“Britain’s Channel 4 documentary “Undercover in New Labour” includes footage from “a reporter wearing hidden cameras who volunteered to work on the party’s election campaign and ended up being drafted to work at its national PR headquarters.” The documentary shows Labour staff using “party supporters in key professions from medicine and the law to the armed forces and the police, who were prepared to appear on TV and in the papers and lie through their teeth that their support for this or that policy was entirely unsolicited,” writes reporter Mark Borkowski. But “is singling out New Labour for criticism reasonable,” Borkowski asks, when astroturfing “has been going on for decades in business, especially among the oil, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries?” Undercover reporters were placed with Britain’s three main political parties, “but it was decided the strongest story was the way the Labour campaign was run,” an anonymous source told the Guardian.”
This gets me thinking. Why don’t Australian filmmakers, documentary makers or current affairs programs more actively engage in undercover work? Gaining information through deception is ethically problematic, I agree, but sometimes the greater truth is much more important. Take this 2004 BBC documentary expose on Britain’s far right party, the BNP. Perhaps our journalists lack the requisite fortitude?