Calling fellow journalists and filmmakers – where are your historic videos stored – are they in the public domain?

I’ve written the article for Britain Journalism Review (BJR) on what journalists do with their paper and digital archives and what are the problems of preserving ‘the first draft of history’. It should be out in September.

I’m  following up with a natural second part to this which is: what to do about all those significant interview videos and audio tapes that are in warehouses and are historic in value. I made three Timewatchs in the 1990s with people who have never otherwise been interviewed.I interviewed at length a range of USAF (SAC), RAF and Red Air Force generals right down to pilots and then a long list of Cold War players including J K Galbraith. I would say many are of historic value and only a few minutes were actually broadcast. As Gavin McFadyen pionted out there are problems with locating the actual broadcast programmes and he believes there are lots of World in Action progs missing.

There were lots of other significant interviews in other projects I worked on. Mostly we edited in 30 – 60 seconds but there were dozens of hours of tapes. While I have transcripts in my paper archives the beta tapes are stored somewhere by the Independent TV company I was working and I suspect other journalists and film-makers have this problem. Please tell me your story:


Mark Rylance on the Robert Bly, the man and the film

Mark Rylance has written a lovely tribute to American poet Robert Bly in advance of the film on Bly coming out tomorrow. As another man who was involved with Wild Dance in the early 1990s and met Bly and his peers Michael Meade and James Hillman they had an enormous impact on my  life too. I was surprised at the time at the number of intelligent liberal men and women who thought it hilarious and all about hugging trees. Out of it came a new form masculinity that was not brittle but emotional and stronger.

Here’s Mark’s piece:

Mark Rylance: how Robert Bly changed my life

Ahead of a new film about Robert Bly, Mark Rylance recalls how the poet helped him to live with loss

Robert Bly
Tribal teacher … Robert Bly. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian

I felt a sense of excitement, and a certain nervousness. He had this penetrating ability to see what was going on, and he didn’t have any shyness about saying it. Robert was there the first time I went to a men’s gathering, organised under the auspices of wild dance. There were 90 men gathered, and it was remarkable. I think I got a bit relaxed back in a cabin after a session, and I called him Bob. I can’t imagine why. I remember him turning to me and saying, “You’re going to have to call me Robert.”

to read the whole article click here

There is a premiere of Robert Bly: A Thousand Years of Joy at Gate Cinema, London W11, on 7 August. Also sceening at The Barn Cinema, Dartington, on 10 August.

The impact of surveillance on journalists – my recent research picked up.

Why journalists should be thinking about information security and source protection

Silkie Carlo, policy officer at Liberty, explains the importance of security for journalists, and what the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Bill means for them.


Recent research from the University of Sussex has found the current surveillance threats to journalists “may all but eliminate” confidential sources for investigative reporting.

Paul Lashmar, senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Sussex, interviewed 12 investigative journalists about their knowledge of surveillance powers and their impact on journalistic work.

“All through my time as a journalist there has been a behind-the-scenes battle going on to close down journalists’ access to insider sources,” he wrote for in June.

“The Snowden revelations – that our actions and movements are recorded digitally – raise serious questions over the ability of journalists to protect their sources whether in intelligence agencies, government or corrupt private companies.”

Roy Greenslade’s article today is important and needs support

Journalists, and their media organisations, should unite to fight the proposal to delete the public records of dissolved companies after just six years.

Under current policy, Companies House, the government agency that registers detailed information on British businesses, retains the records for 20 years.

This database is indispensable for journalists, police officers, lawyers, researchers and bank compliance officials. It provides access to every firm incorporated in the UK, listing all their directors and shareholders and showing the returns of their accounts.

But the agency is facing commercial and political pressure to erase valuable information, especially from the directors of failed businesses. Well they would, wouldn’t they?

According to a Companies House spokesman, the change of the rules “is being considered following a number of complaints made by members of the public who believe that retaining, and making publicly available, information relating to long-dissolved companies is inconsistent with data protection law.”

Members of the public? Can he be serious? Members of failed firms, more like. As for the data protection act, it should not be used as a cloak to prevent the public from accessing vital information, even if it happens to embarrass people connected to past business failures.

I agree with Chris Taggart, founder of the Opencorporates website, who believes it “essential” for people to know “who they are doing business with.” He says:

“While directors and owners enjoy protection from company debts under the law, the quid pro quo for that is transparency.”

Exactly so. What the public wants, and needs, is maximum transparency. Without the existence of that register how would we have known about the bankrupt past of BHS buyer Dominic Chappell?


to read full article

The scandal of files on Mark Thatcher being retained – reminder of the original exclusive story on the boy

Picking up on the Roy Greenslade/ Daily Mirror story that Whitehall files on Mark Thatcher’s activities during his mother’s premiership have been withheld from public release.

Here’s a reminder of the original story from 1984.

Mark Thatcher page one 1984

PL on RT discussing the Nice terror attack – raising the mental health issue

PL on RT discussing the Nice terror attack – raising the mental health issue

Three days later…….. from Kim Sengupta’s article in today’s Independent quoting the Nice killer’s father: “For four years, from 2002 to 2004 he had problems, he had a nervous breakdown. He would get very angry, and would break things for no reason, he was put on medication. But the one thing he did not get angry about was religion, he did not go to mosque, he drank.”

We need a grown up discussion of the relationship between mental health and terrorism. If we confuse people with long term mental health issues who attracted to acts of terrorism with die hard terrorists then we will not understand what is going on out there. Confusing mental health with ‘evil’ is retrogressive and will prevent the identification of people who such problems before they act.  There have been a number of similar events and the first reaction in the coverage is to imply they are an ISIS terrorist and only then look at the person’s mental health record.