The anatomy of a stitch-up

It’s an infuriating feeling to know you’ve been done over, and your hard work nabbed by other journalists. That’s what has happened to me, when my Streetfighters work caught the eye of a producer at the BBC.

In December I was contacted by a researcher on BBC One’s One Show. She told me the programme – a fluffy prime-time magazine show – was planning to cover the issue of Housing Market Renewal and that she wondered if I’d be up for fronting the report, since it’s something I’ve covered a lot:

I’ve no interest in working in TV and certainly no interest in dumbing these issues down for the One Show so said thanks but it wasn’t for me. Then she suggested that they’d quite like to use some of my material and that a producer was going to get in touch to have a chat:

I was still very skeptical but when the producer called she talked me into meeting her at BBC Manchester. When I arrived she had it all planned out and hit me with a pitch:

I still had doubts but this producer has the gift of the gab and convinced me that this would be a worthwhile thing to do, both for my own project’s profile and also to get this important story out to a wider audience. I agreed to get involved, against my better judgement. As it turns out I should have followed my gut instinct and run a mile.

The producer wanted to use my Streetfighters photos and three of my cases studies, which represented some of the different outcomes residents have experienced – an elderly man (Elijah) who doesn’t want to move from his home, a family who have been forced to go and left in debt, and a lady who is still living in limbo. These would be reshot in video and turned into a five-minute report, which I was led to believe I would get some credit for. I received a (small) payment for the use of images.

A few days later I spent a full day with her, both at BBC Manchester and visiting two of the three case studies to make initial introductions, losing a day of work/study.

From that point, for me, it went swiftly downhill. I went with the One Show people to Liverpool when they did their third interview a week or two later and felt like I shouldn’t be there. I was told they no longer wanted me to do the ‘comm’ (voiceover) and finished that day with the distinct feeling that I was being stitched up. My work was simply being lifted as a cheap, pre-researched story. When I asked the producer whether I’d be credited for my material, I  wasn’t surprised when she said no. Apparently the One Show ‘just doesn’t do that.’

The report

The report went out last Monday and was pretty much what I expected. INFURIATINGLY, the voiceover woman got the credit for ‘investigating’ the issue of regeneration.

One thing which isn’t shown in this clip (below) is the short discussion on the sofa afterwards with Gok Wan of all people. In it the presenters made an inexcusable error. They said Elijah’s home in Oldham was now safe from the bulldozers – which is completely untrue, and the report producer knows it as she and I had discussed it on the phone. Elijah’s home is technically owned by Oldham Council following a CPO and while other acquisitions are on hold, the authority is committed to getting and clearing all homes currently in the legal process, ie his.

Lame, lame, lame from top to bottom. I’m not impressed.

* I understand that at the BBC the number of executives and editors who get involved in current affairs reports can sometimes make them morph into something different from what was planned, but I don’t feel that’s what happened here. I also think the researcher – who I know a little, having worked with her in the past – had nothing to do with this. My complaint is not really about money, but more about receiving due credit for providing much of the content of this report.

street fighters – Leeds & Clayton



Dave Hynes (top), feels like he is living in the countryside now all the neighbouring properties have been demolished. Meanwhile East Manchester resident Bill Booth (bottom) is sick of living in limbo, not knowing whether his house will stay up or come down. Just two more streetfighters.

** I have consolidated all my regeneration work – including four years worth of written pieces and more recent multimedia pieces – on a dedicated website, STREET FIGHTERS. Please check it out **

It’s Elijah’s 90th birthday today

….and he’s still waiting to be be chucked out of his house.

Last time I saw him he suffered three of what I can only assume were panic attacks in an hour. His face kind of crumples up into a heart-breaking mask of pain while they’re happening. They are terrifying to watch, so I can’t imagine how they must feel for him.  It’s the stress that brings them on, he says.

Anyway I did my best to get Elijah’s story out there to a wider public but I’ve never struggled more with any story since going freelance. Two national papers took it and then spiked it (unless the second one used it over the last few days that is – now pretty doubtful). A national TV broadcaster was interested, and then wasn’t. Each time I had to tell Elijah, got his hopes up, and then he was let down. The problem is that it looks like me who’s done the stringing along and letting down.

A regional magazine has at least used it and now it looks like a current affairs radio show may also highlight his story. I am keeping everything crossed that they follow through with it. I don’t believe it can change anything for Elijah – since the ownership of his house has already legally transferred to Oldham Council under a Compulsory Purchase Order – but from his point of view, at least it will kick the authorities in the teeth with a little adverse publicity.

I hope he manages to enjoy his 90th, despite the dispicable way he’s being treated by the powers that be. Let’s just listen to his words again…..