Tomorrow night’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme will attempt an ‘exposé’ on British success story Seatwave. But the programme, despite its duplicity, will fail to land a punch, writes Milo Yiannopoulos.
In journalism we try to avoid making predictions. They have a habit of coming back to bite you. But here’s one I’m pretty sure of – and it’s as much a sincere hope as it is a statement of what is about to happen.
Tomorrow night’s edition of Dispatches, broadcast on Channel 4 at 9.00pm, will be a disgrace to journalism. Seeking to characterise London start-up Seatwave as a disreputable organisation, the programme will succeed only in exposing its own moral vacuity and highlighting how far a once mighty organ of investigative reporting has fallen. Dispatches used to uncover genuine scandals: this looks like nothing so much as desperate barrel-scraping.
Some of the most powerful and brilliant broadcast journalism of the last few decades has involved undercover recording of wrongdoing. Covert footage is also a mainstay of programmes which aim to stand up for consumer interests. One thinks particularly of the delightful BBC shows highlighting dodgy builders and plumbers who rip off the elderly.
But Channel 4′s documentary on Seatwave will surely fail the most basic of public interest tests, so hopelessly misguided is its primary target. Speaking exclusively to The Kernel, Seatwave chief executive Joe Cohen explained yesterday how its producers have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the Ofcom code by failing to first approach Seatwave for the information its journalists sought, electing instead to go undercover to secure their dirt.
“They never asked us for any information,” said Cohen. “I’ve read the Ofcom code – not the most pleasurable bedtime reading, let me tell you, and it seems clear to me that they should have asked us before sending someone in to pose as a temp.”
On first impressions, the footage Dispatches has acquired will look damning. But on discovering – as The Kernel can reveal today – that one of the “staff members” interviewed had worked at the company for barely a week before being covertly filmed, and taking into account the unsavoury and misleading efforts of the programme’s editors, even viewers sceptical of Seatwave’s business model would be hard-pressed to admit there is anything awry in how the company conducts its business.
The fact is that Seatwave, like eBay, offers a platform on which fans and professional ticket sellers can transact. This is not news, nor should it come as troubling to those with even the most rudimentary understanding of how online ticket marketplaces function. It’s worth pointing out also that Parliamentary enquiries and studies into ticket reselling regularly conclude that fans both want and benefit from ticket marketplaces.
According to Cohen, significantly less than half of the transactions on Seatwave involve a professional reseller or broker: someone who buys and resells for a living. That is a statistic you are unlikely to hear tomorrow night.
You are also unlikely to hear about the rules Seatwave puts in place on its platform, which are designed to drive down prices and guarantee the delivery of valid tickets to fans.
The Kernel has been privy to details from the programme’s producers about some of the interviews they conducted. We are dispirited and disappointed by their clear bias. Should the programme attempt to make insinuations about Seatwave’s own staff selling tickets, we say: why should they not be permitted to? And we will watch with interest to find out whether the show makes clear how much more stringent the reselling rules are for Seatwave’s own staff.
Documentary-makers are skilled at the art of misrepresentation. After all, they operate in a medium which trades on the sort of sensationalism one rarely sees from print media. Dispatches is a noted practitioner of this art. But the team behind this programme should ask themselves whose interests are really being served by gratuitous, unfair and unrepresentative smears of one of British technology’s burgeoning success stories.
Certainly not the fans who use and love Seatwave. Nor the British economy at large, which is dependent on the innovation, value creation and jobs generated by small businesses. Least of all their viewers, who will have been needlessly misled by this programme.
There are many urgent and valid concerns among consumers about the new wave of software businesses colonising the internet. Most are questions of privacy. The majority are best directed at foreign companies like Facebook and Spotify. None should be focused on Seatwave.
This is a moment for the technology industry to rally around Seatwave. Broadcast media in this country have always been suspicious and ignorant of the internet – sometimes thanks to commercial worries about their own business models. Based on what The Kernel has learned, this latest attack on one of our greatest assets should be condemned.
Sensationalist headline-chasing, fed by ignorance and ideology, supported by duplicitous reporting, is not the way to approach the challenges and opportunities in the marketplace created by innovative new business models.
If Britain is to compete in the global technology economy, we should take a break from tradition and not tear down our heroes. In other words: let’s stop shitting where we eat for the sake of a titillating Thursday night documentary show.