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Enigma Issue 18: Country File - Further Comments

by Matthew Williams | Spring 1999

My name is Matthew Williams and I am referred to in Paul Vigay's recent report on the Countryfile program dealing with Crop Circles.

I just wanted to state that whilst Paul's article is the most accurate on this particular program I have seen there are subtle problems which I need to explain which will help the reader understand why parts of the program appeared the way they did.

The TV Game

Firstly before I go on to the details of the program let me say that over the years I have been involved with TV programs and documentaries on both sides of the camera. I know how the TV game works and the ways that program makers often make assumptions and cut corners in order to give the "feel" they want to a piece of work. I have often found program makers encouraging people to say things "their way" and also to stage situations which are obviously unnatural to the witness. This ends up making a slick piece of TV but does not represent the true facts of a situation. In essence - coming from somebody who knows - don't trust anything you read in newspapers or see on TV. It is often lies or gross exaggeration!!!

In the case of the Country File show, it appears that the makers had wanted a particular slant on what crop circles were about and had done a "pre-treatment" which gave an outline of who they would like to see in the show and the types of things they expected people to say.

Lies, Damned Lies and TV Editing

Having picked the people and contacted them, filming commenced and suitable comments and statements were picked and earmarked for the edit. These comments may not be a true reflection of the whole conversations which really took place because after all the segment was only about 20 minutes or so. This defines the word "Edit". Participants rarely have any choice over how they are edited into a program and often sign "release forms" to allow their interviews to be used in programs. These release forms are a moral disclaimer which basically means that the program makers are allowed to make a person say or appear to do anything they want in their editing and re-jigging... and that you have no right to redress. In fact, these release forms hold no real legal basis because someone can still complain that the material was defamatory or lied in some way and seek redress through courts or TV ombudsman, but this rarely ever happens.

The Important Bit

Now I will give you a small example of how the feature misrepresented the events of the night in relation to us finding "The Circlemakers" at work in the field below Milk Hill, opposite Stanton St Bernard.

Nightwatching...

After Doug & Dave and TV crew had driven off from the interview conducted on East Kennett Hill, at high speed - helped by a police road block, to prevent researchers from following them... myself and researcher Paul Damon went on a scan of the countryside to see if we could spot the group. Armed with nightvision binoculars and my 1.5 million candlewatt search-lamp we scoured the area surrounding Silbury Hill and Avebury and then moved on to Alton Barnes. We knew that other researchers were out looking for the TV cars in other areas. We were just the lucky ones who found them... and it wasn't how the TV show represented it happened! Also it was the very first time this team of circlemakers (the most prolific team ever to hit the fields of Wiltshire!) were caught at night, making circles.

High Speed Car Chases!

We were driving near Stanton St Bernard and saw a car full of people known to me as circlemakers - but as it turns out this group were not the team who were helping the BBC. I stopped and asked the group why they were there and were they helping the BBC with making a circle. They stated that they knew nothing about the BBC being in the area and were just parked up having a chat. I found this suspicious and was just about to question them further when the BBC TV car turned up and drove down the small lane where we were and drove past us. When they realised that we as researchers had spotted them they sped off, performed a series of high speed turns and tore off at 70 mph plus, along the country lanes. We tried to follow, but the BBC had a faster car and got away.

We returned to the circlemakers and asked them why the BBC would just happen to come near them when they were parked up. They said they did not know and eventually when we stopped talking, they drove off, and we followed their car out of the area. Thinking that the BBC coming to the Stanton St Bernard parking was too much to chance and that they may be meeting the circlemakers later on, we returned to the same spot and waited. Lo-and-behold the BBC drove past again. So were they trying to meet these circlemakers? Apparently not....

We gave pursuit to the BBC and due to their Volvo 440 Turbo versus our Nissan Micra 1 litre, we didn't get very far against their now 80+ mph chase speed! So we had lost them a second time. Still, we knew that car parking spot was significant in some way, so decided to scan all the fields in that area. About 20 minutes later at nearly the same spot where the cars were parked we observed a white Volvo 400 parked in a field below Milk Hill. We observed this via our lamp and not the nightvision camera, though the nightvision camera was used to spot the occupants of the Volvo near the car about to head into the field.

We drove up the path towards the Volvo and observed other cars parked nearby and were greeted by a rather angry circlemaker known as John Lundberg....

Caught in the Act

John thought that our sole purpose in following the BBC and approaching them now was to stop them making their circle, with the BBC. However once I had explained to John that we were not out to spoil their circlemaking activities - simply to show that they could be caught in the act, and that I was happy to watch the circle being made things calmed down and we were allowed to observe the making of the formation. The BBC had paid the farmer for the use of the field and because everything was above board we had no right to interfere.

To note, this team of circlemakers were a different set of people to the group we had seen in the other car and when we explained that we had seen another group nearby, this group denied having known they were in the area. To be honest I see no reason for the team we were with or the BBC to lie about this as the game was up, so to speak, there was no point in any more secrecy.

During the night the BBC regularly stopped the circlemaker team and Doug to conduct interviews. The BBC were using nightvision equipment and this allowed all activities to take place in complete darkness so was for the very first time a fair way to see that the circlemakers claims of being able to create complex and large circles in the dark are indeed true.

Delayed Start

However the problems started in that because of the chasing around in cars had delayed the start of the circlemaking. The constant interruptions from the BBC and indeed us to talk to the circlemakers as they worked meant that progress on the circles was running behind. The circlemaker team did finish their circle before sun-up but it appeared that Doug and Rupert Segar had been very slow and needed help finishing off.

This goes against Paul Vigay's point that Doug seemed hardly capable of making a large circle... indeed he could have if not interrupted. Doug was fitter than Rupert Segar, the interviewer, who was much younger!

The interviews with Rupert, which came later on were slightly staged in order to give a different impression about the way the circles were being created - one of linear creation without interruption from the BBC.... however this was not the case - there were indeed lots of interruptions. In fairness to the circlemakers, had they started earlier in the night and worked without distractions they could have created a circle probably in excess of three times the size of the pattern they finally created.

The Finished Work

By morning light we could see the finished work and we were thoroughly impressed by their formations and those of Doug Bower... though we know that the TV piece has a flavour which does not ring quite true to the events as they happened. But that is TV... it is not for the insiders... it is for millions of viewers who are not so well informed... and what viewers want to see and more importantly what program producers want them to see is vastly different.

Thanks to Paul Vigay for putting forward his piece. I thought I would expand on it to help people understand that TV is not the best medium for learning the truth and Paul‘s idea that you have to immerse yourself in the flesh to learn about this and any other subject is a valid one.

Yours sincerely.

Matthew Williams

(written quickly so sorry for less than perfect grammar and spelling)

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