Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Secretly-filmed images of injured and apparently tortured dissenters lying shackled to their beds in a Syrian military hospital are another graphic reminder of the way devices such as mobile phone cameras have revolutionised the reporting of protests and uprisings.

Hardly a day goes by when television news bulletins do not feature dramatic pictures – either from the Arab spring or perhaps a demonstration on the streets of London – and their influence on public opinion cannot be under-estimated.

If thirty years ago there had been the kind of footage which activists can upload now on to the internet via video sharing sites like YouTube, there might well have been a different outcome to historic British struggles like the 1984-5 pit strike.

Photographers and camera crews were regularly corralled and held back behind Police lines during the violent industrial confrontations of the 1980s. As a result there were very few of the graphic images which feature so prominently in today’s newspapers and television news bulletins and which show almost as-live footage of the conditions facing protestors as they are being driven back by  police or security forces..

One striking image from the notorious 1984 Battle of Orgreave at the height of the pit strike – showing a mounted policeman raising his baton against a woman protestor – came to symbolise, especially for the left, the doomed struggle by mining communities to protect their jobs.

A photograph captured by chance illustrated the one-sided nature of the conflict and the mineworkers’ vulnerability in the face of the massive superiority of the massed ranks of mounted police officers. But one fleeting image, reproduced by a few newspapers, had nothing like the impact of the sustained output of today’s citizen journalists. 

Just think what the response might have been if strikers who took on Margaret Thatcher’s government had been able to upload their own footage of a picket’s eye view of being charged by mounted police or the often unrecorded violence and brutality which they say occurred in the mining villages.

Vince Cable was heading for a fall once the party’s President Tim Farron MP began boasting (Any Questions, Radio 4 10.12.2010) that only the Liberal Democrats had the courage to “drag Rupert Murdoch in front of the broadcasting regulator  Ofcom.” 

Media standards groups which are opposed to product placement on British television programmes will get the chance to offer advice on possible safeguards.Sion Simon, a junior minister at the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, told a delegation from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (6.10.2009) that the government was anxious to help the industry. Ministers supported product placement because they believed it would give “immediate cash benefits” to struggling television companies.

The promise by Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust, to speed up the Corporation’s internal inquiry into how far the BBC needs to be reshaped to meet the digital age is a welcome dose of reality. More is the pity that the management left it so late -- until the combined forces of James Murdoch and the Conservative Party were on the war path, breathing down the BBC’s neck.

Perhaps the most perceptive prediction in the fall-out from James Murdoch’s demand that the BBC should be forced to limit its “land-grab” of online journalism was the suggestion that News Corporation will get a “much more sympathetic” hearing from a government led by David Cameron.