Difficult one for me this, as a photographer and picture editor for Channel 4 new media. Here’s my personal thoughts.
First off, I think we’re dealing with two separate things, one is the actual story of the photographers – of which the original piece was about, the other is the story of the story which is filling the media. What’s been missing from all the coverage of this I’ve seen, both on TV and the press is this (Source: Channel 4 press release)
• The three colour pictures from inside the tunnel, taken by a passer-by, Mike Walker, were used in a BBC Panorama documentary in the week following the accident and subsequently in another BBC documentary, Diana: The Conspiracy Files in December 2006. They were published in the Sunday Times and one was used in a recent Channel Five documentary.
• The photograph showing the ambulance has been commercially available from reputable picture agencies since 1997 and was used in the Panorama report in 1997 and numerous TV and newspaper reports subsequently.
• The photograph showing Dr Mailliez has been used in the same obscured form as it appeared on the front page of the Sun in July 2006.
So in short we’ve all seen them before (mostly back in 1997) on the BBC, and in the Times and the Sun, both of which are owned by News Corp, under Mr Murdoch, who also owns The London Paper, which ran the headline ‘Princes Pleas ignored‘, oh the irony.
Finally there’s worse images freely available through google image seach for the truely morbid.
The rest of the media, most of whom have been picking the bones of the Diana story for years are just loving bashing the C4 at the moment, this isn’t a Diana story, this is a story about the Diana story, therefore it’s new news and fair game. Lord Puttnam was on the Guardian’s Media Talk podcast the other day calling the film in question a fine piece of journalism, and that the subject is handled with care and in context.
However I personally believe that channel 4 is perhaps unwise to broadcast these images – it’s not because I’m shocked at their content, or out of any real respect for either of the princes, I just think that you can sometimes tell the story better by using less. All that’s happened now is that the original and potentially interesting story has been drowned out in media white noise. Further more I just think this is a poor choice of subject matter for C4. I do however think having the debate afterward is a good thing. This is something that should/could have happened after the Big Brother racism row. Channel 4 had a debate last year (I think) on the Danish muslim ‘cartoon’ affair and actually handled the subject well without feeling the need to show the actual images, why can’t this apply in this case? Of course one final thought is that, like Panorama vs Scientologists, this could all work out to get massive overnights and morning after water cooler moments… Who knows?