CCTV: Caught on Camera, Channel 4 - TV review


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The Independent Culture

CCTV: Caught on Camera (Channel 4) sounds like one of those cheapo clip shows you find nestling between "My Neighbour the Benefit Cheat" and "50 Greatest Breakfast TV Presenters of the 80s", but is actually more thoughtful than its title suggests.

Last night's episode, for example, looked at the growth in people plastering their homes with CCTV cameras and then paying private security firms to watch their every move: in this case, Peter Rowley, a retired diamond dealer, who may have more reason than most to feel at risk from criminals.

On the subject of diamonds, director Nick Leader had found one in Bev, the CCTV worker (what are they called? "Observers" sounds a bit grandiose) paid to watch Rowley like he was a daytime soap or the live feed from Big Brother. Bev actually suggested that "We're like his big brother really", by which she meant protective rather than sinister and Orwellian, or the Channel 5 reality show.

Bev obviously had time to philosophize: the most exciting thing that Rowley did that day was stroke a cat. "Maybe people don't want to be private any more," she pondered, and maybe she has an important point. Is social media destroying our desire to be private? Will we only feel we exist if we are being watched? Steve from Headingly didn't have time for such profundities, busy as he was recording the anti-social antics of students living over the road, posting edited "highlights" on YouTube.

This might have backfired – after all, he was offering ready-made online stardom to these rowdies – but the university authorities took notice and intervened.