Charlie Brooker is one of our all-time favorite satirists. Everyone loves Black Mirror and I’ve gone out of my way to shout about how you need Dead Set in your life, but now some of Brooker’s actions are trying to spark real change in the way the UK keeps its citizens in the dark.
As reported today by The Telegraph, satirical television shows will not be given access to footage from the House of Commons. This shouldn’t be singling out “satirical shows” directly, since House of Commons footage has not been accessible to the public for 27 years. But here’s where the story gets very personal.
Rupa Huq, the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, raised the issue with the Leader of the Commons after her constituent and brother-in-law Charlie Brooker told her he was unable to use clips for his BBC show Screenwipe — one of his smaller but longest running projects. Pretty convenient to have an MP in the family when you want to start pushing for change.
The exchange between Huq and Chris Gayling (Leader of the Commons) went like this:
Huq: “Could we have a statement on the uses of broadcast footage of the House of Commons? My constituent Charlie Brooker has raised with me … that he is unable to use it in his programme Screenwipe whereas other not dissimilar broadcasts are allowed to use it.”
Gayling: “It depends on whether it’s satire, light entertainment, or factual.”
Huq: “Given how vague these boundaries are and the fact that these rules were dreamt up some 27 years ago, would you not agree with me it’s a good juncture to revisit this and have a statement?”
Gayling: “If it’s a matter of concern to you, you should put a submission to the administration committee. However, I think it’s very important we make sure that the coverage of this House is used in an appropriate way. I am not in favour of it being made available for satire programmes.”
Now, of course there is a case to be made that broadcasting House of Commons footage becomes a security risk, even though in America that seems ridiculous since we have a plethora of CNN sub-channels dedicated to broadcasting everything that happens in every room of our government. But that security issue isn’t even raised here. It’s very telling that Gayling is open to the idea of letting footage out for “factual” purposes but closes off immediately when suggesting that it would make the government look “inappropriate” in the wrong hands. Which is pretty gross when you think about it.
Mostly, this makes me think about what holiday dinners must be like for the Brooker family. Charlie seems like a very outspoken guy and I imagine having a family connection to the government is something he’s pretty pushy about. I imagine this wasn’t the first (or last) request that Rupa Huq will get from her constituent, especially with a new season of Black Mirror on the horizon.