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Queengate, video footage and a nation of armchair detectives

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It was the Reverend Green, in the drawing room, with the lead piping.

Well, it wasn’t actually, it was the Chief Creative Office, with the raw footage, in an edit suite. But that’s how Will Wyatt’s report (‘Investigation into A Year with the Queen’) reads, like a cross between Cluedo and a lengthy round-up by Hercule Poirot (at least until you get to the recommendations section on page 18).

Wyatt describes the critical moment in the affair – the murder if you will – at the bottom of page 5:

“This tape [the infamous promotional tape] was compiled in the absence of the director / cameraman. The assembly was shown to RDF’s Chief Creative Officer who made several changes, one of which was to alter the order of the four shots from the sequence showing Annie Leibovitz photographing the Queen. The Chief Creative Officer knew that in doing this, the sequence shown in the rushes tape was being changed.”

From that moment on the story runs like a car crash in reverse as, knowing the unfortunate conclusion, you watch as each person / department, fails to pick up on the misrepresentation, until it eventually reaches the Controller himself.

But this affair is not fiction, and has had damaging consequences which cannot but hurt an already fragile and bruised BBC.

If there is one benefit that comes out of this messy and sorry affair, it is to illustrate how easy it is to manipulate and misinterpret film footage, and how credible we all remain regardless.

It’s ironic that at the same time as we’re all shaking our heads cynically at the misrepresentation of one member of the royal family we’re being called upon to interpret 10 year old CCTV footage of another. You can’t move for Diana footage on news websites, in news bulletins, on news interactive – all fuelling endless speculation about conspiracies surrounding her death. And while the Daily Mail lambasts the BBC for mis-editing a documentary it reads deep meaning into a brief smile from Diana caught on a security camera (‘What did her smile signify?’).

Yet we could all do with being slightly more sceptical about the ‘truthfulness’ of film, since the interpretation of video footage seems set to become a constant within our lives. Witness today’s examination of video taken of Lewis Hamilton’s alleged ‘erratic driving’ at the Japanese grand prix posted on Youtube. Now we all have camera phones, digicams, and are filmed by 4.2m CCTV cameras you can guarantee you’ll be caught on film at least once every day. It’s just a question of whether any of that footage becomes newsworthy, and for what purpose someone wishes to use it.

Be prepared for many more Wyatt reports.

Written by Martin Moore

October 5th, 2007 at 3:18 pm

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