed the Princess of Wales was a member of "UKN", a small corps of part-time MI6 agents who provide miscellaneous services to MI6 such as surveillance and photography expertise. I do not know the identity of this photographer, or whether he was one of the photographers present at the time of the fatal incident. However, I am confident that examination of UKN records would yield the identity of this photographer, and would enable the inquest to eliminate or further investigate that potential line of enquiry.
8.On Friday August 28 1998, I gave much of this information to Judge Hervé Stephan, the French investigative Judge in charge of the inquest into the accident. The lengths which MI6, the CIA and the DST have taken to deter me giving this evidence and subsequently to stop me talking about it, suggests that they have something to hide.
9.On Friday 31 July 1998, shortly before my appointment with Judge Hervé Stephan, the DST arrested me in my Paris hotel room. Although I have no record of violent conduct I was arrested with such ferocity and at gunpoint that I received a broken rib. I was taken to the headquarters of the DST, and interrogated for 38 hours. Despite my repeated requests, I was never given any justification for the arrest and was not shown the arrest warrant. Even though I was released without charge, the DST confiscated from me my laptop computer and Psion organiser. They illegally gave these to MI6 who took them back to the UK. They were not returned for six months, which is illegal and caused me great inconvenience and financial cost.
10.On Friday 7th August 1998 I boarded a Qantas flight at Auckland International airport, New Zealand, for a flight to Sydney, Australia where I was due to give a television interview to the Australian Channel Nine television company. I was in my seat, awaiting take off, when an official boarded the plane and told me to get off. At the airbridge, he told me that the airline had received a fax "from Canberra" saying that there was a problem with my travel papers. I immediately asked to see the fax, but I was told that "it was not possible". I believe that this is because it didn't exist. This action was a ploy to keep me in New Zealand so that the New Zealand police could take further action against me. I had been back in my Auckland hotel room for about half an hour when the New Zealand police and NZSIS, the New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service, raided me. After being detained and searched for about three hours, they eventually confiscated from me all my remaining computer equipment that the French DST had not succeeded in taking from me. Again, I didn't get some of these items back until six months later.
11.Moreover, shortly after I had given this evidence to Judge Stephan, I was invited to talk about this evidence in a live television interview on Americas NBC television channel. I flew from Geneva to JFK airport on Sunday 30 August to give the interview in New York on the following Monday morning. Shortly after arrival at John F Kennedy airport, the captain of the Swiss Air flight told all passengers to return to their seats. Four US Immigration authority officers entered the plane, came straight to my seat, asked for my passport as identity, and then frogmarched me off the plane. I was taken to the immigration detention centre, photographed, fingerprinted, manacled by my ankle to a chair for seven hours, served with deportation papers (exhibit 1) and then returned on the next available plane to Geneva. I was not allowed to make anytelephone calls to the representatives of NBC awaiting me in the airport. The US Immigration Officers - who were all openly sympathetic to my situation and apologised for treating me so badly - openly admitted that they were acting under instructions from the CIA.
12.In January of this year, I booked a chalet in the village of Samoens in the French Alps for a ten day snowboarding holiday with my parents. I picked up my parents from Geneva airport in a hire car on the evening of January 8, and set off for the French border. At the French customs post, our car was stopped and I was detained. Four officers from the DST held me for four hours. At the end of this interview, I was served with the deportation papers below (exhibit 2), and ordered to return to Switzerland. Note that in the papers, my supposed destination has been changed from "Chamonix" to "Samoens".This is because when first questioned by a junior DST officer, I told him that my destination was "Chamonix". When a senior officer arrived an hour or so later, he crossed out the word and changed it to "Samoens", without ever even asking orconfirming this with me. I believe this is because MI6 had told them of my true destination, having learnt the information through surveillance on my parent's telephone in the UK. My banning from France is entirely illegal under European law. I have a British passport and am entitled to travel freely within the European Union. MI6 have "done a deal" with the DST tohave me banned, and have not used any recognised legal mechanism to deny my rights to freedom of travel. I believe that the DST and MI6 have banned me from France because they wanted to prevent me from giving further evidence to Judge Stephans inquest, which at the time, I was planning to do.
13.Whatever MI6s role in the events leading to the death of the Princess of Wales, Dodi Al Fayed and Henri Paul, I am absolutely certain that there is substantial evidence in their files that would provide crucial evidence in establishing the exact causes of this tragedy. I believe that they have gone to considerable lengths to obstruct the course of justice by interfering with my freedom of speech and travel, and this in my view confirms my belief that they have something to hide. I believe that the protection given to MI6 files under the Official Secrets Act should be set aside in the public interest in uncovering once and for all the truth behind these dramatic and historically momentous events.
SWORN at )
this 12th day of May 1998, before me:- )
A Notary Public
EXHIBIT 1 [none provided with file]
EXHIBIT 2 [none provided with file]
For More Information Contact:
Last modified: May 12, 1999
Originally from the i-Contact website but now greatly added to - this is the original, and in my opinion the best and most concise version.
This piece was being written on the computer which we finally reclaimed from the police - see the article Policing The News - hence its late publishing.
For good quality sound get the mic. as close as you can but dont let it dither on the edge of the screen. For interviews and general use here are the alternatives presented in a rough order of preference:
1. A tie mic. clips unobtrusively to the interviewees chest.
2. A rifle (super-directional) mic. can be attached to the camera, stuck in a stand or hand held by the interviewer, but works best on the end of a boom with its own operator who must be good at making sure it stays out of the frame.
3. A cardioid (directional) mic. can be used as in 2.
All these can be radio mics. or simple mics with leads. If hand-held turn the cord a couple of times around the interviewers hand before trailing it off towards the camera, this is to stop the plug at the bottom of the mic. rattling.
As a rule of thumb keep the light source (bulb or sun) behind you and to one side so that your subject is well lit. Always be on the look out for obtrusive shadows, like yours for example. And try and shoot when the suns out!
One of the problems with almost all the current media is the way so much of what we see and hear is comment by so called experts (such as reporters!). Not the people who are actually affected.
One way to get round this is to get hold of individuals with a different perspective and just let them tell their story straight to camera. For this sort of piece start by researching a controversial subject a little and finding who is an articulate prime mover in the field, usually opposing the multinationals or the government etc.. Let this person tell their story. Interview them somewhere they will feel totally at home, preferably in the open air in natural light.
For a piece like this start by doing a long interview with the main protagonist with plenty of cross-examination, a listening enquiring interview. Interview several other people or groups referred to in the original interview.
Visit several places referred to in the interview for cutaways.
If there are several places or people referred to that will not be interviewed or keep saying well be getting back to you, and never do then doorstep them at their place of work and or home.
@nticopyright Tony Gosling 4/98 - but do credit i-Contact and quote
1. Our web address -http://www.videonetwork.org/- and email email@example.com- or
2. Our postal address and phone no - c/o 76 Mina Road, Bristol, BS2 9XQ - +44 (0)117 914 0188 - as appropriate.
A photographer wrongly accused in an internal police intelligence document of supplying drugs at festival has been paid a substantial sum by the force concerned. Lawyer believe it to be the first case of its kind.
Alan Lodge, aged 45, from Nottingham, has specialised in photographing free festivals and New Age Travellers' activities for many years.
He has accepted "substantial" damages from Avon and Somerset Police for Malicious Falsehood, it was confirmed yesterday.
It is the first time a Malicious Falsehood case has been brought over internal police documents.
In May 1991, Mr Lodge was stopped and search on Sodbury Common in Avon while on the way to the Inglestone free festival where he was acting as a trustee of the Festival Welfare Services that assist at such events.
He was also prevented, under threat of arrest, from photographing police activities at the festival. He complained and subsequently received an apology.
The following year he was anonymously sent an internal police document entitled Nomad Bulletin 4. It contained a list of travellers and people who should be "handled with care".
The document wrongly suggests that Mr Lodge and three other named individuals were "instrumental in arranging the supply of controlled drugs at festivals".
The document allegedly compiled by police officers, also gave the registration number of vehicles Mr Lodge had driven, his nickname (`Tash'), and suggested that he had worked for a magazine which promoted the use of drugs.
The document added: "Beware - you have been warned!!".
On legal advice, Mr Lodge launched an action, alleging Malicious Falsehood in July 1992.
Avon and Somerset Police deny the document's contents amounted to malicious falsehood and do not accept liability, but have agreed to pay Mr Lodge in settlement of his claim, and also his costs.
Mr Lodge, whose work has appeared in the Guardian, The independent, Radio Times and I-D Magazine, said yesterday that he was very sorry the matter had taken so long to resolve.
He said there had only been a handful of malicious falsehood claims this century, and the only one involving the police in this way.
"The entire process has taken over six years to get some kind of redress for the wrong done to me by the award of a substantial sum.
"It is worth mentioning that this case should not be viewed in isolation.
"Police are increasingly using various devices to remove photographers from the actions where they feel they may be portrayed in a less than flattering light. "I am hearing stories all the time of photographers and people using video cameras being hassled and intimidated by the police. It is increasingly prevalent".
Mr Lodge who has worked for Release, the drugs advice agency, said in his action the document had damaged his reputation as a negotiator between police and members of the travellers' community and at free festivals. It had also affected his work as a freelance photographer.
A freelance photographer wrongly accused in an internal police document of supplying drugs at free festivals has been paid substantial undisclosed damages by the Avon & Somerset Police for malicious falsehood.
Alan Lodge, 45, has been covering music festivals and the activities of New Age travellers for years. In 1992 he was anonymously sent an internal police document entitled Nomad Bulletin 4. Operation Nomad was a surveillance and information gathering exercise looking into the activities of travellers and rave culture. He was listed as someone who should be 'handled with care' and one paragraph stated that he was one of a group of four who are 'instrumental in arranging the supply of controlled drugs at festivals.'
Lodge launched an action for malicious falsehood (BJP, 6 January, 1994) which was settled last week. Lodge said the document had damaged his reputation as a negotiator between the police and New Age Travellers and affected his work as a freelance photographer. Mr Lodge has worked for the Guardian, The Independent, I-D Magazine and Radio Times.
Mr Lodge says: `The entire process has taken over six years to get some kind of redress for the wrong done to me by the award of a substantial sum. The tale should not be viewed in isolation. Police are increasingly using various legal `devices' to remove photographers from the scene of actions where the police feel that they may be portrayed in a less flattering light. I think that there is a developing pattern here that we should all be concerned about.'
On Monday 20th July, digital video footage sold to HTV by Bristol network i-Contact made top news all day. Midday, 6.30 and 10.25 bulletins in the West of England led with film of, and interviews with, exasperated citizens pulling up Genetically Modified crops 3/4 of the population say are unsafe.
The next day HTVs news editor, John Alcock, got a visit from the police. They wanted to know who and where the film came from and to take a copy of the original tape back to the station as evidence. John made it clear to them that theyd have to get a court order first and handed them a copy of the previous nights broadcast.
Two weeks later the next filming by i-Contact was even more newsworthy: The high court had said a GM test field next to an organic farm near Totnes in Devon was illegal but was powerless to destroy it.
On Monday 3rd August a group of activists decided to enforce the High Court decision by pulling up crops again and they tipped off i-Contact. This time though, cameraman Ben Edwards was stopped in his tracks.
Before hed got any worthwhile film, before the protesters had even got to the offending field, Ben was arrested with the protesters on suspicion of conspiracy to cause criminal damage.Ben was kept in Totnes police station for the maximum 24 hours while a team from Trinity Road police station in Bristol searched his home.
Fellow i-Contact founder and ex-BBC radio reporter Tony Gosling was there when the police arrived. He checked their warrant then watched helplessly as the police went through Bens room earmarking the i-Contact computer, video tapes and piles of documents.
While the police were still there Tony called The Press Gazette who were immediately anxious to cover the story and he was interviewed for about ten minutes by Andrew Johnston. When Tony put the phone down a policemen asked him who he had been talking to and Tony told him. Tony was warned by the policeman that by calling the press he could be "perverting the cause of justice". The article, when it appeared, was missing important parts of the story. Andrew Johnston maintains that the non-running of the story was the Press Gazettes own editorial decision.
Keeping a watchful eye on the police going through Bens room Tony then called HTVs newsdesk. The news editor immediately sent a cameraman round. As he arrived outside the five policemen beat a hasty retreat with armfuls of Bens belongings, including the i-Contact computer and video tapes. HTVs cameraman filmed them as they drove off. This and Bens overturned bedroom were on HTV news Tuesday evening.
With the loss of the computer i-Contact have been effectively put out of action. One of the services they had been providing was an environmental video e-mail list with an international list of subscribers.
Ben was released on Tuesday evening without charge on police bail and ordered to return to Totnes police station on September 24th. The police refused to return his £2000 Sony VX-1000 digital camcorder ensuring no more i-Contact coverage of the GM food issue.
When Tony contacted Inspector Patrick at Totnes, who signed the search warrant, he was told the camera would be retained for the foreseeable future as "evidence is prioritised". When asked how the camera could be evidence, the detective in charge of the case, Peter Gartrell, replied: "we dont have facilities to copy the tape, so we need to keep the camera".
This episode raises serious questions about extension of police powers to journalists and the influence of the global food giants on police priorities. Monsanto and their colleagues at MAFF were clearly unhappy about the coverage HTV gave to the GM issue and seem to be involved in a conspiracy far more concerning than that alleged of the protesters.
After a big HTV story critical of GM experiments they decided not just to clamp down on the crop-pullers - but also to cover their tracks by clamping down on i-Contact, the messenger. It also looks possible that covert influence has been brought to bear to stifle critical discussion of the police raid even in the UK Journalists' weekly "The Press Gazette". Why is the kind of story that concerns so many journalists being kept from them?
The extent of police complicity in this successful attempt to manipulate perception of current affairs, and stifle discussion within the journalistic community must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
i-Contact video network: c/o 76 Mina Road, Bristol BS2 9XQ.
Tel/Fax: 0117 914 0188
The extensive influence of global food corporations within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food looks likely to be why their food safety committee recommends Genetically Modified (GM) food.
A recent World In Action documentary showed the committees spokesperson assuring the public that GM material could not enter human cells. This was followed by clear experimental evidence of GM material entering human cells.
Foot note - the equipment (computer and video recorder) was sucessfully reclaimed by Ben on the weekend of 12/13th December 1998
Underdogs, spies, a single father, a gardener, topical issues, historical significance, 20th-century icons and a man in a red wig - the McLibel Trial had all the elements of a ratings-winning, prime-time television documentary. The barrister Michael Mansfield called it "the trial of the century". The legal expert Marcel Berlins couldn't think of a case where "the cards have been so spectacularly stacked against one party".
In early 1995, eight TV production companies and I descended on Helen Steel and Dave Morris, the defendants, then went on to deluge the television channels with proposals. Three months later, the BBC didn't feel "sufficiently enthusiastic" about the story, ITV said there wasn't enough action in it and Channel 4 had decided to go with a three-hour dramatic reconstruction of the courtroom.
I thought the television channels had got it wrong. I knew a man with a Beta camera and an AVID edit suite, so I left my job and set out to make a balanced but hard-hitting documentary about the trial and the issues it raised.
Two days later, I owned a television production company, One-Off Productions (or "Oops, I've been sued and gone bankrupt" , for short). My shifting pool of about 20 volunteer technicians usually produced a crew far more experienced than me, but there were a couple of occasions when I ended up doing sound and camera myself. The most memorable of these followed McDonald's decision to sponsor a summer funday at Dave Morris's son's playgroup. I had to handle digital camera, secret camera, two radio microphones and half a dozen McDonald's security staff on my own, while pretending to be the mother of some mysteriously absent young children. A severe bout of food poisoning didn't help.
As the case ambled its way towards becoming the longest in history, funding became more and more of a problem. We made a surprising amount selling our footage to news stations around the world (most requested shot: Helen and Dave preparing their cross-examination on the Tube) and begged the rest from McLibel fans.
Helen and Dave had persuaded an extraordinary list of more than 70 scientists, researchers and former McDonald's employees to give evidence on their behalf, from the Secretary of the International Union of Food Workers to some of the world's leading cancer experts. We interviewed many of them.
Then, by an absurd coincidence, my sister got drunk with a fellow student on her nutrition course who decided to admit - for the first time - that many years before she had been employed as a spy by McDonald's. "Not McLibel?" said my sister.
The spy later gave evidence for the defendants and appears in our film. We put her in the box marked " exclusives" , along with a secret meeting between the two sides and an interview with a former Ronald McDonald.
Talking to people on the other side was not so easy. When we wrote to McDonald's expert witnesses asking for interviews, we received replies not from them, but from the corporation's press office. Mike Love, head of press for McDonald's UK (and, before that, agent for Margaret Thatcher) promised an interview after the verdict. (I have the pledge on tape.) Later, he said he'd never said anything of the sort. It seemed to us that the only way to include McDonald's side of the story was to dramatise their evidence. But we didn't know how to do drama (or documentary, for that matter, but we were learning fast). Ken Loach was undoubtedly the person to ask to direct that part of the film. He said yes. We fell off our chairs.
Twenty thousand pages of court transcripts and several hours on the phone to Loach later, we had chosen which parts of the proceedings to dramatise. It would have been a 14-hour mega-film if I'd had my wayand not sacrificed any of the classic moments. (Helen Steel: " So are you saying, then, that as long as there is room in the dumps, there is no problem with dumping lots of McDonald's waste in the ground?" Ed Oakley, McDonald's executive: " I can see it to be a benefit, otherwise you will end up with lots of vast, empty gravel pits all over the country." ) We spent a day filming with 10 actors, one judge's costume, two tables, several large books and some long black drapes.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 had decided to go ahead with its courtroom drama. I spoke to the producer, Dennis Woolf, and agreed to send him a rough cut of our film because he seemed like a nice man. Everyone who knewanything about film-making told me it was a terrible mistake to help the opposition.
But then Woolf spoke to his friend, who happened to be the editor of the BBC's Heart Of The Matter, and who happened to have a spare episode in her next series, which happened to coincide with the upcoming verdict. After one table-thumping afternoon with Morris, she scheduled our film for BBC1, 10.30pm, June 30, 1997.
" Can we have a contract?" I asked naively, as we scurried between Manchester and London, cutting our film down to Heart Of The Matter's 40-minute timeslot. " We'll sort that out next week. Let's concentrate on the editing." They could only afford to pay us £15,000, which wouldn't even cover our debts, but they had 3.5 million viewers. Then, 10 days before transmission, the "L" word came up: the legal and editorial departments of the BBC demanded so many cuts the Heart Of The Matter team were no longer interested. And no, they wouldn't pay us for the last two weeks' work. Then they called back. We've decided to do our own 15-minute programme about McLibel. Can we buy all your best footage, at a very cheap rate? The day the verdict finally came, my story was swamped with newcomers. ITN and the BBC had cottoned on to the classic Tube shots and the massed photographers were staking out ladder-space from dawn. I felt agreeably smug turning down the requests for a feed from the defendants' radio microphones as they came out of court to face their cheering supporters.
Helen: "This is weird. This is really weird." Dave: "What do we do? Do we stay here all day?" Crowd: "Woooooooooh, yeah." Cars: "Honk, honk, honk." So the judge ruled in McDonald's favour, McLibel was the hottest story of the week and we were left with a 40-minute hacked version of the film and no transmission. There was a brief flurry of interest from Channel 5 and World In Action, but no one was prepared to take on McDonald's. It had all been a waste of time. I lay in bed sulking and my granny phoned to say she'd waited up for Heart Of The Matter but couldn't see anything about McDonald's.
Coming back on the train from the Sheffield Documentary Festival a couple of months later, I bumped into Alan Hayling, commissioning editor for documentaries at Channel 4. Despite falling asleep mid-conversation, he said he was interested and took a tape. So far, so normal, but then he phoned a few days later, saying he wanted to broadcast it on Channel 4. He'd just have to check with the lawyers first. Their response: " McDonald's would almost certainly sue Channel 4 and would almost certainly win." It might be tempting to dismiss us as enthusiastic amateurs who had forgotten to consider legal issues. But a top media lawyer had been advising us, for free, throughout production, scrutinising rough cuts and suggesting changes to ensure 100 per cent accuracy. In his opinion, the film is fair comment and carries little risk of a libel suit.
And so we come to the crux of the matter. Is the film libellous, or are the media censoring themselves? Over the past 15 years, McDonald's has threatened legal action against more than 90 organisations in the UK, including the BBC, Channel 4, the Guardian, the Sun, the Scottish TUC, the New Leaf Tea Shop, student newspapers and a children's theatre group. Even Prince Philip received a stiff letter. All of them backed down and many formally apologised in court.
Well, if I were the BBC, I wouldn't broadcast the film either. I wouldn't want to risk damages, costs, injunctions and months in court. I wouldn't want to fight a case where the burden of proof was entirely on me and I would have to prove every allegation from primary sources. I wouldn't want to risk everything on one story. I would take notice of the long list of organisations that have apologised in the past. I might feel uneasy at ignoring such a high-profile case, but I would reassure myself that everyone else was ignoring it too.
Which is why it is the libel laws that are the problem, rather than the broadcasters. In 1993 the law was altered so that governmental bodies such as local councils are no longer able to sue for libel. This was to protect people's right to criticise public bodies. Multinationals are fast becoming more powerful than governments - and even less accountable - so shouldn't the same apply? With advertising budgets in the billions, it's not as though they need to turn to the law to ensure their point of view is heard.
There are signs that Parliament is getting the message. Two early-day motions entitled McDonald's And Censorship were sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn MP in 1994. But we are languishing far behind America, which has a constitutional right to freedom of speech.
So I think that the many commentators who said McDonald's was stupid to sue Steel and Morris were wrong. The corporation was simply following a plan that has worked many times before. It had no way of knowing it was about to hit an immovable obstacle. In a sense, McDonald's only error was to pick on two of the most stubborn and committed people in the world.
McDonald's sensibly decided not to pursue its £360,000 damages or estimated £10 million costs, and abandoned its plans for an injunction preventing Steel and Morris from distributing anti-McDonald's material. The defendants were ready to defy it anyway - a serious offence, which could land them in jail. It would not look good if these folk heroes were sent to prison for handing out leaflets. It was also clear by this stage that the attempt to prevent the public from hearing the criticisms had been a spectacular failure.
But, as the defendants prepare to go back to the High Court next month for the first preliminary hearing of their appeal, it looks as though our film will never be seen by a British TV audience. Instead, it is being distributed the new way: on the Internet, on home video, on cable TV in the US, at international film festivals, local screenings and by travelling solar-powered cinema.
The most frustrating thing about the whole affair? The last thing McDonald's wants is to get McLibel into the news again. The trial was the worst thing that ever happened to the company. Suing over our film would raise all the same issues again. There's really no point at all. Definitely not. Oh, go on then.
Watch the film on the Internet at: www.spanner.org/mclibel/vdo/. To order a copy of the video, send a cheque for £14.99, made payable to One-Off Productions, to BCM Oops, London WC1N 3XX.
I read Franny's piece with fascination, a gimpse behind the scenes. She fleshes out the disturbing story of a public prevented from seeing an eye-opening film which comments fairly on a trial of historic significance. If Justice in the showdown with McDonalds is not seen on TV it will not be done.
The problem though is the article leaves the reader with the impression that the broadcasters are helpless victims in the face of McDonalds' threats. They absolutely are not.
A potential libel case after broadcast or even an injunction stopping the broadcasting of the film would be a new development of the trial story and disasterous for McDonalds. As Franny says they already backed off persuing Helen and Dave for costs for fear of more publicity.
An infallible tactic to prevent injunctions is used by Dispatches. Advertising the documentary but not detailing the content is almost too simple. The broadcasters can be imaginitive when it suits them.
And as the McNasties got their fingers burnt so badly with 2 unemployed youngsters does anyone seriously think they will take on the BBC?
That legal threat cost McDonalds nothing and the broadcasters are stretching our credulity in pretending to take it seriously. It gave the mindset that sees McDonalds as leading the way to a rosy future a good excuse to back out of the showing.
There is also the matter of the editorial independence of the BBC and Channel 4. No-one seems to notice or comment that this has been gradually slipping away for over a decade.
It was always the case with ITV, but in the BBC in the eighties and more recently with Michael Jackson at Channel 4 commercial imperatives are overriding editorial ones at the higher management levels. Along with commercial ideology.
The subject off the media agenda worldwide is totalitarian corporate power, as the supression of the McLibel documentary proves
Most blatently at the BBC, Alisdair Milne, a 'producer power' Director General, sanctioned outstanding programmes critical of British Military Intelligence and exposing Thatchers 'darling' Neil Hamilton's links to fascist groups. Milne was replaced, in a 'coup', by accountant Michael Checkland. Birt (though infinitely more smarmy) hails from similar roots.
Alisdair Milne's fascinating autobiography goes into detail about this in the chapter entitlied 'And Foul Contagion Spread' which I have transcribed. http://www.tlio.demon.co.uk/milne.htm
The burden of proof being on the broadcasters is unfair in libel cases, but as Helen and Dave showed, far worse is the ease by which juries can be extracted from the legal process. With a jury there is little doubt the McLibel two would have won and justice would have been done.
Broadcasting is suffering from a creeping takover by the commercial imperitive, to blame the libel laws is to dodge the issue of idealogical self-censorship, a far more insidious undermining of freedom of expression.
15th July 1998.
- In May 1997, a month before the McLibel verdict, Channel 4 TV broadcast a dramatised reconstruction of in-court highlights of the McLibel trial - it was three and a quarter hours long, and shown over 2 nights to great critical and popular acclaim. The reconstructed courtroom was uncanny in its resemblance to court 35 in the High Court where the trial ran for almost 3 years, and the selection of extracts from witness testimony gave the public some idea of what the issues were actually about that were being argued over during the case. In that last respect, apart maybe from one lengthy article in the UK Guardian in January 1995, it was probably the ONLY production/article that was published/broadcast throughout the whole case which bothered to actually inform the public about what was going on in the courtroom and what it was all about. The result stands as a testimony to the enormous amount of work and care that had gone into the making of the reconstruction drama.
The producer Denis Woolf, and Channel 4, bent over backwards to ensure the programme meticulously adhered to the self-censorship demanded by lawyers hired to vet the programme. And indeed, no complaints were received from McDonald's following its broadcast to millions of UK viewers in 1997.
It therefore would have been, and continue to be, you would think, ideal for international showings and distribution to satisfy some of the global public interest in the historic trial brought by the most well known company in theworld - the McDonald's Corporation.
But now no-one at all is able to view the McLibel dramatisation - it has not been shown again by Channel 4, and have refused to make it available on video. Its our understanding that they have demanded that before it can be shown abroad, TV companies would have to indemnify Channel 4 in case Channel 4 gets sued by McDonald's - over a showing abroad! So the long arm of UK libel law reaches out to intimidate people all over the world, whatever their own laws.
The complete UK media blackout of the 'McLibel: two world's collide' documentary - The wider availability and further broadcasts of the drama in other countries would seem to be even more appropriate in the light of the scandalous, current media suppression of the 'McLibel: Two World's Collide' hour-long documentary by One Off Productions which tells the full, inside story of the case.
Filmed over three years, with courtroom reconstructions directed by Ken Loach and exclusive access to the defendants' lives, it would clearly make a very popular peak-time documentary. But two proposed UK transmissions were blocked by lawyers at the BBC and Channel 4 [despite the all-clear from the production's independent media lawyer] and the film is currently available only on video and on the internet (www.spanner.org/mclibel). (See previous, more detailed statements about this).
The subject continues to be topical, especially as the McLibel Appeal preliminaries approach - oppressive and unfair UK libel laws will be formally challenged - with the defendants invoking European and US law - in defence of the public's freedom to scrutinise and criticise Corporations which dominate the world's economy.
But the public are currently unable to see the McLibel documentary on TV.
Why McDonald's won't sue:
- The irony of all this is:
a. The trial dramatisation, just like the more recent documentary, was crafted to fully comply with lawyers breathing down the directors' necks.
b. The drama was successfully broadcast in the UK and therefore the risk of any legal action against C4 for a broadcast abroad is negligible, and to even threaten it would surely be a blatant abuse of legal process.
c. McDonald's lost the McLibel case on the main issues affecting their core business practices (and have significantly not appealed over these damning findings) - only ludicrous and irrelevant semantic argument over the interpretation of the words in the already out-of-print 1986 London Greenpeace factsheet prevented a complete judgement against the company. But even regarding the issues which were 'not proven' (in the judge's personal opinion) by the defence, the drama could simply add a quote from the verdict. The documentary of course already includes the verdict.
d. McDonald's capitulated at the end of the trial by abandoning all legal action (at the end of a 28 day official deadline set by the judge) to obtain damages, costs or even an injunction against leafletting.
e. The case was brought to suppress the leafletting, but leaflets - originally in the 1980s handed out in thousands in the UK and a handful of other countries - had, by the end of the trial, been distributed in millions in over 26 languages (400,000 leaflets given out in the UK alone the weekend after the case ended). McDonald's censorship attempts have been clearly shown to have been beaten.
f. McDonald's, as a result of the McLibel case debacle, abandoned its litigious practices from the 1980s and as far as we know not instituted any legal proceedings against anyone in the UK since. They have clearly learned from what has been described as 'the most expensive and disastrous PR exercise ever mounted by a multinational corporation'. The chance of them suing anyone again over basic criticisms is surely negligible, but over something published or broadcast about the 'McLibel' case would be an act of suicide. It would guarantee world wide publicity, condemnation and humiliation. And of course, any criticisms are backed up by thousands of pages of in court testimony and official documentation.
The proof of this is the continuing growth of the leafletting, newspaper articles, the C4 dramatisation, the highly detailed 'McLibel: Burger Culture On Trial' book (partly co-written by the defendants), and of course the voluminous and comprehensive McSpotlight internet website (also available as a CD-Rom, including also the documentary) - none of which has resulted in any legal action or even complaint by McDonald's. This also applies to the 'McLibel:Two Worlds Collide' documentary which has been broadcast in the US, and shown publicly already in many countries including in the UK. Not a squeak from Mickey Dees.
Why then are the two productions now being suppressed by the TV networks?
- When media coverage of the case is looked at and analysed it becomes obvious that the case was covered only patchily (even in the UK Press, which gave the OJ Simpson trial at least 50 times the coverage), was almost never looked at in depth (with one or two exceptions), was portrayed as a 'human' or 'David vs Goliath' story concentrating on trivia (how long it was going on, what the defendants were wearing in court etc), and was rarely taken seriously despite being a challenge to the propaganda of the food industry and the power of oppressive libel laws. And incredibly, this is despite the fact that everyone in the media is in fear of those same libel laws breathing down their own necks - and here at last was a case with great public support and interest which was not only exposing these laws, but also showing how censorship could be easily opposed and defeated. You would've expected the entire media to line up behind the defence, if only out of pure self-interest.
But the media seem to treat McDonald's either with awe and sycophancy, or else as daft and jokey, a harmless and well-loved service organisation. McDonald's articles and pieces fill a great deal of space. To take seriously a trial which exposed the reality of a ruthless and powerful profiteering multinational and their mediocre over-hyped products, would be bound to raise questions about the role of the media in their sucking up to multinationals and the food industry.
And on top of that, as soon as the media go into the case in any depth it becomes impossible to hide the fact that the two worlds which were in conflict in the courtroom and on the streets were not just arguing about jeans vs suits, or McDonald's vs Burger King, or even high fat vs low fat products. They were arguing about issues fundamental to people's everyday lives, and anarchists opposing the oppressiveness and greed of capitalism as a whole were winning all the arguments and getting the public's backing. And showing up the powerlessness of the legal system when faced with determined and co-ordinated grass-roots opposition.
Hence the media, as the faithful mouthpiece of the establishment, chose to either ignore, or trivialise the case and campaign.
What can be done?
- If the official media won't broadcast material the public have a right to see, other ways must be found, and are being found, to reach large numbers of people in the UK and around the world. The C4 McLibel dramatisation was copied by many viewers when it was shown - it could be 'pirated' and made available on video. [Anyone who has done this - or is planning to do this - please let us know]. The McLibel documentary is being distributed as 'streaming video' on the Internet, on cable TV in the States, at international film festivals, on home video, at local video screenings and even by a travelling solar-powered cinema. Negotiations are continuing with mainstream TV stations in countries with less oppressive libel laws (including France, Canada, Australia). The McLibel Support Campaign and One-Off Productions have held a co-ordinated day of showings and protests to raise public awareness of the scandalous official suppression of the film and how it can be seen independently.
Surely the lesson of the McLibel case is that the determination of campaigners has ensured that the public is able to have access to material countering the glossy propaganda of multinationals, providing an alternative to their huge marketing budgets (McDonald's annual budget alone is over $2 billion world-wide) - despite the role of the media and the legal establishment in promoting and protecting the interests of big business. Leaflets continue to be circulated in millions, the number of protests outside local stores around the world continues to grow, material on the McSpotlight website had been globally accessed over 40 million times in its first two and a half years (and is now available on CD-Rom), and the McLibel TV documentary is gradually being distributed and shown independently.
We believe that the McLibel case is only one of many, diverse battles all over the world. On one side there are the greedy and powerful institutions which dominate our lives, our society and the environment, and on the other side there are people's efforts to expose the truth and to defend themselves and their communities. We are not surprised therefore when we discover the extent of the suppression of people's freedom of speech, but we call on people everywhere to not be discouraged, to not accept it, and to not be intimidated by legal threats.
- The McLibel Support Campaign
McLibel Support Campaign/London Greenpeace,
5 Caledonian Rd, London N1, UK. Tel/Fax (0)171 713 1269 firstname.lastname@example.org
One Off Productions. 0171 247 8881. email@example.com www.spanner.org/mclibel
McSpotlight website: www.mcspotlight.org firstname.lastname@example.org
All 20,000 BBC staff are being ordered to disclose their political activities in an attempt to halt accusations of bias.
News staff have received a letter from Tony Hall, the chief executive, entitled Conflict of Interest, warning them not to conceal political activities from heads of departments.
Mr Hall wrote: "It is very important for the BBC that it maintains, and is seen to maintain, high standards of integrity and fairness and its reputation for impartiality."
The move came after Lance Price, a BBC politicalk correspondent, resigned to work for Downing Street.
Key staff such as on-screen broadcasters may have to move to a less sensitive area if they seek nomination to political office. "There may be a need to immediately re-assign your responsibilities," warns the letter.
Mr Hall wrote: "Just as we demand transparency and probity from other public servants, so the public has a right to expect it from us."
The letter says that any BBC employee who stands for election to a parliament will be granted unpaid leave of up to six weeks prior to election. If elected, he or she must resign.
[This posturing from the BBC seems like a whitewash. If the bosses are aware of pro-globalisation, pro-corporate bias then this will only serve to help them stamp on anyone with an anti-globalisation bias - ed.]
Munich (May 29, 1998) --
Former CompuServe Germany manager Felix Somm looked astonished as he was sentenced to a shocking two years probation and a huge fine on charges of child pornography, the sentence of a Bavarian court in a landmark case that all but abolishes the right of free speech.
Somm was arrested because CompuServe, like other online services, allows access to the tens of thousands of sites on the Internet, including a few which carry pornography. Bavarian police went after CompuServe in order to establish a precedent. Their strategy worked to a degree not thought imaginable.
In addition to being sentenced to two years probation, Somms was ordered to pay DM 100,000 for "enabling child and animal" pornography access. Judge Wilhelm Hubbert declared the extraordinary sentence would serve to force other Internet providers to cut off access the government did not like.
Even the prosecution had asked that Somm be given no punishment, pointing out that it is technically impossible for an online provider to police every site on the 'net.
An appeal is expected, as fears for free speech in Germany were expressed in dozens of quarters following the sentencing. * * *
GERMANY ALERT - The Free Flow Of Uncensored Facts - http://chantry.com/ga/
Posted on a-infos news service - http://www.tao.ca/ainfos
By Jean Shaoul 14 March 1998
Marks and Spencer's victory in its libel case against World In Action, Granada TV's flagship current affairs programme, will further muzzle investigative journalism and add another weapon to the armoury of the major corporations. It will make it that much more difficult to say things big business does not want the public to hear.
Lawyers for M & S, the upmarket food and clothing retailer, admitted that a successful prosecution would create further problems for lawyers representing the media and other defendants. Britain already has some of the strictest libel laws in the world.
M & S likes to be known as Britain's favourite store and boasts that most of its goods are made in Britain. It sued World in Action after its programme "St Michael: Has the Halo Slipped?" was broadcast in 1996. (St Michael is M & S's brand label.)
World in Action went to Morocco, after discovering that there were young children working in a factory making clothing for M & S. They secretly filmed the conditions there.
The facts are not in dispute and provide a shocking indictment of the brutality of the profit system.
Dozens of girls aged 13, 14 and 15, worked at the factory; They worked 49 hours a week for as little as 10 pence an hour (15 cents US) and in temperatures of up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. M & S's supplier deliberately mislabelled more than 7,000 garments as having been made in the UK. Apparently unaware of the mislabelling, M & S put them on sale to the public.
M & S sued for libel, insisting that the programme implied that M & S knew about these abuses. Granada TV said it did not believe M & S knew and did not intend to convey that impression.
The libel action was expected to last six weeks. Three days into the trial, however, and before hearing the facts and evidence of the case, the judge took the unprecedented step of asking the jury to decide what they thought was the meaning of the programme. Did it mean that M & S knew about the abuses?
The jury found that it did. Unable to clarify their intentions before the jury, Granada felt obliged to apologise and pay damages of £50,000 plus costs-a total of £1.3 million.
As a result of this ruling, the media must now anticipate how viewers might interpret a programme. Interpretation, however, is based not only on the facts as presented, but also on the viewers' previous knowledge and experiences. These quite naturally predispose many to believe the worst of big business. Even had Granada included a disclaimer that M & S did not know about the abuses, many viewers might have still concluded that the company was aware of them.
The future of World in Action is now in jeopardy, with the editor set to resign and three of the programme's top journalists having left to join the BBC or Channel Four. But the repercussions go beyond the fate of this one programme. Since the case was heard by one of only two judges who hear libel cases, it is very likely that this ruling will be used again.
At the very least, as legal experts admit, it will tend to scare off those without deep pockets from making criticisms of large corporations. This comes at a time when programme makers are already under pressure to trim budgets and sacrifice quality in the interest of increasing audience market share. That means avoiding expensive exposés of corporate swindles and exploitation, making it more difficult for the public to find out about such matters.
from the world socialist web site http://www.wsws.org/news/1998/mar1998/brit-m14.shtml
LIBEL RUSSIAN ROULETTE - http://www.mccann-fitzgerald.ie/legal_briefing/personal_injury/libel_russian.html
Campaign for Press & Broadcast Freedom - http://www.cpbf.demon.co.uk/FreePress/fp108/fp108.htm
"If the Bilderberg Group is not a conspiracy of some sort, it is conducted in such a way as to give a remarkably good imitation of one."
These are the words of C. Gordon Tether, published on May 6th, 1975 in "Lombard", a prestigious and influential column which he wrote daily for the (London) Financial Times. It was to be Tether's last reference to the Bilderberg Group in the FT. All subsequent articles mentioning Bilderberg were barred from appearing in his finance and banking column by the editorial management.
The last of such articles, reprinted here in part, was written for the edition of March 3rd, 1976. It was censored by the FT editor Max Henry (Fredy) Fisher.
Tether was finally dismissed by the FT in August 1976 after a censorship battle which raged for well over two years. "Lombard", which Tether created and which has earned a place in the Guiness Book of Records for being the longest running daily column in the British Press, is now written by different specialists from the FTs staff. There is no hint of Bilderberg these days.
It is perhaps significant to note that FT editor Fisher is a member of the Trilateral Commission, an organisation closely related to Bilderberg, which is examined in Part II of this book.
In fact, most editors of the "establishment" Press in Britain, Europe, and the United States have attended Bilderberg Conferences. Some are even members of the international steering committee which governs Bilderberg.
Included among them are William Rees-Mogg, editor of "The Times", Frank Giles, foreign editor of the "Sunday Times", and Andrew Knight, editor of "The Economist". The biggest newspapers in Europe are represented: Germany - "Die Zeit" (Theo Sommer); France - "La Monde" (Michel Tatu); Italy - "La Stampa" (Carlo Sartori); Denmark - "Berlingske Tidende" (Niels Norlund).
From the United States, Hedley Donovan, Henry Grunwald, and Ralph Davidson of "Time" have attended Bilderberg Conferences. So have Osborn Eliot, former editor of "Newsweek", and Arthur Sulzberger of the "New York Times". Joseph Kraft, James Reston, Joseph Harsch, George Will, and Flora Lewis, prominent political columnists of sound reputation, have all at one time or another participated in the conferences.
All of them journalistic heavies, yet barely a word has ever been whispered about Bilderberg in any of the organs of the international "establishment" Press. Conservative columnist William F. Buckley, who attended the Bilderberg Conference of 1975, summed it all up in a column he wrote six months later: "Guests of the Bilderberg Society are bound by the same rules as members of the Bilderberg Society - not to write about the proceedings." Needless to say, Buckley has not been invited back to Bilderberg.
A good example of press cooperation to make non-news of the Bilderberg Conferences was the memorandum that Cecil King, then chairman of IPC, wrote to his fellow publishers about the Bilderberg meeting in Cambridge, England in 1967. It reminded them that on no account should any report or even speculation about the content of the conference be printed.
The purpose of including editors and columnists from the "establishment" Press in Bilderberg appears to be threefold:
1 They certainly have very worthwhile opinions on world affairs and on important public issues which they no doubt contribute to Bilderberg proceedings.
2 They can see to it that Bilderberg is kept out of the pages of their respective newspapers and magazines - i.e. Gordon Tether and the Financial Times.
3 Most important of all - they, of all Bilderbergers, are in the best position to, according to the confidential Bilderberg record, "pass (Bilderberg) views on to public opinion in their own spheres of influence."
"Whatever the conclusions reached by the committee which the Dutch Government has very sensibly set up to inquire into the charge that Prince Bernhard was a recipient of Lockheed largesse, one thing is certain. It is that the affair will breathe new life into that long-smouldering controversy over the role that the Bilderberg group and its clandestine get-togethers play in world economics and business affairs.
"The Bilderbergers have always insisted upon clothing their comings and goings in the closest secrecy. Until a few years back, this was carried to such lengths that their annual conclave went entirely unmarked in the world's Press. In the more recent past, the veil has been raised to the extent of letting it be known that the meetings were taking place. But the total ban on the reporting of what went on has remained in force.
"It naturally has to be accepted that the Prince did not take bribes from Lockheed unless and until the investigating body has proved otherwise. But this does not alter the fact there that is a strong suggestion in what has emerged so far that he was involved in some degree in the "wheeling and dealing" processes which have evidently played an extremely important part in the international fight for aircraft business.
"There is no difficulty in seeing that this does not prove anything so far as the Bilderberg group is concerned. But it would be hardly surprising if the fact that light of this kind has been thrown on the activities of its top man was not seized upon as supporting evidence by those who maintain that Bilderbergism is an unseen force of great significance in world affairs that we ought to know a lot more about.
"Any conspiratologists who has the Bilderbergers in his sights will proceed to ask why it is that, if there is so little to hide, so much effort is devoted to hiding it."
Guidance on national security is made available to the media through the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee. The system is advisory and voluntary and has no legal authority. Editors do not have to seek advice, nor do they have to take any advice that may be offered. In effect, the system is a code of self-censorship by the press in matters of national security.
The committee is composed of representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office, and the Foreign Office, and of the newspapers, periodicals, and broadcasting news organisations. The chairman is a civil servant, the Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Defence. The press and broadcasting members select one of their number as chairman of their side of the committee. He acts as their spokesman at meetings of the committee and provides a point of day to day contact for the permanent secretary of the committee (the D Notice secretary), who is normally a retired senior officer from the armed forces.
There are eight standing D Notices. The D is assumed to stand for defence, but its origin is obscure. The notices are written in general terms and describe the broad areas where the government and media members of the committee have agreed that secrets affecting national security may lie. Machinery exists to issue D Notices at short notice to protect specific pieces of information.
Notices are held by editors of national and provincial newspapers, radio and television organisations, and some publishers of periodicals, and books on defence and related subjects, who are invited to seek advice before publishing information which falls within the broad area of the D Notices.
The D Notice secretary is available at all times to give advice. His telephone number is 0171 218 2206. Editors, defence correspondents, other journalists, and authors frequently consult the secretary to check whether information considered for publication comes within a sensitive area.
As a result of consulting the secretary, editors are sometimes able to get information into the paper which they might otherwise leave out. On the other hand, the secretary may advise editors not to publish information which is covered by a D Notice but which has already appeared elsewhere. The secretary says that spies get their information from a variety of sources and by piecing it together can build up a composite picture of a subject.
Terrorists who lack the resources to gather their own information can also exploit the dissemination of sensitive information.
The committee has no statutory powers of enforcement and the final decision whether or not to publish always rests with the editor. The system has no direct link with the Official Secrets Acts, but an editor who publishes information which is the subject of a D Notice knows that the government regards that information as secret and realises, therefore, that he is risking prosecution under the acts.
On the other hand an editor who complies with a D Notice does not necessarily escape prosecution. As noted above the D Notice system is concerned only with security matters but the Official Secrets Acts have much wider concerns, including for example breach of trust. The secretary will not advise on whether any publication will breach the act, only whether released information is a danger to national security.
In 1987 the value of the system was called into question after the government was granted an injunction preventing BBC Radio 4 from broadcasting the programme 'My Country: Right or Wrong'. the BBC had followed D Notice procedures and was confident the programme did not endanger national security. However, the Attorney-General learnt from a newspaper gossip column (as he claimed in the House of Commons) the number of former members of the security service who were to take part and on the eve of the programme obtained an injunction on the grounds of the civil duty of confidentiality which the Government claimed was owed it by its servants and former servants.
Thankfully!? MP's and 'Lords' are scrutinising!? the activities - including the money being spent - of SIS, the Secret Intelligence Services. This is the Intelligence and Security Committee run out of the Cabinet Office.
New members - as of Autumn 1997 are: Tom King, (Chairman), Lord Archer of Sandwell, Kevin Barron, Alan Beith, Dale Campbell Savours, Yvette Cooper, Barry Jones, Michael Mates, Allan Rogers.
How interesting that the Chairman is a Tory - bizarre!
1 - Defence plans, operational capability, state of readiness and training.
2 - Defence equipment.
3 - Nuclear weapons and equipment.
4 - Electronic equipment and electro-magnetic transmissions.
5 - Cyphers and communications.
6 - British security and intelligence services.
7 - War precautions and civil defence.
8 - Photography, etc. of defence establishments and installations.
1 - The defensive capability of the United Kingdom, particularly as to broad
overall strategy, is in general terms a proper subject fro public discussion.
It is important, however, that such discussion should not disclose details
whose publication could damage British interests by giving a potential enemy
important strategic or operational advantages.
2 - It is requested therefore that information of the kind listed below should not be discussed without first seeking advice:
(a) defence plans or particulars of defence policy which would enable a potential enemy to deduce details of our intentions at any level of operations;
(b) plans for allocation, handling and deployment of service resources and civil resources in support of the services, to meet particular hostile situations, and other contingency plans;
(c) details of the work carried out at, or the specific function of, defence establishments, installations or units where such detail has not been officially released or is not readily apparent;
(d) the state of readiness and detailed operational capability of individual units or formations;
(e) operational movements of individual units or formations (as distinct from routine peacetime movements);
(f) particulars of current or projected tactics, trials, techniques, and training (including anti-interrogation training).
Though the notices are issued direct to editors, copies are available on request. They were once classified documents (for reasons which are hard to fathom) but are no longer, and may be displayed on notice boards.
This information correct in 1990, for more up-to-date information get hold of a journalists' legal guide such as 'McNae's Essential law for Journalists'
Back to the index at the top of the page
Once again the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a "D Notice" to prevent the publication of a book about Military Intelligence in Ireland and the role of 14th Int. agent, Brian Nelson, in the murder of Belfast solicitor, Patrick Finucane, in February 1989. The book by former "Daily Mirror" journalist, Nicholas Davies, is entitled "Ten Thirty Three" (Nelson's army intelligence code). The MoD has refused to answer questions from "Intelligence" explaining why the book was banned, although we had learned from other sources that the army personnel identified in the book as being part of the conspiracy, have been named in the British/Irish Rights Watch report on Mr. Finucane's murder, copies of which were given to the Dublin and London governments last February. Major Michael Devlin, MoD spokesman, confirmed that the injunction "came into effect on 23 February 1998 and was replaced on 10 December 1998 by permanent undertakings given by Nicholas Davies not to disclose information without express prior written consent" of the MoD.
Extract from Intelligence, N. 96, 5 April 1999, p. 12
Every Two to Three Weeks
Publishing since 1980
Also known as a "non-attributable interview"
Used daily around the world to allow information to be disemminated through the media without the public knowing where that information has come from. It serves th purpose of casting a smokescreen over the real centres of power which, of course, are anti-democratic. It is an institutionalised form of self-censorship which makes journalists complicit in the shame of those who are shaping socially destructive events and international policy - but don't want anyone to know they are.
It must be compared with the legitimate right of journalists to protect their sources if they so wish. Simply put, it should be up to the writer/journalist to decide whether to reveal the source of information, not the 'Chatham House' interviewee.
When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule. participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed; nor may it be mentioned that the information was received at a meeting of the Institute.
In 1992 the application of the Rule was clarified and its wording strengthened as follows:-
Meetings of the Institute may be held 'on the record' or under the Chatham House Rule. In the latter case, in accordance with the Chatham House tradition, it may be agreed with the speaker(s) that it would be conducive to free discussion that a given meeting or part thereof, should be strictly private and thus held under the Chatham House Rule.
Today the Rule is used by organizations and gatherings throughout the world.
What does this mean? The rule is open to serious abuse when the discussions agree a consensus which is against the wishes of the people or interests participants purport to represent. In other words under the Chatham House rule people can be safely and neatly double-crossed by those who are supposed to represent them.
Coverage of Princess Diana's death brought out all the finest qualities of the British press [these quotes are taken from newspapers in the shops on Sunday 31st August, printed just before her 'accident']:
'It's a pity Gucci don't make designer face zips, then when Princess Diana was on the verge of opening her ill-informed mouth and causing an international incident (an increasingly frequent occurance these days) she could just zip her trap shut... The Princess, I fear, suffers from the 'Open Gob Before Brain Engages' syndrome - a condition that afflicts the trivial and the brain dead.'
- Petronella Wyatt, Express on Sunday, 31 August 1997
'Diana has said publicly that the Tories were hopeless [an allegation made in a French newspaper in the week prior to her death which she immediately denied]... It always slightly amazes me how the press picks up on stuff like this as if it were compelling genius insight of Aristotelian wisdom and Shaven wit, as opposed to the witterings of a woman who, if her IQ were five points lower would have to be watered daily. '
- the Shaven wit of Mrs Blair's Diary, The Observer, 31st August 1997
'Troubled Prince William will today demand that his mother Princess Diana dump her playboy lover, Harrods heir Dodi Al-Fayed.'
- two page exclusive by News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, 31st August 1997
- the deeply untrivial Carole Malone, Sunday Mirror, 31st August 1997
'She [Diana] seems to relish her role as a martyr. God help her if she ever finds happiness- it would make her miserable.'
From Friday 14th September's Private Eye
IMPORTANT delegates to a recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) conference in Paris were surprised after the usual
sumptuous dinner to be offered "a late night trip down the ride of
This exciting ride statred at the Ritz, glided past the Eiffel tower and, with the official cars gathering speed, swept through the fatal underpass where Diana, the Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed died.
When one guest suggested the "ride of death" was not in the best taste, the driver-host retorted: "Nonsense! We do this all the time - especially with the British. It's part of the package".
Private Eye's excellent site
More Diana Conspiracy Stuff http://www.fci.reedsweb.net/main/conspire/diana/sting.htm
post comments or more Diana quotes to the webslave
By Giles Elgood - 4thJun98 - LONDON (Reuters)
- British television broadcast a widely-condemned documentary on Wednesday which alleged the driver of the car in which Princess Diana died had been in regular contact with French and other secret services. The programme on the ITV channel -- ``Diana: the secrets behind the crash'' -- also claimed that a former lover of the princess had been warned to break off the relationship in a threatening telephone call from a member of the royal family. The documentary, one of two being aired this week, has been attacked by Prime Minister Tony Blair, media commentators and Buckingham Palace itself. The producer of another documentary to be shown on Channel Four on Thursday denounced Wednesday's programme as ``obscene.'' Martyn Gregory said the show was no more than propaganda for Mohamed al Fayed, the Harrods department store tycoon whose son Dodi, Diana's lover, died in the car crash. Intelligence expert Rupert Allason scornfully dismissed suggestions made in the programme that the security services were involved in Diana's death. Tests showing driver Henri Paul had been drinking heavily and was driving at top speed to escape photographers have failed to quell the belief held by many that Diana's death cannot have been a mere traffic accident. The documentary said that Paul, who died in the crash with Diana and Dodi, had high levels of carbon monoxide in his blood. There was no indication of how this might have come about, but the programme said the fact that video footage taken before the crash showed Paul looking fit and well cast doubt over the other main blood test finding -- that he was three times over the drink driving limit.
A friend of Paul's told reporter Nicholas Owen that the driver, who was also security manager at the Fayed-owned Ritz, was in regular contact with French and other secret services. Paul was said to have numerous bank accounts with deposits far larger than he could have saved from his Ritz salary. The programme also cast doubts on the circumstances of the fatal crash last August 31 in a road tunnel in central Paris. Eyewitnesses said they saw a powerful motorcycle swerve in front of Diana's car at high speed. One man, Francois Levistre, said he saw a ``big white flash'' just before the car crashed into a pillar. Owen suggested this could have been an anti-personnel device which would leave its victim stunned and blinded. Rival producer Gregory denounced Levistre as a known ``fraudster and prankster.''
James Hewitt, with whom Diana admitted committing adultery long before her relationship with Dodi, said in the documentary that he had received threatening telephone calls warning him off.
``They said it was not conducive to my health to continue the relationship,'' he said. A member of the royal family -- not one of the immediate family -- whom he declined to name had told him: ``Your relationship is known about. It is not supported. We cannot be responsible for your safety and security and suggest you curtail it forthwith.''
Allason described the proposition that the security services were involved in such matters as ``not living in the real world.'' Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the specific points raised by the documentary but it has frequently appealed to journalists to show sensitivity in reporting issues surrounding Diana's death because of the effect on her two teenage sons, William and Harry.
Blair's spokesman said the prime minister ``had made it clear that there seems to be a minor industry growing up around conspiracy theories surrounding Diana's death and it does not help anybody, least of all her children.'' The second documentary, to be broadcast on Thursday, debunks such theories and attributes Diana and Dodi's death to poor security by employees of Dodi's millionaire father. It rejects Fayed's claim that he was privy to Diana's last words and unearths a witness who claims to have heard Paul taunting photographers outside the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in Paris with the words: ``Don't try to follow us, you'll never catch us.'' Most British commentators have attacked Wednesday's Diana documentary as having indirectly allowed Fayed to peddle theories which divert responsibility from the Ritz Hotel and the Fayed family.
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Fortunately, at least one highly-respected journalist has publicly confessed to systematic self-censorship. Asked to give a toast before the prestigious New York Press Club in 1953, John Swinton, the former Chief of Staff at the NEW YORK TIMES, made this candid confession [it's worth noting that Swinton was called "The Dean of His Profession" by other newsmen, who admired him greatly]:
There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.
If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press. We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.
June 93 by Nicholas Coleridge, see details of his book at the end of the article.
At eight, Conrad Black bought a share in General Motors. At ten, he was an authority on Napoleon. At 48, he has a glamorous new wife, Mrs Thatcher's favour, and the fastest-growing newspaper empire in the world, including both Telegraphs and the Spectator. From a new study of press barons, he's the one the others want to know about
On 31 January 1991, Conrad Black ambled into the Grill Room of the Savoy. A burly man with the physique of a prizefighter and shoulders as broad as an Alberta buffalo, he surveyed the room in a single sweep, registering the significant lunchers at other tables: Lord Rothermere, a competitor of sorts, lunching with his newspapers' chairman, Sir David English; Lord Deedes and Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, both entertaining Cabinet ministers on Conrad Black's ticket; Lord Carrington, the former Foreign Secretary, now a member of two of Black's heavy-hitting boards at the Daily Telegraph and at Hollinger, the newspaper's holding company in Toronto. Later, as they passed by his table at the end of lunch, Black was buttonholed by the chairman of Cable and Wireless, Lord Young, and Mrs Thatcher's former media adviser, Sir Tim Bell.
"What did you make of the Chancellor's speech yesterday, Conrad?' asked David Young, and both men stood in rapt attention throughout Black's long and discursive reply.
His enjoyment of the role of influential proprietor was very evident. He relished the attention, and yet you got the impression that he was deriving at least equal pleasure from the ritual of the exchange; the presence of these two Thatcherite knights hanging around the Telegraph owner's table in the Savoy Grill, soliciting his political opinions. It endorsed, as decisively as anything can, the pre-eminence of newspaper proprietorship over other brands of power.
Later Black was to tell me: "Let us be completely frank, the deferences and preferments that this culture bestows upon the owners of great newspapers are satisfying. I mean, I tend to think that they're slightly exaggerated at times, but as the beneficiary - a beneficiary - of that system, it would certainly be hypocrisy for me to complain about it."
His voice has a lugubrious undertow that manages to convey considerable determination. Words are emphasised and underscored as though his conversation is being simultaneously transcribed, and he is signalling the necessity of italics to a stenographer. Sometimes, in full flow, he sounds like a New York police siren blaring across town.
At 48, Conrad Moffat Black is the youngest proprietor of consequence who didn't inherit his newspapers. In eight years he has muscled his way from the third division of owners into the second division and finally up into the first. His newspaper properties in London, Toronto, Jerusalem, Melbourne, Sydney and the Caribbean give him a geographical spread sheet that matches Murdoch. In sheer numbers, his empire of 240 papers, mostly small dailies and weeklies in Canada and North America, propel him into pole position. Although their total daily circulation of 4-5 million is small fry next to Murdoch, Conrad Black has emerged since 1985 as a rapacious acquisitor, controlling the fastest-growing newspaper empire in the world.
By the spring of 1993, Black's principal media holdings included the Daily Telegraph - Britain's largest-selling quality daily, the great broadsheet of Toryism - and its sister Sunday Telegraph in London, the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Age and Australian Financial Review in Australia, the Jerusalem Post in Israel and the Financial Post and Le Soleil in Toronto. In the United States, his Illinois-based American Publishing Corporation owns more than a hundred small newspapers with evocative titles, mostly in middle America, including the Fort Morgan Times, the Monmouth Review Atlas, the Kane Republican, and the Punxsutawny Spirit; in Canada, his Vancouver-based Sterling Newspapers group includes the Alaska Highway News and the Waikiki Pennysaver; in London, the Spectator; in the Caribbean, he has 40 per cent of the Cayman Free Press, owners of the Caymanian Compass.
When visiting his competitors, I was struck by the degree of their fascination for Black. Aside from the late Robert Maxwell, Conrad Black was the proprietor they most wished to discuss. This was partly for social reasons: his recent marriage to the glamour-puss political journalist Barbara Amiel had caught the amused eye of both Kay Graham [of the Washington Post] and Punch Sulzberger [of the New York Times] - particularly the post-wedding dinner he gave at the nightclub Annabel's, at which Black had sat between Margaret Thatcher and the Duchess of York. The British election-night party he'd thrown at the Savoy for 500 opinion makers of all political shades drew oblique commentary from Lord Stevens and Rupert Murdoch. "Conrad is decisive, he's not frightened to make his point of view known or want to see it reflected in his newspapers," Murdoch told me. "I think he's there to lead from the front and he's courageous. He's also, it would seem, enjoying all the fun that goes with the publishing business."
In 1988, Conrad Black was a shadowy figure from the frozen north of whom nothing much was known beyond his fondness for Napoleon, his Catholicism (he is a convert from Anglicanism) and his reputation as a right-wing ideologue. Five years later, it would be hard to compile a proprietors' top 10 without including him. It has become almost a cliche to compare him with Lord Beaverbrook, most legendary of Canadian press moguls, who fraternised with the great and good of England and ended up parodied as Lord Copper in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop.
If you imagine a horizontal line across Conrad Black's face, from earlobe to earlobe, you see that it divides into two unrelated sections. His eyes, and the primeval shape of his forehead, betoken vigour, cunning, strength of purpose, and more than a scintilla of callousness. However, the line of the mouth, and its tendency to curl up disdainfully when discussing ideologies contrary to his own, suggest fastidiousness, self-mockery, worldly-wise cynicism and a certain intellectual narcissism. At dinner-parties, he does not shun the opportunity to dominate the table with his filibusters on politics, history or anything else.
"I think in some respects Conrad is very shy,' says Daniel Colson, the Stikeman Elliott lawyer who helped negotiate the Telegraph, Jerusalem Post and Fairfax acquisitions and is now deputy chairman of Hollinger. "He doesn't come across that way at all - he comes across as rather blustery - but the fact is that he is shy. He doesn't take himself seriously at all and in a small group is extremely entertaining and very amusing." His harshest journalistic critics (as opposed to his business critics) say only that he can be a windbag.
Black divides his year between his mansion in Toronto, with its three-storey elliptical library and copper cupola modelled on the dome of St Peter's in Rome, a house in Palm Beach ("it isn't everyone's cup of tea. Some people are offended by the extreme opulence, but I find it sort of entertaining") and a double-sized stucco-fronted house in Kensington that he bought from Alan Bond. For a man with so many corporate balance sheets hitting his desk, he is remarkably unhurried. He ambles into meetings, allows appointments to overrun indefinitely, arrives tardily into the office in the morning and is chronically unpunctual for meals. "One rather has to clear the rest of the day if lunching with Conrad," says Daily Telegraph editor Max Hastings, "in case he wants to talk on about military history or something - which of course is no hardship for me."
Feet on desk, jacket on chairback, cigar clamped firmly aloft towards Black's office directly above his own, Hastings told me: "As a proprietor he's a halfway-house - to me very advantageously so - between the Roy Thomson school of non-intervention and the Beaverbrook school. He loves looking at the papers without ringing up all the time and wanting to change a headline. There are moments when his attention is very firmly focused on the Telegraph, but there are also long periods, especially in the summer, when he's not here, when he's away in Palm Beach or somewhere.
"Plainly we have a lot of traffic at the time of elections. I've always thought the notion of editorial independence rather absurd. I'd think it very odd indeed in a capitalist society if Conrad was unable to express an opinion on something as fundamental as who runs the country.
"One of the things I find endearing about him," Hastings continued, "compared to one or two of the other proprietors, is that Conrad simply adores being a tycoon, he seems to get tremendous pleasure out of it. Although he is very seriously dedicated to the business of making money, he'll also do things - like his ownership of the Spectator - with room for fun. "The only respect in which Conrad's strong views about journalists manifest themselves is in his dislike of the ex-treme left-wing ones. You only have to speak to him about John Pilger or Christopher Hitchens and Conrad's passions are very strongly aroused.
"Essentially he's a genuinely civilised man when most proprietors are brutes. I judge all tycoons and politicians on how far they retain an ability for self-mockery. Conrad has retained this ability. Maybe one's been lucky, maybe there are issues on which one could come into conflict that haven't arisen yet. I'm not fool enough to think things would be so relaxed if they weren't going so well commercially."
"In a way he's a power-worshipper," one of his London editors told me, "to the extent that he automatically assumes that the people in political office are the people you should meet. But at heart he's a romantic, which explains why he started out very favourable to John Major, but quickly became bored with him and switched his interest back to Mrs Thatcher. He has dinner with Thatcher eight or ten times a year I would think. He expects politics to be colourful and fun, so when it's all dreary, as it is with Major, he gets fed up. Having said that, it wouldn't be true to say that the Telegraphs have become anti-Major because Black sent an order that they should."
"I first met him at the Downing Street dinner that Mrs Thatcher gave for Bill Deedes," said Charles Moore, the editor of the Sunday Telegraph, who previously worked for Black as editor of the Spectator, "though I already knew him from a couple of letters he'd written to the Spectator. One of them was an attack on an article by Christopher Hitchens on 'Living with a sick President' about Reagan's polyps in his colon. Conrad wrote a furious letter, this disgusting article etc ... "
Black's acquisition of the Spectator in 1988 did not stay his contributions to the correspondence columns. When, in January 1990, Moore [as its editor] wrote a teasing critique of his proprietor's literary manner, concluding that his "epistolary style" was "full of sound and fury, not signifying all that much", Black sent this reply for publication: "
Almost any stylistic critique is fair comment, and there is probably some merit in this one, but must Mr Moore react ... like a bantam rooster? He would do better to congratulate himself on having sought and found for the Spectator a proprietor who responds so equably to the minor irritations, such as this one, that the Spectator inflicts upon that person who ultimately, and more or less uncomplainingly, pays the Spectator's losses and endures Mr Moore's occasional condescensions."
"He's certainly the most charming and intelligent of the proprietors," says Moore. "Quite different from Murdoch, who really strikes me as rather an evil man, I mean you couldn't produce those papers, the Sun and the News of the World without being so. No ordinary decent man would want to."
"To understand Conrad Black," I was repeatedly told, "you must examine his relationship with his father; the talents and disappointments of George Black have more to do with Conrad's motivation than any single other factor." His last words to his son, before he crashed through the balustrade of a staircase and fell to his death, were: "Life is hell, most people are bastards and everything is bullshit."
George Montagu Black Jr was president of Canadian Breweries, the enormous conglomerate that owned beer-making businesses not just throughout the provinces of Canada but the United States and Britain. He had a reputation as a shrewd labour controller in a period of incessant union agitation and for quickness at mental calculation. Eventually he fell out with the chairman of Canadian Breweries, Edward Taylor, and at the age of 47 found himself without a job and with a distinct feeling of injustice. Not wishing to take up a full-time job in another corporation, he worked from home in Toronto, turning his passion for searching out undervalued stocks and bonds into a highly profitable occupation.
Conrad, then aged 14, spent most of his evenings at home with his mother, Jean, and his increasingly reclusive father, playing chess (often replaying gambits by Cuban and Russian grandmasters) and being tutored in the tactics of corporate warfare and the Dow theory. Three other themes dominated these intense father-and-son discussions: the relevance of historical perspective (the adult Conrad Black seldom makes any statement longer than 300 words without citing some historical precedent), the corporate lore of Argus, the vast Canadian holding company whose board George Black had joined, and which Conrad would later take over in 125 days of corporate in-fighting, and the art of seeing through grown-ups' deceptions (a trait Black shares with the late Robert Maxwell, who also claimed to be able to detect deception intuitively). George Black installed a slot machine in the family drawing-room so that Conrad, and his elder brother Montagu, could learn that gambling provides a disappointing rate of return against playing the stock market. When he was barely eight, Conrad saved $60 in pocket money to purchase one share in General Motors.
Successful men invariably have prescient stories ascribed to their youth, proving an early aptitude for whatever they become famous for later on. The Conrad Black myths all concern money and power: a family friend remembers blinking in disbelief as he watched, through the summer haze, an eight-year-old Conrad carefully washing dollar bills and hanging them out on a line to dry; another recalls him spending whole afternoons sitting in his bedroom reading through the Canadian Who's Who, studying tycoons' career paths. The historian Laurier LaPierre, who taught the adolescent Black history at Upper Canada College, remembers saying to him one day after school, "It seems to me, Conrad, that you're waiting. What is it you're waiting for?" Black replied that he'd been waiting to become chairman of Argus since he was seven years old, and that he was still waiting for that. "It will come, one day," he prophesied.
Black's first biographer, Peter Newman, quotes Ian Dowie, a Canadian Breweries executive, returning a biography of Napoleon to George Black and asking his opinion of the relationship between Bonaparte and his ambitious marshals. George Black gestured towards his ten-year-old son: "Ask Conrad; he's the authority." Conrad rose definitively to the challenge, reciting every last detail of Napoleon's reticulated intrigues.
There is a theory that Conrad Black emerged from his evening discussions with his father mentally so revved-up that classroom teaching seemed commonplace by comparison, and this eventually led to his being expelled from two private schools and failing his law courses. Black showed no remorse, in fact each setback only seemed to fuel his admiration for awkward, free-thinking entrepreneurs over the compliant mass.
"Childhood was a prison for him," recalls John Fraser, who was a contemporary at Upper Canada College's prep school. "My earliest memory of him was in about Grade Six and how terribly, terribly conscious he was of wealth and power. We were walking around the school grounds one day and Conrad was raving on about the whole of the college and said, "E P Taylor [the founder of Argus] could buy this silly place 50 times over.
He'd subdivide and make some money off it." He was constantly sketching scenarios for taking over the college."
Early entrepreneurial skill was demonstrated at UCC's senior school with the famous theft and copy of examination papers, sold on a sliding scale according to means and desperation. Black was found out and expelled, and he learnt an important lesson: "As I was walking out the gates a number of students who literally 24 hours before had been begging for assistance - one of them on his knees - were now shaking their fists and shouting words of moralistic execration after me. I've never forgotten how cowardly and greedy people can be."
His admiration for Napoleon and de Gaulle, and by extension for all things French, influenced his decision to enrol at Laval, a French-speaking Canadian university, and it was there that he first met Daniel Colson. "He was, frankly, not significantly unlike what he is today," Colson recalls. "Extremely articulate, dry wit and very interested in politics and power. Even then he was a serious fan of Napoloen and Maurice Duplessis, about whom he subsequently wrote. Talk about an epic, that was a serious tome!
"Most of us lived in the student ghetto part of Quebec City; I guess in any other city in the world they would be called slums, in Quebec they're called historic sites. Conrad, however, lived in the other part of town, on the top floor of a very modern, fantastic apartment building in St Foy, overlooking the St Lawrence. It had magnificent views and he always had these Jane's books on fighting ships and his binoculars at the ready for anything coming up the river. He also managed to be possibly the only student who owned and drove a Cadillac. He wasn't ostentatious, just obviously had more money than the rest of us and lived accordingly."
By the time he eventually returned to Toronto, Black was bilingual, and had become enamoured of the notion that the aesthetic of French civilisation is based on the creative faculty of choice. According to this philosophy, options are exercised not only in response to the dynamic of competitiveness and market forces but for their appropriateness to an individual's taste and preference; what the French call la mesure, the proper proportion of things. Black's sense of la mesure colours his proprietorships: he drives the business hard, but restrains his managers from inappropriate revenue-grubbing schemes. According to Charles Moore, "He'd never say, as I suspect Maxwell would have said, 'The way to save the Telegraph is to produce a special colour supplement for black 25-year-olds.' "
By his mid-twenties, Black had travelled widely in Europe and told friends that he was considering becoming a psychoanalyst. At around the same time he began to feel drawn towards Roman Catholicism and took instruction from Cardinal Paul- Emile Leger, the ascetic and aristocratic Archbishop of Quebec. When Leger went off to Cameroon to found a leper colony, Black followed, but after a fortnight in the jungle debating original sin and Man's mission on earth, he returned to Canada.
As early as 1969 Black had begun purchasing small newspapers in one-bar, one-petrol-pump Canadian townships. A university contemporary, Peter White, now one of Black's two principal partners in Hollinger, had bought for one dollar an all-but-dead Quebec weekly called the Knowlton Advertiser and persuaded his friend Conrad to run it for a few months as a lark. They changed the paper's name to the Eastern Townships Advertiser, which widened the catchment by a few hundred houses, bought a French language weekly in neighbouring Cowansville, and gradually began to turn a small profit.
By day Black sold all the advertising for the newspapers and wrote most of the copy, too. A year later, with a third partner, David Radler (now President and CEO of Black's Sterling Newspapers and the Jerusalem Post), they bought the Sherbrooke Record, which was the first proper newspaper in their Sterling chain. Thereafter they rapidly snapped up 22 tiny papers. The profits were modest, but then so were the purchase prices, and margins could be enhanced by cost-cutting. Between 1972 and 1982 there was hardly a newspaper in British Columbia that, when it became available, wasn't sold to Black, to the growing irritation of Lord Thomson who regarded the Canadian outback as the exclusive preserve of his own chain.
Before he bought any newspaper, Black and his partners would visit its office in the evening and count the desks, which told them how many people worked there (this was before they'd seen the official report and accounts). If they found 25 desks they reckoned they could reduce staff numbers to 18; if they found 30, the enterprise could probably get by with 20, and so on. The smaller Sterling newspapers still employ only three or four full-time staff; in the early days, Black used to inspect them in his by now chauffeur-driven Cadillac.
Although there are those on the Daily Telegraph who whinge at Black's cost consciousness, by Sterling standards they have been indulged. The Telegraph from the start of the Black era has enjoyed something of the status of a rich man's second wife: within reason, and providing she doesn't take it for granted, she can have anything she wants.
Unless a proprietor inherits his newspapers, or slowly establishes his first fortune by founding them himself, there is invariably one pivotal business coup - usually the takeover of a cash-generating enterprise - that is clearly the genesis of the new press lord. For Conrad Black, it came on 13 July 1978, the date on which he became the undisputed controlling force in the Argus Corporation: the holding company he had spent his schooldays lathering over. In numerous respects the Argus takeover provided the template for his subsequent newspaper acquisitions. It contained all the constituents of a classic Black assault: councils of war in smart restaurants, private jets soaring across continents to obtain vital signatures on pledged votes, detailed scrutiny of forgotten articles of association and, above anything, Conrad Black's absolute conviction that he alone was the only fit and appropriate man to run the company.
This is an impression he has successfully given time and time again. For one thing, Black looks convincing as the sort of man to be running a company: substantial, conservatively dressed, articulate, respectful of old people.
"I always get on with old guys," Black says. "I am a historian after all. You have to feel a basic respect for what they've done, and I don't mean just because they're old. Besides I don't think of myself as being young. David Radler my partner, claims I have a psychological age of 80."
In one other way, too, the Argus affair had Black's stamp on it: he will quite often start off as a minority shareholder and later, having assessed and made allies, make his move. At Argus he started with 22 per cent (inherited from his father, shared with his brother). At the Telegraph Black's initial holding was 14 per cent, which was enough to open the door wide and let him in. At United Newspapers (Lord Stevens's fiefdom, which owns the Daily Express), even his 9 per cent was seen as a chilling calling-card until he cashed it in.
Having won Argus he began, piece by piece, to sell it off. Some people claim this had always been his plan, but it is more likely that his interest in tractors and shopping malls diminished as his enthusiasm for newspapers increased. His commitment to industry might also have been tested by a series of public disputes over his takeover bid for the Cleveland-based Hanna Mining Company and an acrimonious tussle over a surplus in the Dominion Stores pension fund, which he removed and later agreed with its trades union to split; an incident that prompted a Canadian political antagonist to describe him as "that most symbolic representative of bloated capitalism at its worst".
There was a further setback the following year when his attempt to buy the group controlling Canada's most prestigious paper, the Toronto Globe and Mail, provoked the dismayed journalists on the paper into attempting their own buyout. This failed, but flushed out another bidder, Lord Thomson, who galled Black by winning this round.
The Thomsons, exhausted by the print unions, had recently sold their flagship newspapers the Times and the Sunday Times to Rupert Murdoch. There is a theory that this fanned Black's enthusiasm to buy a major British newspaper to prove that he could succeed where the Toronto peer had failed. Psychologically, the Telegraph was exactly what Conrad Black was looking for: a world-class conservative broadsheet in a capital city a long way from Toronto.
"Getting the Telegraph was really a new beginning for him," Tony O'Reilly [of the Irish Independent] told me in Ireland, though I don't suppose Conrad would like anyone to view his career as anything but a seamless tapestry."
Black's momentous takeover from Lord Hartwell and the Berry family, who had owned the papers since 1927, showed Conrad Black playing a subtler game than during the Argus battle, and demonstrating considerable proprietorial capacity for positioning himself above the fray. In almost a year of activity between May 1985, when he was first approached to take a £10m shareholding, until the moment when he achieved control and appointed new editors to both his papers, Black came to London only twice, and then for the briefest of visits. Instead he watched and waited from his library in Toronto; watched the valiant but increasingly desperate attempts of Hartwell to stay the crisis in his newspapers.
The contrast between the two camps, Hartwell's and Black's, says something not only about the two men's attitude to - and aptitude for - business, but about the century itself. Lord Hartwell: dignified, under-advised, deferred-to, optimistic; bewildered to find himself flying to New York for the day on Concorde to meet the potential investor (about whom, astonishingly, he had discovered nothing) in a brassy suite at the Kennedy Hilton; bewildered to find Black's advisors, Andrew Knight and the banker Rupert Hambro, better informed about Telegraph prospects than were his own managers; bewildered when the auditors brought in by Hartwell's latest special advisor, David Montagu, found his papers to be on the threshold of bankruptcy; ultimately bewildered that the agreement he had made with Black really did prevent him from selling his own newspapers (of which his family trust still owned almost 60 per cent) to the Fairfax family ("More our sort of people"), Lord Hanson or anybody else but Conrad Moffat Black.
On the other hand, the Black team: resourceful, worldly- wise, entirely comfortable with the complex financial square dance that must accompany a takeover of a newspaper as important as the Telegraph; comfortable, above anything, in their assessment that the Telegraph, for all its intractable problems and looming debt, was an immense prize that they might eventually be able to pick up for a fraction of its value.
Rupert Murdoch would say later that he reckoned the Telegraph would cost £1bn to buy. Black took control for an initial £10m cheque to Hartwell. In total he spent £119m building up an 83 per cent stake between May 1985 and July I992, when he floated the newspapers, leaving Hollinger with a 68 per cent stake in a company valued at "just under half a billion pounds".
"The Telegraph has been a triumph," says Tony O'Reilly. "He's pulled off the coup of the century, absolute coup of the century. Yup, no debate about that. He got it for nothing and benefited enormously by Murdoch and Maxwell [duffing up the unions]. The climate changed and he got the timing right."
"Black is like Agnelli," says Ralph Ingersoll, an American fellow proprietor. "He had the advantage and he didn't lose it."
Conrad Black's office on the 15th floor of Canary Wharf in the Isle of Dogs makes you think of one of the grander suites at Claridge's co-opted for a military briefing. There is an expanse of yellow silk upholstery, a mahogany breakfront bookcase, a portrait of Napoleon after Waterloo andanother of Lord Nelson, and a substantial bronze of Cardinal Newman that Black commissioned for himself from Lady Quinton. But most of the pictures are oils and photographs of 20th-century warships: from every wall you are borne down upon by flotillas of frigates, cruisers, dreadnoughts, gunboats.
"The great majority they're - almost exclusively - naval scenes," said Black, walking me down the ships of the line. "That's Montague Dawson," he said, pausing at one of those painstaking naval vignettes that remind you of old half-tones in the Sunday Express. "You see that's a Canadian corvette there, which was Canada's best-remembered contribution to the Second World War and the anti-submarine war. And that's Montague Dawson's picture of the Queen Mary there, in wartime, so I have another picture of the Queen Mary there," Black indicated its pair across the room, "in peacetime, just as a contrast. And - what else have I got? - there's the Bismarck being sighted by that Catalina there ... and there's the old Royal Yacht, Victoria and Albert, and underneath it are three Queen Elizabeth-class battleships at Scapa Flow ..." At this moment his secretary, Rosemary Millar, tapped on the door and relayed a message, at which Black turned happily to me. "I'm sorry, you're going to have to excuse me for one moment, I've got to take an urgent call from South Africa." He laughed. "All my life you know I've wanted to able to say that: 'an urgent call from South Africa'. That's the first time it's actually happened."
He had recently bowed out from the contest to buy the New York Daily News, proclaiming that he "had no interest in coming to New York to clasp my lips around an exhaust pipe". The neatness of the metaphor was affording him some comfort in retreat. When I pitched a general question about the role of the owner in a newspaper like the Daily Telegraph I received a reply of such length, precision and complexity that it threatened to add several dozen extra pages to my book [of which the following are some severely abridged highlights].
"A newspaper that is run by the journalists tends, in my experience, to be sanctimonious and tendentious. Therefore there is, in my judgement, a role for the proprietor to ensure that the journalistic input in the newspaper is optimised - to use the jargon - that it is at its maximum level in the best way that it can express itself ... And there is in my opinion no contradiction between - or there need be no contradiction whatsoever between - a newspaper that is both a good newspaper and a good business. And I hope, with no unbecoming lack of humility, that this company is an illustration of that."
"Do newspapers, then, prosper in proportion to the strength of their proprietor?"
"Strength, obviously, can be defined in different ways. I'm not going to try and whitewash the more baroque tendencies of the Northcliffes or the Hearsts, but in general I think so. They give a newspaper personality, they show leadership within the enterprise and, to the extent that they abuse their positions of power and influence, the franchise suffers. The institutions they are the owners of (or, some would have, the custodians) deteriorate as a result of capricious or unprofessional behaviour by their proprietors, so they are at least in a position of penalising themselves for their own misconceived activities ...
"Isn't it rather frustrating being just the owner, rather than the editor? You must keep opening up your own newspapers and reading opinions that aren't yours at all."
"I think it would be to some people, but not to me because I find the best way of avoiding that is to hire editors I'm in agreement with ..."
"Is the political influence of newspaper owners as great as it's cracked up to be?"
"It's greater in this country than in North America for the most part but I think it's exaggerated. But on the other hand it's the old story: if you're perceived as having influence in a sense you do have it. There's no doubt that the political leaders believe that newspaper owners have a big influence, and in certain circumstances some newspapers do."
"Do you get politicians vying for your ear and friendship?"
"I would be unfairly disparaging them as a community and taking vainglorious airs unto myself to say any such thing. What I do find is that the leading personalities in the governing party tend to give a lot of time and attention to various Telegraph personalities, of whom I am only one. I have a fairly extensive experience of dealing with politicians... and I've found the ones here to be quite correct in their relations with the press. I remember at the dinner we gave - Mrs Thatcher kindly gave - at Downing Street for Bill Deedes when he retired as the editor [of the Daily Telegraph in 1986]. He quoted Iain Macleod saying that the relations between the press and politicians must be abrasive, and there is no way of avoiding those abrasions."
"What about business friends attempting to influence their coverage in the City pages?"
"I do get a little bit from business people, though not on matters directly monetisable. Nothing even touching financial corruption, but sometimes in coverage of controversial matters. It varies you know. At the Financial Post in Canada, we tend to get a lot more overtures."
I wondered, too, whether the remarkably heavyweight boards of directors and advisory boards that Conrad Black has been assembling for his newspapers are a journalistic hindrance should an important or damaging story break over any of their members. The Spectator, for one, has found it awkward when publishing negative profiles of Lord Carrington and Paul Reichmann of Olympia and York, both on Black's boards.
"Conrad Black collects these people like foreign stamps, but instead of sticking them into an album he sticks them on his writing paper and annual report," I was told by a rival proprietor. "There is nothing clever or admirable about getting a lot of fat cats to accept $15,000 a year, or whatever it is that he pays them, for turning up at a board meeting followed by lunch. They don't need much arm-twisting." And yet I detected more than a note of envy in this remark.
The Daily Telegraph board includes Lord Carrington, Sir James Goldsmith, Rupert Hambro, Henry Keswick of Jardine Matheson (and a former owner of the Spectator), British Airways's life president Lord King, the former attorney-general Lord Rawlinson, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, Lord Hartwell, his brother Viscount Camrose and Sir Martin Jacomb of Barclays de Zoete Wedd. The Spectator board has, if anything, even more chairmen per shilling of turnover than the Telegraph: oil tycoon Algy Cluff (another former Spectator proprietor), BAT chairman Sir Patrick Sheehy, former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit and the financial columnist Christopher Fildes. Last month, the Spectator board was further embellished by the addition of Lord King and Barbara Amiel.
I asked Black, "Do these swanky boards make any quantifiable contribution?" "Very much," he replied, "much mocked as I am in some quarters for my association with prominent people." Black's adversaries are swift to cite the directors as prima facie evidence of social climbing. They liken his pleasure to that of certain Manhattan hostesses, as he reviews the array of former foreign secretaries, world peacemakers, cardinals emeriti and executive jet-setters seated around his boardroom table. And yet his motivation did not strike me as entirely social. Conrad Black's boards provide him with corporate audience participation. He once said, "I guess I've met everyone in the world I'm interested by. You know, I own a lot of newspapers."
"Somebody like Henry Kissinger [on the main Hollinger board]," I asked. "Is he actually useful to have around at board meetings?"
"Sure ... The final piece of the puzzle in my determining that we should sell our position in the oil business down, was when Henry Kissinger told me that some of the leading Saudi figures had told him in the presence of the King of Saudi Arabia that they thought the standard oil price would decline to $10 a barrel. So Dr Kissinger's advice was highly helpful to us. He hasn't always been able to come to the meetings but that's really not the point. You want them [the special advisors] to be available, and they certainly are available, when you need them."
I asked him: "Do you read through the Telegraph every day?"
"I peruse it pretty carefully."
"In any particular order?"
"From the front page to the back. I don't usually read the sports pages that carefully. But I tend to read the main news pages and inside pages, leader page, and obit page and to a degree the City pages more assiduously than others, but I look fairly carefully at almost all parts of it."
"Are you the kind of proprietor who, when you read something good, sends a postcard of congratulations to the writer?"
"Sure." But he didn't sound all that sure.
"Is it an unusual occurrence?"
"Once a week, twice a week. I sent John Keegan a letter yesterday. A handwritten letter. But that was over many days of magnificent coverage, and of course with John Keegan you're not only dealing with a correspondent, you're dealing with - as I've so often said - a Liddell Hart of the Nineties. He's clearly one of the world's outstanding military historians."
"Have you altered the papers much?" "The Daily Telegraph was a much less comprehensive paper when I bought it than it is now, a much thinner paper and with much less features .. At the Sunday Telegraph we started out with a 40-page newspaper with a pull-out Guardian ladies' magazine inside, full of articles on how to spot the pink-breasted finch or something in the Orkneys in February. Now we have a 100-page paper most Sundays and Andrew Neil [the editor of Murdoch's Sunday Times] is quaking in his boots in Wapping or down in that club of his, the Tramps."
"On the subject of Wapping, have you made up your rather public falling-out with Andrew Knight? Is he to any extent forgiven?" (Andrew Knight's defection as Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief of the Telegraph group to become Executive Chairman of Rupert Murdoch's News International, despite holding £14m of Telegraph shares, caused a sensation, and an exchange of highly charged open letters of recrimination between Black and Knight.)
"Is he forgiven?" said Black. "That's an interesting question. I mean, it's of interest to me; I'm not sure if it's of interest to anyone else, including him. Let me put it this way, I do not unsay any of the fears I expressed in my well-publicised and indeed textually reprinted letters to him that he was disingenuous. He was lacking in, I think, the duty he owed this organisation and me as an individual in telling us what his intentions were. There is no doubt in my opinion, no conceivable doubt, that he was in substantive negotiations with Mr Murdoch for many months prior to his announcing that he was joining that company. And he consistently denied to me that any such thing was happening, even though the Murdoch entourage was regularly building up the rumours of Andrew's impending arrival to a crescendo. And whenever I said to him that I certainly had no problem with that, I admired Murdoch too, and if he wanted to work for Murdoch there would be no difficulty, but it had to be handled the right way, he consistently denied that any such thing was going on. With that said, you have to appreciate the nature of the beast. I think he is quite sincere in thinking the course he followed was not dishonest and, knowing Andrew as I do, I think in an odd way he didn't set out wilfully to do anything dishonest. So, in answer to your question of whether he's forgiven, I don't look upon his conduct as being any less tawdry than I thought it was at the time but I don't think he had what is called in the law mens rea: the basis of guilt as both an illegal act and a guilty intent. I don't think he had a discreditable intention but I think that the objective result of his conduct as a man of his experience and in other respects punctiliousness should have realised, was a most unseemly and ethically dubious form of behaviour. But I see Andrew from time to time. I saw him last night and relations have improved."
"Would you have dinner together now?"
"No. But in the normal course of events he and I are sort of on the same circuit."
"Do you see much of journalists socially?"
"Well, I'm sort of in an odd position. Some of the frequenters of the old Worsthorne Telegraph faction [the Sunday Telegraph's former editor, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne], I'm within reason relatively friendly with some of them: the Paul Johnsons and Roger Scrutons (though I find him too belligerent to see more than twice a year), that group I do find somewhat interesting and a useful antidote to the soft-left compassionates."
Since becoming the fourth husband of Barbara Amiel, the Sunday Times columnist, Black's appetite for tycoonery and discursive conversation has if anything increased. Tall and attractive, with a husky voice and neo-conservative principles that neatly dovetail those of her spouse, Amiel has been described by Lord Rothermere's Evening Standard as "the most powerful woman in London" for her perceived influence on preferment on Black's broadsheets. "I met Barbara first at the home of a mutual friend in Toronto," Black told me. "She was then a prominent columnist in Canada. And I was - what was I? - I was a sort of upper-middle-echelon businessman who was assumed to be going somewhere, I guess - at least by our host, or he wouldn't have invited me. And I sat next to her at dinner and she had actually read my book on Duplessis, which completely astonished me." They married in the summer of 1992, not long after Black's first marriage to Shirley Hishon had run out of steam and she'd withdrawn to Canada to study theology.
Black has three children by Shirley, including a 19-year-old son who worked one holiday at the Telegraph and impressed his colleagues by demonstrating how he could strike a match on the sole of his shoe in the lift. Of his children, Black says: "I'm very laid back. I make up for my [ex-] wife who is the disciplinarian. I let them go to bed when they want, do what they want; hell, I have no dynastic designs so long as they do whatever they have an aptitude for."
Black and Amiel's London circle revolves around the British end of that wider, international network of merchant bankers, corporate hustlers and power brokers who attend the Bilderberg conferences and give black-tie dinners for a dozen couples with similar credit ratings to themselves.
"He's much more important in the UK socially than he was in Canada. I don't know why, because there aren't that many people who are interesting in Canada," says Ralph Ingersoll.
Some detect his new wife's influence in Black's periodic broadsides in his own newspapers on subjects other than world history. On New Year's Eve he commandeered the Daily Telegraph's fashion page to attack the new fashion for long skirts. "Anyone visiting Annabel's, any of the more fashionable pre-Christmas parties, or the Pierre hotel or Mortimer's in New York, or simply watching the general procession of fashion-aware women in London, New York, Paris or almost anywhere except North Korea, Tehran or Algiers, can observe a variety of lengths," he wrote. "Long has its place, but for most women it is a banal, humdrum and reactionary style."
At weekends the Blacks periodically accept invitations to large houses in the country, such as Easton Neston where they stay with the Heskeths. "One of the things I tease Conrad about most often is that he's invited to stay in country houses but would be every bit as happy in Chiswick," says Max Hastings. "Reading and talking are his great pleasures. Not fishing, stalking or shooting. I tell him, 'You're missing all these great pleasures of living in England.' "
Because Black is quixotic as a proprietor, it is difficult to predict how his roster of papers will look in 10 years. When I first met him, he told me two things: that he doubted he'd ever buy newspapers in Australia and that he wouldn't ever be interested in buying the New York Daily News. Within two years he owned Australia's smartest newspaper group and only narrowly missed buying the News. There are three principal theories in circulation on how the Black empire might develop.
The first has him buying only at the top end of the market: seeking to consolidate a reputation as the authority on quality broadsheets. Ownership of the Telegraph and Fairfax positions him as a plausible candidate to acquire any one of a dozen papers in Germany, Holland, Scandinavia or the Far East, as they become available. The second has him resolving, at some future date, to get out of newspapers altogether if he was offered a sufficiently handsome premium. Lord Stevens told me that he believes Conrad Black once offered him the Telegraph ("He doesn't express himself all that clearly on what he wants, I find. I find one goes all over the countryside."). This scenario has always struck me as highly improbable, since so much of Black's kudos and pleasure depends upon his position as proprietor. I asked him how deep is his commitment to the Telegraph.
He replied, "Considerable".
"Would you consider selling it under any circumstances?"
"Well, as the chairman of a quoted company I can never responsibly say never, but the idea of disposing of the Telegraph is certainly not something I am considering at the present time."
The third route has Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel ricocheting around the world on an almost perpetual paperchase, recipients of the "endless round of sumptuous lunches and dinners" that Black has stated he finds such an enjoyable feature of London living.
Ralph Ingersoll has a theory that Black's masterplan involves buying more and more tiny papers across Canada and North America with a view eventually to floating them on Wall Street.
I asked Black whether he ever read any of his small provincial papers, the Kane Republican, say? [What a nice touch of irony. For those who might have missed this joke as, it seems, Conrad Black did, The Kane Republican is almost certainly a fictional paper. The writer was probably testing Black out to see if he'd lie here. Black, of course, came up with the goods. Kane surely refers to 'Citizen Kane' from Orson Welles' outstanding film about the power of the media thank you! ed].
"I never laid eyes on that one. No, I shouldn't say never. Rarely. We own a lot of little newspapers in the United States and I'm ultimately the proprietor of them, but I never set foot in most of those towns and have never read most of them ever."
I rang the editor of Black's Caymanian Compass, Ursula Gill, to solicit her opinion of him as a proprietor.
"Who's that guy you're talkin' about?" asked Mrs Gill, who said she had just been swimming from the beach.
"I don't remember ever meeting that guy. Who is he again?"
"He's the chairman of Hollinger, the company that owns quite a lot of your newspaper."
"I've heard that name of Hollinger someplace. But I don't know nothin' about that guy Black you're speakin' of."
Back to the index at the top of the page
This is a random collection of themes around freedom of the press and history that I may add to occasionally.
The right to produce copies of an original literary, musical or artistic
work and a recording, film or broadcast. The first legislation was enacted
in 1709, when authors of books were given copyright for 14 years renewable,
if they were still living, for a further 14 years. In 1814 it was extended
to 28 years, in 1842 to 42 years. Other acts had meanwhile covered engravings,
sculpture, plays and lectures. The 1842 act included music. In 1862 copyright
was extended to paintings, drawings and photographs. The copyright act (1911)
was a major reform of over 20 statutes.
The present law dates from 1956 Copyright act was when films, television and sound broadcasting were covered by the law. The term of copyright was set at 50 years from the author's death or, if later, from the publication of the work in question. All works protected by copyright bear the symbol ©.
The 1988 Copyright Act is the one we are limited by now in the UK. Copyright exists for 70 years from death (an EU ruling), not 50, and you don't have to put © after something to copyright it: it is your copyright because you wrote, drew etc. it regardless of whether you explicitly claim it. But you can assign / give copyright in something to anyone you like, or disclaim it.
An example of draconian measures used to stifle free press this newspaper was produced in 1996 to be distributed free at London's main-line railway stations. The title was a jab at a dangerous monopoly, the Evening Standard, which is London's only evening paper and seen by some as ignoring social justice issues of great concern to Londoners. See their website at http://www.mcspotlight.org/beyond/evading/
Printing presses taken over in the English Civil War (1642-1649) churned out pamphlets containing all sorts of radical alternative ideas that found a resonance with the British people. One such pamphlet I saw has, printed on the bottom of the title page, 'Printed in a corner of freedome close by the House of Commons'.
Two of the most important movements to use this opportunity were the Levellers and the Diggers. Both wanted radical social reforms to follow the end of the monarchy but were thwarted in their efforts.
There are also examples of Black Propaganda put out at the time to discredit the levellers and politicised groupings within the army
An act passed for two years to prevent the publication of 'seditious' writings. It forbade the printing of books or pamphlets that did not conform to the teachings of the Church of England. The act required all publications to be registered with the Stationers' Company. It was subsequently extended to 1679 and in 1685 was renewed up to 1694. Thereafter censorship was maintained by severe laws of libel.
The Stationers' company was a book trade guild formed in 1403 by the association of scriveners, limners, bookbinders and stationers. Its charter, granted in 1557, ensured control of almost all printing and publishing in England by requiring that anyone, other than a member of the company, wishing to publish a book, must first obtain the company's authorisation. The exclusive right (established before the end of the 16th century) of a member to print a particular book was the origin of copyright.
The multiple reproduction of a text or picture. Printing from movable type, invented by Johann Gutenberg in Germany in the 1440's, was introduced to England in 1476 by William Caxton. Notable printers in the 17th century include Robert Baker, who printed the Authorized version of the Bible (1611), and William and Issac Jaggard, who were responsible for the first folio edition of Shakespeare (1623). The 18th century saw the work of the great typefounders William Caslon (1692-1766) and John Baskerville (1706-75). Mechanisation dates from the 19th century, the steam-powered press being introduced in 1814 and rotary printing in 1866. Photo-typesetting, introduced in the 1950's has now revolutionized printing.
30May96 CANADA: LEADERS, QUEENS AND CEOS GATHER FOR CANADIAN MEETING.
By Russell Blinch
TORONTO, May 30 (Reuter) - Queens, prime ministers, industrialists and journalists were among more than 100 delegates who gathered at a guarded retreat near Canada's largest city on Thursday to secretly mull the world's ills.
As is the tradition since the first Bilderberg Meeting was held in the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland in 1954, no news conferences will be held or statements issued after the annual meeting.
But frank talk will be encouraged among the delegates from Europe, the United States and Canada who are meeting for nearly three days at a $40 million ranch north of Toronto.
"There are no massive indiscretions, but the exchanges can be quite heated," Conrad Black, the Canadian press baron hosting this year's conference, told reporters on Wednesday.
Conference organizers said of the 120 participants, one third are from government and the remainder from fields such as finance, industry, labor, education and the media.
The meeting will be chaired by Lord Carrington, former NATO secretary general. He will be joined by a phalanx of leaders in power -- Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Finland's President Martti Ahtisaari, U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry and British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind.
The queens of the Netherlands and Spain and princes from the Netherlands and Belgium make up the royalty contingent.
Other luminaries include Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state; Lloyd Bentsen, former U.S. Treasury secretary; Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Francisco Pinto Balsemao, former Portugese prime minister.
Blue chip representatives include the heads of Ford Motor Co., Sarah Lee, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Xerox Corp, Barclays Bank Plc and Reuters Holdings Plc.
Discussions in the former luxury spa now owned by a Canadian bank are expected to range from the enlargement of the European Union to China, Russia and the former Yugoslavia.
Reuters Limited 1996
31May96 CANADA: ROYALTY, LEADERS, CEOS GATHER IN TORONTO.
Queens, prime ministers, industrialists and journalists were among more than 100 delegates who gathered at a guarded retreat near Toronto yesterday to mull the world's ills. As is the tradition since the first Bilderberg Meeting was held in the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland, in 1954, no news conferences will be held or statements issued after the annual gathering. But frank talk will be encouraged among the delegates from Europe, the U.S. and Canada. The meeting will be chaired by Lord Carrington, former NATO secretary general. He will be joined by a phalanx of leaders - Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Finland's President Martti Ahtisaari, U.S. Defence Secretary William Perry and British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkend. The queens of the Netherlands and Spain and princes from the Netherlands and Belgium make up the royal contingent.
Back to the index at the top of the page
Raeto West's censorship etc site http://www2.prestel.co.uk/littleton/
Analysis of BBC news etc. http://www.perceptions.couk.com/mediauk.html
The real news - Free Press International http://www.realtime.net/~dream/wfp.html
The Global Media Giants - 9 firms that dominate the world http://www.fair.org/extra/9711/gmg.html
Articles on corporate media propaganda etc http://www.fair.org/media-woes/corporate.html
Fascinating 4 page speech by Gerald Levin, chairman and CEO of Time-Warner. The intent is openly stated, yet people pay no attention. http://www.ibm.com/services/articles/telecom.html
Annual Secret Conferences on the media - Sun Valley - Murdoch, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown etc. in full defect http://www.herring.com/mag/issue47/points.html
Money Creation and control of the news http://www.freeyellow.com/members2/moneyfacts/page1.html
The Vatican is an evil institution, possible censorship fodder http://members.foothills.net/ricefile/index.html
Assessing the technologies of political control EU report http://www.nrc.nl/W2/Lab/Echelon/stoa2sept1998.html
Monsanto censoring news in Florida http://www.foxBGHsuit.com/index2.htm
Project Censored - The news that didn't make the news http://www.sonoma.edu/ProjectCensored/top_stories.html
Press freedom news - Dangerous Assignments http://www.cpj.org/dangerous/daindex.html
Canadian Press freedom - the latest news http://www.ccpj.ca/brknews.html
Committee to Protect Journalists http://www.cpj.org/
BBC Producers Guidelines http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/editorial/prodgl/contents.htm
Evading Standards http://www.mcspotlight.org/beyond/evading/
Index On Censorship http://www.oneworld.org/index_oc/
UK press law http://www.osi.hu/colpi/a19/presslaw/pruk.htm
Interesting propaganda analysis page http://carmen.artsci.washington.edu/propaganda/contents.htm
Media Awareness Project - questioning the opinion formers http://www.mapinc.org/
Kenneth W. Dam - Bilderberg steering group member to CHAIR! National Cryptography study Group http://www-swiss.ai.mit.edu/6095/articles/crypto/nrc-report/28ea.html
I lifted these from Paula Demers,
They are perfect for this lonely little slot at the bottom of a bad, bad page
John Swinton, former Chief of Staff for the New York Times-1953 toasting the inadequacy of his profession before New York press Club:
"...If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of journalists is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to prevert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. you know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks and they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectural prostitutes."
Former President of CBS news Richard Salant said:
"Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have."
The following quotation of David Rockefeller, then Chairman of Chase Manhattan bank, speaking at the June, 1991 Bilderberg meeting in Baden Baden, Germany (a meeting attended by then-Governor Bill Clinton) is illustrative of the media control mentioned in the pages on culture, communication and control above:
We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. He went on to explain: It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.