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Monday 17 December 2012

Panorama – There May Be Writs

[Update at end of post}

This evening, the BBC’s long awaited Panorama on the affairs of Frederick and David Barclay (aka The Fabulous Bingo Brothers) is set to be broadcast, after acting Director General Tim Davie gave the nod. The Bingos are notoriously sensitive about anything that looks remotely like criticism, and this, coupled with their legendary humourlessness and willingness to sue, means their lawyers will be watching.

Suitably forced smiles for the press

The Bingos’ attitude has typically been to portray anyone disagreeing with them as being bullies and liars, while managing at least the first of those attributes themselves. This has manifested itself in the way in which they have approached their ownership of the Channel Island of Brecqhou and their relationship with the people who live on the adjacent larger island of Sark.

As to the second of those attributes, David Barclay said in a statement thatMy brother and I have no editorial, political or economic power in the UK”. Oh really? Then riddle me this, Monsieur Bingo: how come the Maily Telegraph is not carrying any news about the Panorama programme, and why when I do a search for “Barclay Brothers” on the Telegraph site do I get zero references to them?

Then we come to the potential for legal action: this is a very strong possibility, given the Bingos’ previous form. The Panorama is being presented by John Sweeney, who has previously been sued by the twins. The action eventually ended in a French court in Rennes, where the Bingos were awarded a not very whopping 20,000 Francs (about £2,200 at the time) in costs and damages.

Private Eye issue 1264, Page 12

A subsequent action against the Times was later withdrawn, but the most jaw-dropping example of the litigious nature of the Bingos was in 2010 when they took action against Private Eye over what was clearly a spoof article in Issue 1264 (just to show that the piece was purely in jest, the feature further down the page is also included). The Eye took a robust attitude and rebutted the claim.

Indeed, it was a pity that the Eye’s lawyers did not simply refer the Bingos’ legal representatives to the precedent case of Arkell versus Pressdram (the woman running the local post office on Sark was also presented with a threatening solicitor’s letter for displaying a copy of the Eye spoof). Given the over-sensitive nature of the Barclays, legal action following Panorama seems certain.

But, it seems, whatever happens, it is most unlikely to be reported by the Telegraph: despite claims of no proprietorial control, the Bingos manage by the most miraculous of coincidences to keep their names out of the paper they just happen to own. That’s more effective censorship than even Rupert Murdoch himself. And their whole demeanour means good viewing figures for Panorama are guaranteed.

Especially as the potential shower of lawyers’ letters means it may not get repeated.

[UPDATE 18 December 1000 hours: anyone tuning in yesterday evening would have seen the protestations of the Barclays and their representatives about the limits of free speech, while bankrolling a newsletter distributed on the island of Sark that routinely trades in character assassination and forthright defamation of others, including presenter John Sweeney.

The comparison between the recording of his behaviour and its reporting in this publication was stark. Also clearly demonstrated was the way that Sweeney was followed while filming on the island by one of the Barclays' employees. You can see video HERE but remember - there is the likelihood of writs from The Fabulous Bingo Brothers, so don't delay viewing]


Barc said...

When powerful people are able to impose a chilling effect with threat of legal action, the solution comes in numers . Keep blogging, keep tweeting, keep sharing. They can't shut us all down.


Anonymous said...

Shocking stuff. Quite unbelievable.

Clearly the pair are serial vexatious litigants. I suggest anyone who wishes for someone to put a stop to their antics contact the Attorney General so he can investigate them and if appropriate restrain them from causing further legal havoc.