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TV cameramen covering riots are working for us, not the police

It was wrong to make the BBC, Sky and ITN hand over unseen footage to Scotland Yard

It’s the knottiest press freedom problem. After the August riots – or indeed any riots – should TV companies and newspapers be forced to turn over unshown footage to the police? Scotland Yard predictably says “yes” and issues more of its beloved protection orders; the BBC, ITN and Sky say “no” and battle not to comply. But this time, as so often, the Yard wins and hundreds of hours of evidence are handed over.

Get a picture; get a looter; get a conviction. We know that already, so what’s wrong? Only that television cameramen aren’t police or local authority camera scanners. They’re doing a different, separate job for us, not them. Some were rounded on and attacked when the rioters took hold. Many more will surely be in danger next time round. It is too damned easy to make the press partners of the police, but it’s wrong.

■ July was a simmering, tetchy month, August a riotous, explosive one. So which paper’s website did best as buildings caught flame and shop windows were smashed? The Guardian did well, up 8.5% on unique browsers (as measured by ABC); the Independent, up 6.7%, wasn’t far behind; an otherwise market-leading Mail, up only 3.9%, couldn’t quite adjust its celebrity coverage to fit. But the winner, with a 9.4% rise, was the Daily Telegraph (which chugs along at third most months). Came the looters, came the chaos, came the automatic smack of firm truncheons? © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds