A MAJOR battle is taking place between the broadcasting giant ITV and Rebecca Television.
Lawyers acting for ITV have given Rebecca Television until today to remove from the website a controversial interview which the company suppressed ten years ago.
The interview was given by Ron Jones, chairman of the independent television production company Tinopolis.
Jones revealed the extraordinary background to the abrupt sacking of the company’s co-founder Rhodri Williams back in 2001.
Jones accused his former partner — now Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom — of acting dishonestly.
Lawyers are also insisting that even the information contained in the interview belongs to ITV and that none of it can be used.
This is censorship — and Rebecca Television will not accept it.
ON JUNE 17 this year ITV wrote to Rebecca Television (RTV) giving the website seven days to remove all trace of a celebrated interview.
The company want the interview — with the independent producer Ron Jones — removed from the programme Hidden Agenda.
The interview took place in 2003.
It dramatically revealed how Rhodri Wiliams, the current Wales Director of the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, came to be sacked from the production company Tinopolis in 2001.
Williams was dismissed for dishonesty after allegedly diverting business from Tinopolis — then called Agenda — to a competitor.
Williams denied acting dishonestly — he said at the time the allegation was “defamatory and libellous”.
The interview with Ron Jones was carried out by the ITV Wales current affairs programme Wales This Week in 2003.
At the time Rebecca Television editor Paddy French worked for ITV Wales and was the producer in charge of the proposed programme.
It was never broadcast.
Later in 2003 Rhodri Williams was appointed Wales Director of the broadcasting regulator Ofcom.
(The story of the suppression of the interview in 2003 is told in the article A Licence To Censor.)
More than a year later ITV lawyer John Berry said that ITV’s “attention had been drawn” to the use of the material.
“The video Hidden Agenda in particular includes and relies heavily upon previously unbroadcast footage filmed for Wales This Week and owned by ITV.”
“As you are no doubt aware, the making of a copy of a copyright work and the communication of such a work to the public without the permission of the copyright owner is contrary to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988.”
Berry demanded that ITV’s material be removed within seven days and noted “we reserve all rights, in particular our right to bring legal proceedings against you including but not limited to those relating to breach of confidence and infringement of copyright.”
The deadline was eventually extended to September 1.
On June 24 RTV editor Paddy French emailed a reply.
He pointed out that ITV Wales had never shown any interest in the Ron Jones interview.
(The tapes sat on his desk until he left the company in 2008 and took them with him.)
He stated: “there is as powerful a public interest in this material seeing the light of day today as there was when it was filmed.”
“There is an argument that this material was censored back in 2003 and that … this present attempt to remove this material leaves the company vulnerable to the accusation that it is acting as censor.”
ITV did not respond to this email.
On July 2 French emailed ITV again.
This time he pointed out that, although ITV was concentrating on removing the material relating to Rhodri Williams, there was other ITV copyright material on the Rebecca Television website.
This included part of another interview which had never seen the light of day until RTV included it in the programme A Touch of Frost.
This video, which was first published in April 2011, includes part of an ITV interview with a man called Des Frost.
“A key part of his testimony was not included in a 1997 Wales This Week programme because the Waterhouse child abuse Tribunal threatened contempt proceedings if it was broadcast.”
But the Tribunal did not call Frost as a witness and never heard his claims that he reported child abuse to the police ten years before they began investigating.
Paddy French had worked on this 1997 programme as a freelance investigator.
“There was no objection to the use of this footage by ITV Wales … in 2011.”
A Touch of Frost took on a dramatic significance last November when the BBC programme Newsnight allowed Stephen Messham to falsely imply that Lord McAlpine was a paedophile.
This led to the government ordering a new police investigation and a review, headed by Mrs Justice Macur, into the way the North Wales Child Abuse Tribunal chaired by Sir Ronald Waterhouse had carried out its task.
French added: “I immediately alerted ITV Wales to the fact that the company held what was now highly significant archive material. This resulted in a new Wales This Week programme which went out last November.”
“As part of this process I was able to reveal that I had met Sir Ronald Waterhouse back in 2000 to discuss the Frost material. This gave ITV Wales several exclusive stories.”
“I say all this,” French went on, “to emphasise the mutuality of the relationship between ITV and RTV.”
“Without my knowledge, ITV Wales would have missed the fact that they held valuable archive while my long-term interest in the issue proved invaluable to the station.”
“In conclusion, I would say that this is a highly unusual position.”
“For ten years I was a conscientious employee of ITV Wales and since I have left my expertise has come in useful on several occasions …”
“I believe that an agreement whereby I am allowed to use the ITV Wales material for a nominal £1 payment would satisfy the company’s interests.”
Again, ITV did not reply.
Instead, the company instructed the London solicitors Olswang to take up the issue.
On July 30 the firm wrote to RTV, dismissing the suggestion that ITV allow the use of the material for a nominal £1.
“ITV has not and will not in the future provide you with permission to use the ITV property …”
Olswang also dismissed the public interest argument: “there is clearly no public interest in broadcasting material which you have obtained without consent from our client and which raises no current issue of public importance.”
“In fact, it is apparent from an article featuring on the website entitled A Licence To Censor, which states that you and Rhodri Williams fell out in the 1980s, that rather than you being motivated by public interest concerns, you in fact have personal motivations for wanting the ITV property relating to Rhodri Williams to be published.”
(French denies this — see the discussion of the issue in the article A Licence To Censor.)
Olwang added: “Your claims that ITV is acting as a censor are also without foundation, as ITV is simply trying to protect its rights in the unbroadcast ITV property.”
The firm has now demanded that all other ITV material be removed from the RTV site.
THE UPSHOT of this legal wrangling is that Rebecca Television has no choice but to remove the physical ITV material from the website.
“There is, and never was, any doubt that ITV owned the copyright to the material,” says Paddy French.
“I had hoped the company would turn a blind eye because it was embarrassed that it had never broadcast some of the material.”
“For several years, this is what seems to have happened.”
“Now, for reasons that are unclear, it has decided to act.”
“It is interesting that ITV’s main interest is in the Ron Jones interview that damages the reputation of the Ofcom Wales Director Rhodri Williams.”
Other material has also been removed, including the well-known doorstep where former Anglesey County Councillor John Arthur Jones called Paddy French a paedophile.
Originally, this appeared in the article The Gospel According to “Jesus” Arthur Jones.
But that’s not the end of the matter.
Olswang also insist that “ITV is also the owner of the confidential information in the unbroadcast ITV property…”
The use of this information “is clearly a breach of confidence.”
“The article entitled A Man Of Conviction? which is based on and quotes from the Ron Jones interview should therefore also be removed from the website.”
“This is unacceptable to Rebecca Television,” said French.
“It’s a clear attempt to censor information already in the public domain — and which belongs in the public domain.”
“Rebecca Television will not be complying with this condition.”
“The fact that the company is making such a determined effort to remove all trace of the Ron Jones interview suggests that other, deeper forces may be at work here,” added French.
In July three senior Welsh Rugby Union figures — chairman David Pickering, chief executive Roger Lewis and communications chief John Williams — instructed solicitors to threaten legal action if the article A Licence To Censor was not taken down.
The article told the story of the censorship of a damaging business profile of Pickering back in 2006 by ITV Wales director of programmes Elis Owen.
In the article WRU Big Guns v Rebecca Television, RTV refused to axe the article.
So far, we have heard nothing from Pickering, Lewis, Williams or their solicitors.
© Rebecca Television 2013
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With two television programmes temporarily withdrawn for re-editing, Rebecca Television will shortly publish the next video — Brothers in the Shadows. It’s a dark tale of a vicious murderer in North Wales who groomed a vulnerable young girl and formed a paedophile ring to sexually exploit her. One ring member was a retired police detective who claims he was persuaded to join the gang by a fellow freemason…