Sunday, 3 August 2008

Never fear, PCSO-man is here!

"So, we have rising crime and a perception that the police do not police the streets any more. People feel like the police are locked in their offices and not out engaging with their diverse and empowered communities. What can we do?"

"I know, we'll pull any old bunch of twats off the street, put them in a uniform that looks like a policeman, but not actually waste any time training them as coppers. Plus, since they won't actually have any power, we don't need to be fussy about the people we get for the job."

"But won't the public eventually rumble this as a con?"

"Don't worry, I have a plan..."

Via Dizzy, this remarkable article in the Telegraph:

The Government has spent almost £2 million to fund programmes that are all but indistinguishable from regular shows, The Sunday Telegraph has established.

But unlike normal documentaries, the programmes are commissioned by ministers with the purpose of showing their policies or activities in a sympathetic light.

The media watchdog Ofcom has disclosed that it had opened an investigation into one of the programmes, Beat: Life on the Street — about the Government’s controversial Police Community Support Officers, to see whether it breached its broadcasting code.

Jesus. And the scary thing is, if it doesn't breach Ofcom guidelines, then it's effectively a case of "the incumbent government can use the taxpayers' money to fund propaganda to sell their message to the electorate."

... the show about PCSOs and a newly commissioned programme about Customs and Immigration officers are particularly controversial because they deal with sensitive political issues and policies.

Beat: Life on the Street, which was supported with £800,000 of funding by the Home Office for its first two series, portrayed PCSOs as dedicated, helpful and an effective adjunct to the police — despite the controversy about their role.

One Whitehall source admitted of the documentary: “It allows the Government to have more air time and get its message across to people.”

Ministers are so pleased with the way the series, which drew in audiences of three million people on ITV and changed the public’s perception of the officers, that they commissioned a third series, to be broadcast next year.

I simply cannot believe that the government of a democratic country can get away with this.