Letter: `Cheating' on TV

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The Independent Online
Letter: `Cheating' on TV

Sir: You report on restaging of events by makers of television documentaries ("BBC tackles documentary `cheating' ", 15 May). There is no way of guarding against "cheating" apart from the integrity of the person making the programme.

However straightforward the coverage of a subject may be, the viewpoint of the programme maker is always the message that the audience will receive. Making any programme involves decision-making and choice. Place a camera out in an ordinary street and the producer is immediately involved in deciding which way to point it, what lens to use, when to turn it on and when to turn it off. Then when the time comes to edit, which bit will be used; which shot comes before it and which after it? And all this happens before we write the narration. You don't see what you see, you see what the writer tells you that you see.

Face your producer with these choices in relation to a controversial subject and the process becomes very dangerous indeed. It always was and it always will be. When I worked on the old Tonight programme, producers and directors were chosen not only for their talent, but for their integrity as well. Values have unfortunately changed and we are now faced with the inevitable consequences. Don't blame the programme makers. Blame the people who employed them.