The BBC and commercial TV news organization ITN have responded to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for them immediately to hand over unused TV footage of rioters by arguing that the proper procedure of the police obtaining a court order must be followed.
Earlier on Thursday, the prime minister told members of parliament (MP) that the media has a “responsibility” immediately to release footage to help police track down and punish those responsible for four nights of rioting in cities across England.
Liberal Democrat MP John Leach asked the prime minster during yesterday’s emergency session of the House of Commons whether he would “encourage media organizations to immediately release footage.”
“I will certainly do that,” Cameron responded. “Everyone has a responsibility. Media organizations have a responsibility too, and I hope they will act on it.”
Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, an order must be obtained from a judge to obtain unpublished material such as film and pictures. The judge is supposed to weigh the interest of the police in obtaining evidence with the -public interest in a free press.
ITN said that despite the drive to swiftly identify looters, the government cannot run roughshod over standard legal practice.
A BBC spokeswoman added: “We have standard processes in place to deal with requests from the police through our litigation department, regardless of the subject matter. Any request would need to be dealt with by the courts.”