And I almost forgot to talk about last night’s TV. Somehow I found myself watching the Jamie Theakston-narrated “documentary” Shops, Robbers and Videotape last night. This hour of unquestioning pro-CCTV propaganda wasn’t exactly balanced journalism, of the kind you might, foolishly, expect the BBC to generate. More a cheap homegrown version of all those police camera car chase shows that Channel 5 get from the states.
No, this was the kind of program that was quite prepared to use the term “Big Brother” in connection with the state of the art integrated CCTV system installed in Soho that provided most of its material, but, unfortunately, it clearly meant “Big Brother” as in the TV show, not as in 1984.
Anyway, I felt rather uncomfortable about the way the program accepted CCTV as a thoroughly good thing, without bothering to question whether there might be a downside (taking the “if you haven’t got anything to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about” point of view so beloved of compulsory ID card advocates).
Setting aside the fact that Jamie Theakston was narrating (surely someone averse to having his picture taken without his consent), there was also something very Brass Eye drugs episode about a lot of the footage.
Combine that with the somewhat over-zealous policing on display (I can’t be the only person who feels slightly uncomfortable about the way the talking heads from the force admitted that they enjoy going after people spotted on the CCTV because it’s exciting, and “gets [them] out of their daily routine”, and then having to watch four of them pile on top of some guy they suspected of dealing drugs). Then there’s the fact that they didn’t seem to actually catch anyone (except the odd handbag thief and someone who’d just bought Cannabis – and you could hear the disappointment in the WPC’s voice when she told us that it was only Cannabis).
Anyway, like the idealistic fool that I am, I’d like to see a bit more balance, but then why would you expect the BBC to bite the hand that feeds it, when there’s hours of cheap, sensationalist TV footage available for just the price of interviewing a couple of policemen?
Oh, there’s more privacy-related news in this week’s Need To Know…