Like others, I was stunned by the short and snarky statement produced by David Icke’s new online TV channel, The People’s Voice (TPV) yesterday, on the departure of Sonia Poulton (since removed from the site). Sonia has released a statement of her own today which serves to stoke the suspicions of those outside the channel.
Poulton has distinguished herself as a campaigning journalist in recent years, taking on the Coalition government and it’s ideological austerity programme. For me, she provided the single source of credibility for TPV. She kindly extended a welcome to me and a host of other bloggers and activists while the Sonia Poulton Live show aired. I was asked repeatedly why I was giving my time to the channel, and my answer was always the same – I love Sonia’s show.
A few weeks ago, an unsettling blog post was brought to my attention. It alleged that a member of the TPV production team has used the word ‘Wog’ in a derogatory context, and rather than deal with the matter professionally, the volunteer who expressed complaint was sidelined. Furthermore, there were allegations that volunteers were being exploited, working very long hours for nothing, while other members of the team were paid and enjoyed the better work.
This alleged treatment of Sonia Poulton will no doubt seal the opinion of many on TPV. There has been much debate about whether it is merely a vanity project for its founder David Icke, or a breakthrough in citizen journalism. I sincerely hoped for the latter, used the platform to engage with like minded people and awaited evidence either way.
I will now publish Sonia Poulton’s statement in full, which seems to back up every vague suspicion and allegation levelled at the channel and its producers since its inception. If anyone from TPV would like to respond to these allegations, by all means get in touch.
“During the brief period when I worked as a full-time journalist and presenter at The People’s Voice office in Wembley – every week day, sometimes 12 hours a day for the period from November 18th to January 6th – various volunteers and staff made alarming comments to me about the financial accounting at The People’s Voice.
I was told that public money had been ‘squandered’, ‘spent unwisely’ and ‘in an easy-come, easy-go manner’. I was informed that various pieces of equipment, including a handheld camera, had ‘gone missing’. It was alleged that money had been paid to someone who did not warrant being paid and who shared a property in Wembley with David – amongst other accusations.
Given these suspicions I was not happy with David Icke and Sean Adl-Tabatabai – TPV’s station manager – suggesting a second telethon on January 3, 2014. This was to raise more money for TPV following a two-week Christmas break from live programming.
I realised that the public, who had already donated far in excess of £300,000, was losing some goodwill towards TPV – and for a number of reasons.
I felt, as did other members of staff who said it to me – but did not have the courage to say it to David Icke directly – that all financial dealings should be public and transparent.
I believe, and conveyed this to David Icke, Sean ADL and Liz Roberts – in their respective roles as Station Manager and Production Manager – that all money paid out – including expenses and staff wages should be published monthly. This idea never progressed beyond the asking stage.
This, and other issues reached a head for me on Friday night when I was asked to take part in the telethon to raise money even though I didn’t know entirely where the previous public money had gone to.
I should add I refused point blank to take part in the first telethon in early November before the station had even launched. Not only was I unimpressed with some of the content of that telethon, as a representation of TPV, but I felt there was something wrong in asking the public for more money BEFORE they had seen even one programme.
So it was that I was not happy to do this latest telethon but I did it because I wanted TPV to succeed.
Despite my misgivings, I put my heart into it including organising a Question Time-style panel and a film recorded on New Year’s Eve about people who are doing important activism to make positive changes to our world.
I was, and remain, proud of this input – and output – and all the people involved in making this happen and all for only the petrol money to cover the filming.
After the telethon, I slept badly on Friday night and by Saturday morning I had sent an e-mail to David Icke outlining my serious concerns about the finances at The People’s Voice.
I heard nothing back from him. This was unusual because David is not only a prolific writer but he has always responded within hours, sometimes minutes, of my sending him an e-mail.
I arrived at the TPV office on Monday about 10am. David’s office door, a glass-type partition, was closed and I tapped on it. He refused to look up at me and kept staring at the screen in front of him.
Undaunted, I opened the door, said ‘good morning’ and asked if I could have a talk with him. He refused. He said he had to wait until Sean arrived before we could talk. I asked him when that would be. He said any minute.
Sean arrived about 45 minutes later. Liz Roberts, Head of Production, came to me and said they were ready for the meeting. Then, somewhat oddly, she led me to the darkened, sound-proofed studio where the music and performance segment of TPV is recorded.
I was uncomfortable with this as I was uncertain why we were meeting in here seeing as David normally conducts meetings in his or Sean ADL’s office, both at the end of the TPV main office.
Several chairs had been placed in the darkened studio in a semi-circle and I sat down on the chair that was most set apart from the others. Sean ADL took a seat and Liz Roberts went to get David Icke. It was silent between Sean and I and we waited a minute or so until David Icke joined us.
I could see that David was already furious when he arrived in the room. He looked how I had seen him on several other occasions when he has lost his temper with members of staff. He sat down on the chair directly opposite me and in the middle of Sean ADL and Liz Roberts and I said, ‘who’s going to start?’
David said that seeing as I was the one with the allegations, it should be me.
I told him that for the past few weeks people in the office – including volunteers and paid staff – had been coming to me and making troubling accusations about misappropriation of the funds.
I had heard stories of nights out on expenses, of many rounds of drinks and food being bought in pubs, of takeaways and alcohol being ordered to the People’s Voice by – and for – paid staff members.
There were even more outrageous accusations told to me including people who received money from TPV who had some personal involvement with David Icke.
I told David, Sean ADL and Liz Roberts that TPV was struggling financially because public goodwill towards TPV was at a low ebb because, amongst other things, a lack of transparency.
I said that I felt it personally important to see how the money had been spent up to this point – and not least because David always agreed with me about the importance of transparency in all dealings.
David’s voice was raised and he demanded to hear more of my allegations and who they involved.
I felt that this was some kind of a trap and I said I wasn’t going to name names at this stage and that I just wanted to see where the money had been spent. He refused. He said I would have to wait until the end of the year. He was furious that I dared to question the funds.
His entire attitude was indignant and outraged by my request. I asked him if I would need to put in a Freedom of Information request to get the information from The People’s Voice regarding accounting.
I was shocked by the corporate front that David Icke, Liz Roberts and Sean ADL were showing me with regard what had happened with the money and I said that I believed TPV was operating no differently – with it’s hierarchy of decently paid management, numerous unpaid volunteers and no accountability – to the corporations we despised.
It was at this point that David Icke lost his temper completely. He started shouting that I was the most divisive character that he had ever met in the media and that everyone hated me at TPV. He asked Liz Roberts to back this statement up but she couldn’t. Given that Liz has previously stated in public in the office that I am ‘an example to all of us’, I didn’t feel that she could really back up his accusation with any credibility.
This emotional attack from David alarmed me greatly. I had only asked for financial transparency and not only was he refusing to let me have this information but he tried to use intimidation techniques to deflect me from pursuing it too.
David Icke tells everyone I am a PROPER journalist. His words. When I am on air I am told he walks from office to office, pointing at the screen and saying ‘that’s real journalism’. The big problem here is
David Icke is only happy when I am investigating anyone or anything other than him and The People’s Voice.
I am not saying that anyone has carried out fraud at TPV. I have no proof of that. What I am saying, however, is that I believe there exists a cavalier attitude, at times, to the spending of public funds.
At TPV I have seen the letters of people who donate their hard-to-come-by cash. Children giving up their pocket money and pensioners contributing part of their pension. It greatly upsets me to see the laissez faire attitude towards their money.
The statement on my departure released by TPV and written by David Icke – according to Liz Roberts in correspondence with presenter Barrie Sharpe – was designed to smear me.
None of what was said even came up in the meeting yesterday morning. David Icke’s statement was an affront not only to me but to anyone who supports me and to anyone who donated their time, efforts and money to TPV. Thank goodness so many people have seen right through it and reacted accordingly.
I would be more than happy to debate TPV with David Icke, Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Liz Roberts on camera and in a neutral environment. I have nothing to hide.
It is not me who seeks to take people into a darkened room away from other people in the office at the point when the person wants to address important questions about alleged financial mismanagement. I am, and remain, transparent in my dealings.
I am informed by a member of staff that there have been orders to ‘remove me’. This includes taking down a great deal of information I have conveyed on film at TPV including a video we shot on New Years Eve about children being taken into care and about people campaigning against fracking.
David Icke says The People’s Voice is about ‘the content and not the personality’. If that is so, why would he have sanctioned the removal of ‘the content’ that I contributed to The People’s Voice?
Content, I might add, that I have already copied and feel totally at liberty to post on to Youtube. I believe that the public, who paid for this, is entitled to that and it should not be stopped because of the vindictive behaviour of people who claim to know better.
I am in no doubt that David Icke shouted at me in the meeting because, rather than accept that there may be a problem of a certain culture growing at TPV, he chose to deflect the blame for his failings onto me and my character.
I acknowledge that I am capable of being a fiery character. I’ve said it on camera. It’s part of who I am but it is entirely wrong – as they suggest in the official statement about my departure – to suggest that I don’t treat people with respect.
You only have to look at the wonderful things that have been said about me following my departure from TPV. I am quite blown away by the strength of support.
So I have to ask: why would David Icke attempt to smear my character? I only asked where The People’s Voice money had gone to?
Hardly an unreasonable question, I thought, given myself – and many others – were contributing great amounts of time and money to making TPV happen.
I’m not looking for a medal but I did more than work at TPV, I have also put my hand in my own pocket and have funded a hire car, petrol, pictures and food for volunteers.
I am far from financially wealthy and I am a single parent with only my income coming in, but I have contributed what I could because I believed in what TPV was capable of.
I am deeply upset what has come to pass. It has taken me a day to compose my thoughts into any semblance of order. I believed in the capability of TPV. I don’t anymore. As it stands, it is not capable of being the true media we so desperately need in this world.
When I was sat in the meeting yesterday morning I realised that these three people before me were not capable of creating an alternative media. I knew that if I were to stay a moment longer I was in danger of damaging my own hard-won reputation of honesty and misleading the public too. I could not do that and that is why I left.
I am also upset because there are people at TPV whom I have become very fond of. Good people who want to make a better world but who are unaware – or don’t know how to deal with – the real issues of injustice right under their noses.
It won’t stop me trying to create that media I can imagine, though. I have gained a great deal of understanding of what not to do and I have plans right now how to implement my own show. I will only do this if it can be completely transparent because that is what I believe we need more of in this world. I thought TPV could offer that. It didn’t.
For the record, David Icke needs to understand that respect – as his official statement about me calls for – is a two-way street. He is so used to being all-powerful in his environment that he responds badly to being challenged.
Despite repeatedly saying that ‘presenters have free-will’ David Icke did not hesitate to make known some of his dissatisfactions with me inviting on guests whom he had fallen out with in the past.
I witnessed that side of him and so did Sean ADL and Liz Roberts. They sat back and allowed it to happen. That’s why they are still there. They do not challenge him because to do so would challenge the comfortable and unaccountable existence at TPV that they have come to enjoy.
Both Sean ADL and Liz Roberts publicly have stated that TPV may not survive beyond the end of January unless the station gets more money in. Well, as two of the people who have access to TPV’s funds, they would know.
As of this afternoon I have not received the requested information on financial accounting. How difficult can it be to show how much has been donated to The People’s Voice and where and by whom it has been spent?
Upon receipt of the information from The People’s Voice, I will report on my findings just as I report on the behaviour of other organisations.
The silence from the station, in response to the extraordinary support of people who are appalled at the statement issued by David Icke on behalf of The People’s Voice, speaks volumes.
This is my statement of the events of yesterday at The People’s Voice with David Icke, Liz Roberts and Sean Adl-Tabatabai. I have sent this statement to all these three people as well as posting it on my website and on social network sites.
Sonia Poulton, January 7th, 2014”