An undercover reporter from Channel 4 has come under fire from the Conservatives after she joined a club for Tory donors as part of a Dispatches this week into party funding. She made two monthly payments of £167 to Team 2000, a club for Tory backers contributing £2,000 a year, as part of her investigations for Cameron’s Money Men – which revealed that hedge fund traders involved in the now-banned practice of short-selling were Tory backers.
It wasn't banned at the time and why didn't the programme also look at Labour donors who undertook the same legal activity?
The Tories claimed to the Mail on Sunday that Jenny Williams’ investigation breached election law saying: “Electoral law is a highly sensitive matter, and agents provocateurs should not be used in this way to flout the regulations.” But as we are not currently in an election - it is difficult to see what they are driving at.
Oh dear. Electoral law governs all electoral matters and donations whether there is an election on or not.
And it is not clear whether Ms Williams used subterfuge, as she joined the Tory donor’s club under her own name.
Clearly she did, as she was using other people's money.
In any case the Ofcom Broadcasting Code allows journalists to go under cover where there is a public interest justification.
Not when it means breaking the law yourself.
Investigating the funding of political parties would seem to provide ample public interest.
Perhaps, if she had used her own money.
The code also says that broadcast journalists should act with “Due Impartiality” – but in the case if Dispatches, that means fairness over the course of a series – not in one episode.
We look forward to similar programmes on Labour and the LibDems then.
The Tories’ key gripe appears to be that they were misled because Channel 4 was the real source of the donation – not Ms Williams. This does sound rather like nitpicking.
To an ill informed journalist maybe. But it also sounds like law breaking, as Channel 4 may find to their cost.
And if the Conservatives have nothing to hide – why aren’t they just happy to take C4’s cash?
Had it been open and up front, and transparently their cash, there would have been no problem.
In the context of a documentary’s budget - £334 is very little money, and cash well spent if it sheds more light on a system of party funding which politicians of all colours agree is flawed.
I wonder if a journalist like Mr Ponsford will have sympathy with a politician who is found to have misdeclared £334? I doubt it very much.
Monday, October 06, 2008
It's OK for Journalist to Break Electoral Law, Apparently
The editor of the Press Gazette, Dominic Ponsford, may wish to reconsider his ARTICLE on the dispute between the Conservatives and Channel 4 over a Dispatches Journalist joining one of their donor clubs. It is so ill informed and full of holes that it deserves a fisk.