UK: ITV’s Exposé on “Far-Right” May Violate Broadcasting Code


An update to ITV’s forthcoming documentary ‘Exposure Undercover: Inside Britain’s Far Right’ as we uncover some rather interesting twists. Perhaps ITV should be reconsidering the reporting methods used.

David Henshaw, Executive Producer of Hardcash Productions, which made the documentary for ITV, has written a long letter to Anne Marie Waters concerning the programme, which she has made available here. She has posted a blow-by-blow reply to the points in Henshaw’s letter here. The programme, Henshaw tells Waters, looks at the ‘far right’, including discussing the claim that the ‘growth of the so-called “counter-jihad” movement is as extreme as the ideas and actions promoted by traditionally racist and anti-Semitic groups and individuals on the far right.’

‘Hazel’ covertly obtained evidence between 10 June and 21 October 2017. Here’s a picture of her which we found on the internet.

How it brings back happy memories of merry hours down the boozer. Henshaw claims that the covert recording was carried out strictly in accordance with the Ofcom Broadcasting Code and sanctioned at senior level in ITV. When considering if behaviour fits a code of conduct, there is obviously consideration of the individual case, and to comply with Ofcom in regard to privacy and covert recordings, there is a need to demonstrate that invasions of privacy are ‘warranted’. Not having been privy to the discussions of senior ITV management, from reading Henshaw’s letter to Anne Marie Waters, one can surmise that various points could have been considered as warranting invading not just the privacy of Anne Marie Waters, but that of all those private individuals who just happened to attend legal, peaceful political demonstrations at the same time as her, and who just happened to go to same pub afterwards. I presume that would require quite some standard of justification.

Some of the content of Henshaw’s letter refers to remarks by an individual whom Henshaw is implying has a close relationship to Anne Marie Waters, which she strenuously rebuts. There are allegations that this individual did indeed make some very misjudged remarks, and it is not my purpose here to defend or justify any such comments. All I can say is that I personally did not hear any, and that everybody I ever met on any of these demonstrations, to the best of my knowledge abhors and detests racism and hatred in any form.

With regard to the points we can guess would have been put forward by the very experienced senior folk at ITV as warranting invasion of privacy, of especial interest are the various claims which together, amount to the charge that Waters is whipping up unfounded concerns about Islamic ideology and extremism. Included in charges against her, is the claim that she has too close a connection with Jack Buckby, who formerly supported the BNP (British National Party). Waters defends herself in detail on every single count, and readers can read her careful account for themselves.

One could also add, that there are those who somehow manage to create entire careers out of their past association with highly dodgy groups – Maajid Nawaz springs to mind – and those who never manage to shake off any past associations.

Which brings me back to David Henshaw, the man on whom the senior executives at ITV presumably relied in forming their decision that the programme complied with Ofcom’s code. Our busy and talented researchers have been unable to find out much about him from searching the internet.

But look at the ‘experts on extremism, terror, and race and religious crime’ he uses, Nick Lowles and Matthew Collins of Hope Not Hate. There are many who would hesitate to call this organisation an unbiased group of experts. And there are some allegations out there that at least one of these experts has ‘connections’ with a former BNP member himself. It would appear that Lowles ‘congratulated’ former BNP member turned Independent Paul Cromie in a local election in Bradford. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, David? Of course, not every bit of evidence one turns up is reliable, is it, Henshaw, so feel free to rebut these claims if you think they do not ‘warrant’ my mentioning them.

And the claims levelled at Waters amount in large part, to the claim that she is exaggerating or inventing dangers from Islamic ideology and Islamic extremism. The invasion of privacy would only be justified had Hardcash productions, using the recording devices secreted about the person of the mysterious and bewitching ‘Hazel’, unearthed anything new and of sufficient weight to be ‘in the public interest’. But Waters shows time and again that what Hardcash Productions ‘revealed’ about her was already in the public domain. So, no justifying grounds there then. These are claims Waters has made consistently for years. Surely, the researchers at Hardcash therefore already knew all this? Why go undercover then?

Well, surely, they must have thought that Waters was just making up all that stuff about how radical Islamic views are present among us, and how they present a danger? Because if such radical views really do exist, then anyone warning about them, far from being labelled ‘right wing’, ought to be congratulated, and certainly, there would be no warrant for a legit undercover investigation of such a person. So, no, Hardcash Productions must genuinely think Waters is exaggerating the threat from radical Islam …

But but but … David, have you been to your GP and had your memory checked? Because look, back in 2007, Hardcash Productions made a documentary for Channel 4 called Undercover Mosque. I quote from a Guardian article, which described how the makers of the programme

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went undercover in several mosques in the Midlands and showed examples of preachers calling for homosexuals to be killed, espousing male supremacy, condemning non-Muslims and predicting jihad.

Henshaw said: “A lot of these mosques were in terms of their public image very moderate and were apparently committed to inter-faith dialogue. Yet what was going on on a very regular basis was pretty uncompromising, hardline, antisemitic, homophobic, misogynist preaching.”’

Dearie, dearie, dearie me. I do very much hope that the senior executives at ITV who thought that they were warranted, under the terms of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, in invasions of privacy, are not going to have to revise their judgement, and reconsider if the reporting was indeed unethical.

And look, here’s something else our hardworking researchers found out about Hardcash Productions, by searching Companies House. They have had a substantial loan from Coutts, the same bank that the Queen uses.

As a constitutional monarch, the Queen of course is committed to political impartiality. So, indeed, are ITV, under the terms of the Broadcasting Code. Perhaps next time the Queen pops into Coutts to pay a few bills, should she bump into David ‘Opinion for Sale’ Henshaw in the foyer, she could have a quiet word with him about maintaining such impartiality, and quietly but firmly tick him off for invading the privacy of her citizens, for apparently attempting to smear the leader of a political party, and hence interfering in the smooth running of democracy in her beloved country. Just a thought.

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