May 11, 2004
Attempt to Gag C4 Dispatches Fails
Chancery Division refuses confidentiality injunction
Mr Justice Mann has refused an application to restrain broadcast of a Channel Four documentary in the Dispatches series due for transmission on Thursday 13 May 2004.
The programme centres on the growing industry of supplying pre-cooked meals to hospital. In addition to questionning the nutritional content of the food, Channel 4 also intends to broadcast undercover footage showing unhygienic practices in one of the country’s leading suppliers, Tillery Valley Foods (“TVF”).
TVF sought an injunction preventing the transmission of the programme as a breach of confidence until the company had been given an opportunity to view the footage and provide its response.
Adrienne Page QC, acting for C4, told the Court that there was no right to reply in law:
“This is an ingenious attempt to use the technical causes of action argument to use the court’s power to grant an injunction effectively to create such a legal right by the back door.“
Mann J agreed and held that there was no basis on which the broadcasters could be compelled to give TVF advance viewing of the footage. The secret footing was not confidential and TVF had no right to an injunction.
The Judge said: “The truth of this matter is that this case is not about confidentiality at all… this is really a defamation action in disguise. It is not surprising that it cannot be squashed into the law of confidence.”
Channel 4 hailed the result as a victory for undercover reporting.
“Had the judge granted the application it would have had serious repercussions for investigative journalism. We are pleased that the programme will go ahead as planned,” said a spokesman.