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McLibel webchat, Sunday 5th June, 11.55pm

Edited transcript of the live chat that took place on 5th June, 11:55pm (BST)

Panel in attendance: Defendants Helen Steel and Dave Morris, Director Franny Armstrong, Editor David G Hill, Composers Chris Brierley and Frank Hutson and McSpotlight thingy Jesse.

[The livechat kicks off 11:55 ... several users are already logged in]

Dermot: As in the case of cigarette manufacturers in USA - do you think companies such as McDonalds can be sued in future for shortening lives?
Dave: The legal system works to protect corporations and politicians. I think what we all need to do is build up strong grassroots movements that can really challenge the power of such institutions.

John peer: Do you think that McD's offering of "healthy" food, eg a few sprigs of lettuce and a couple cherry tomatoes for a pound is anything more than an opputunity for another marketing angle?
Dave: Yeah I agree. They just want to exploit vegetarians like they already do meat eaters!

Mcdisgusted: it was disgusting to see the Mcdonalds advertising targeting kids in the shown ways. I wonder if anyone from Mcdonalds is reading this
Dave: Advertising is just idiotic capitalist propaganda shoved in the publics faces all the time. It should all be banned.

Franny: Hello Franny here

Jesse: Jesse, McSpotlight good-for-nothing singing-in ... signing-in as well as singing :-)

Jesse: Hmmmm - Apols for the delay in replying ... the panel are experiencing some tech problems. Keep the comments, questions and chat going ... it's all appreciated and ... I'm sure they'll be online very shortly

Dave: AAh, problems solved?

Question to Franny: My question to Franny was wether you thought the BBC had ridden on the success and hard work of the McLibel pair - would you have still made the docu if they had failed? And where were you during the trial(s)
Franny: I followed Helen and Dave from 1994 - three years before the verdict - so obviously I didn't know whether they were going to win or lose until they got the verdict. I always thought it was an amazing story that two people were prepared to fight against such odds - whether they won or not. And I couldn't be happier that the BBC now seem to agree that it's a story that lots of people want to hear about. Where was I during the trial? Tagging along behind Helen and Dave with a heavy camera.

TavMan: I have two points I would like to made: (1) Eating a Mc Chicken Nugget is less humane than picking off meat from bone and fat with your teeth on an unprocessed chicken drumstick like some primitive caveman. This is where McDonalds and companies like them will always win. (2) The consumer always takes the easy and shortest route (it is unfortunately human nature), for instance, people complain about where Lottery money is spent but still buy tickets. Corporations lay the path by hiding animal cruelty, paying off dictators, etc÷ from view and at the same time make order and structure for logo'ism fully visible.
Dave: Corporation and their products are everywhere because they control the resources and ceaselessly promote themselves and thier products on us all. So the real issue for us all is not "what products should i buy"?, but "how can we make a difference collectively in our lives"? There are two sides in society on one side those who have power and money and on the other side are billions of people like us just trying to get on with our lives. If we were a tenth as well organised as the institutions which dominate our society then i am sure we can transofrm decisions are made and how society isrun. By It would be great if there was a residents group in every street a workers group in every workspace and activist networks inevery town and village throughout the world trying to reclaim ourlives and take control of our lives.

Question to Dave: How can i join a group like yours
Dave: The main group that i am involved with is my local residents association in north london why not start your own where you live?

Question to Franny: Why was this site & webchat not mentioned at the end of the BBC2 broadcast? Can this documentary be downloaded any time soon for further disemination, to "broaden" the "cast" so to speak?
Franny: I think the BBC are not allowed to advertise outside websites on the TV - but they did link from their website. The documentary is available on DVD from Spanner Films' website: - and is being released in the cinema in America next week.

Brendan: Welcome back Dave, I hope all is well now (on the technical front)
Dave: We've had some difficulties - were all just volunteers doing our best to get the message out.

Question to Dave: Do you believe that it is realistic as you said in the film to have a world with no corporations?
Dave: I don't believe it's realistic to have a world WITH corporations and governments - look at the mess they're causing everywhere. There must be a better alternative and it's up to us all to make it happen.

Steven: What about the fine why they never claimed it, that 40000 pound?
Helen: They realised it would just create more bad publicity for them. Thousands of people around the world were continuing to distribute leaflets in defiance of their censorship efforts and they knew they had lost the battle.

Matthew: Do you think corporations should be banned from suing in defamation - or do you think that the better course is to ensure legal aid and fair trails - and then the coproations can be forced to confront in court the reality of the claims made against them by protesters (as you made mcdonalds do on many issues and would have even more so had the trial been fairer)??
Helen: I think multinationals should not have the right to sue for libel because many people are deterred from making justifiable criticisms because of the fear of a libel suit. Although legal aid would improve things campaigners could still be tied up for years in court cases- which itself has a deterrent effect. We tried to make the best of a bad situation by turning the tables and putting mcdonald's on trial.
Dave: The anti-mcdonalds campaign is only one of many such campaigns targeting specific corporations. But the important thing is that everybody where they live and work can stand up for their communities and take action for a better world. It's up to all of us to do what we can to challenge the power of corporations and governments.

Question to Franny: Franny, was there anything cut from the documentary as we saw it? and is there anything you wish you`d put in?
Franny: There was only one very small cut made for the BBC broadcast - we worked very hard, along with the BBC lawyers, to get every little thing checked and double checked. and there ended up with only one tiny cut - a brilliant result. the only thing I wish I'd put in - or filmed more of - was Helen and Dave under pressure. At one point Dave was actually crying cos he was so stressed, but I felt too sorry for him to film him (amateur filmmaking at work!! this was my first film though)

Question to Dave: Dave, i will play devils advocate if i may. You campaign for freedom of speech, yet you want to ban Mcdonlads from advertising to their target consumers. Please explain how this is not an infringement of Mcdonalds freedom of speech.
Dave: I dont think corporations are entitled to brainwash people with their idiotic and unsolicited propaganda. All they care about is exploiting consumers and making profits for their wealthy shareholders.

Franny: Yup. It's true and I have the pictures to prove it. He was one of 93 people who worked on the film over 10 years. Almost all of them voluntary.

Question to Dave: Dave, have you only produced educational leaflets regarding McDonalds, or also multinationals such as Nike or GAP that are known to treat their workers terribly?
Dave: All multinationals exploit their workers that is why hundreds of millions of people all over the world organise union branches in their workplaces to fight for their rights and refuse to be slaves! Workers, enviromentalists and grassroots activists of all kinds need to support each other.

Gorligan: Just saw the show. You guys are legends! I live in a small town in Ireland and McDonalds have come in and converted one of our oldest buildings into one of their "restaurants". It makes me sick. Just wanna ask What next for you guys?? Surely this isn't the end of your fight??
Dave: Blimey all these questions are hard work. Beleive it or not this is all being coordinated by volunteers in argentina and wales! Anyway, me and helen are nobody special - the mclibel case was only successful because of the voluntary work of so many people helping out behind the scenes in so many heroic ways. The imporatant thing is not to focus on us two and all that celebrity/legends/hero/leaders nonsense but to appreciate all the good people all around you and get something going to change the world where you live.

Question to Chris: I also like the music, especially the fast funky track - with the 'trumpet' (at the end as well as during the film). Please please, who is this track by and is it available?
Chris: Hello. I'm Chris. I gave a load of music to Franny to drop into the film and she saw fit. Most of it was by The Band of Holy Joy (who I used to be the violin player in and Franny was the drummer at one point). It was great to hear it going out tonight on BBC. There are plans afoot to release a soundtrack album, mixed by the legendary Frank Frenzy. The track you liked is called "The REal Thing", by the Band of HOly Joy, on the album "Love Never Fails", released by Rough Trade.

Neil Scott: Franny - I hope you are going to put your talents to good use at the G8. Dave and Helen - any plans for early July? Fancy a holiday in Scotland?
Franny: It's great to see that when the most powerful people in the world get together to slap each other on the back and keep the system going, that hundreds of thousands of people turn up to protest at all the njustice, oppression poverty and enviromental destruction that those world leaders are responsible for.

herbetsaucer: Do yo feel that your kind of political campaigning, high profile and news worthy, is the same as the 'grass roots' work you talk about. Is it just lucky that you were picked up on by the media? If so, do you really think that this kind of campaigning will make any real difference? (McDevils Advocate)
Helen: The leafletting campaign was a grassroots campaign. we were probably lucky to be sued by mcdonalds as one of the most well known corporations in the world, which guaranteed media interest- which makes a change from their avoidance of criticism of multinational corporations. much of the media is completely wasted on trivia about celebrities etc when it should be focusing on the issues which affect our everyday lives. But until it does it is up to everybody to continue raising these issues in their communities and workplaces.

Helen: Sorry i haven't written more - a few technical hitches at the start. Have to leave you all now as i've got an early start tomorrow. thanks to everyone for their contributions. I'll try to read them all sometime soon. Night night.

Rachael: "almullins im asking DAVE why he is using Microsoft instead of open source Linux" hehe... good point - although, given the problems they had, they're perhaps no that into computers ...
Jesse: Hehe, there's a very good moment on one of the DVD extra bits where Dave basically admits to getting it wrong about the power of email, the internet and the www in general ... we had to work hard. Dave was suspicious that all this technology would just distract from the REAL job at hand - which is hanging out leaflets. The fact that with McSpotlight was able to distribute to millions of people all at once took a little time to dawn on our favourite luddite.

Question to Franny: Is tonights doc going to be available on DVD
Franny: Yup, you can buy it now from our website:

roarface: I think potatoe digging sounds cool
Dave: Me and helen shared an allotment together before the courtcase but i was a crap gardener. She manages to produce loads of different vegetables etc. In london, vegetable plots are one of the few remaining places where residents can grow their own food and get away from traffic and so on. There should be a lot more such places. In fact, we in the west rely far too much on the labour of agricultural workers all over the rest of the world to supply us with our food, clothes etc etc. It would be great if every country was self sufficient as possible.

Brendan: Can an education system ever truly beat generations of multinational advertisment brainwashing? surely the longer we leave it the less chance society had of escaping the clutch of greed that is megacorps
Dave: It's been a real education for me to be involved in a wide range of campaigning groups over the last thirty years. We can all learn from each other and spread ideas and encouragement to the whole population. That way we will be able to counter the messages that are being forced on us by those who want us just to be obedient consumers and workers.

Dave: Nor does capitalism. So lets all take over the decision making and resources ourselves. I am signing off now, I've got to go home. I send my solidarity and best wishes to everyone whose been logging on. Lets all be positive about reclaiming our future. Go for it!

youthworker_org: It's a shame much of has been broken for such a long time
Jesse: It is (sad and in many instances) true - that said the main drive behind the site at the moment is that it remains as an archive of the case, that it served a very important role during and immediately after the trial itself and that it will FOREVER be a place where people will be able to find out the facts and the truth. And of course new recruits, ideas and energy always welcome ;-)

Question to Franny: I'd still like to know if McDonalds at any time were asked for comment on the programme - cheers
Franny: Hi there. We asked McDOnald's lots of times, yes, but they declined. That's why we had to do the reconstructions to get their point of view across. Also, wehad to get bits of footage of them talking from various places.

Jesse: Keep'em coming!

Jesse: Sorry the spammers have taken over the sofa AND the comfy beanbag in this room at the moment. We'll go through the transcript later and answer the serious questions. So if anyone has more, please send 'em in.

Question to Franny: Franny what is Spanner Films next project ?
Franny: We've just started our next doc, Crude, - about oil, climate change and the end of the world. See for more ...

Question to Franny: Was the footage of animals being slaughtered directly linked to McDonalds, or was it just archive footage?
Franny: Some footage was filmed inside McDOnald's suppliers (the wide shots of the chicken sheds), some was not McDonald's suppliers, but used the same methods as they do (the chickens getting slaughtered).

Frank: Hi Frank here. I wrote two of the tracks for McLibel. (When Helen is in the nightclub, we had to write a new track for the background cos Franny couldn't get the rights for whatever was playing. By the way, I'm in that scene too! As is Chris the composer, Lizzie the Assistant Producer, David the Editor, Neve the cameraman, Karen the photographer, Louise the voice of the spy and Franny !!). Franny and I had a brainwave the other day - we're going to release a soundtrack album cos everyone keeps asking us what the tracks are. Any advance orders to pay for us to make it?!?!

Question to Franny: Great Job! Is it difficult to make a film over such a long period of time?
Franny: I've never known any different, so it's hard to say. (This was my first film). Obviously a lot of times were very frustrating - eg trying to persuade a broadcaster to show the film or to get McDonald's to do an interview - but generally every single day was very inspiring. I couldn't believe I had such a great story on my hands.

Question to Frank: Frank, I can sell it on iTunes, MSN, etc through my record label if your interested
Frank: Great! Sounds really interesting. PLease contact me through our website What's the name of your record company? do you have a website?

The Crazy Frog: Can someone confirm that the panel are answering real questions :-)
Jesse: ... erm, yes. It takes a little tiem to grab a good'un and type a good repokly is all ... so there may seem to be a bit of a delay.

AlexS: What are you going to call the album "McMeat is murder?" Just a thought ...
Chris: We're thinking "The McLibel Soundtrack". Is that too boring? Any more suggestions? PS. Are you a Morrissey fan?

macyds lover: They had an air conditioned, endless supply of food, space to walk around, what more could they want, not forced to lay eggs.
Chris: If you want to eat the products of factory farming, bon appetit. PS. What do you think about bird flu, BSE, E. Coli etc?

andyboy: Franny, can you sell me a PD170 off the back of a lorry? Pretty please?
Franny: Eh? Do you think I'm a camera dealer? I have one, very precious PD170 - which we filmed McLibel on - and you can't have it. Sorry.

The Crazy Frog: Hey panel, could you please confirm who is still here? I assume dave and helen left long ago
Jesse: Franny, Chris, Frank, Jesse for sure ... I think Helen and Dave have taken a 'break' from it ... they deserve the rest surely! ... 10 min warning - room is closing in approx 10 mins

Abbie Normal: Never been on mcspotlight before tonight but congrats on being so highly ranked on goggle. What are the chances of actually getting it above Mcdonalds itself? Thanks to everyone for turning up by the way!
Jesse: For quite a while it was ranked above McD in ALL engines ... and that with little or no work at it! ... to do with the number of pages, links to the McSpot website from other sites and oh yes, ours is SOOOO much better and more informative. You can help of course ... heard of Google bombing? Basically link to our site from your site but wrap the link around the word McDonald's ... the result will be that McSpotlight get's a higher ranking on the search word McDonald's!

stevie: Anyone remeber 'the playthings'?
Frank: Why, do you? The Playthings were a pop group from the late 80s that boasted ME on guitar and franny on drums. One of our tracks is used in McLIbel in the scene when helen and Dave are going to get the verdict in the original trial. (Obviously it was cheaper for Franny to get hold of music from people she knows than pay real prices. This whole film was made with no budget at all, by the way)

lillya: I'll help the Google bomb with a link from my site. There's also a Google bomb campaign to get "ugly graphics" to point to BBC Weather!
Jesse: lol - v good :-)

Question to Franny: I just wanted to know what extent you thought objectivity was a necessary part of documentary making?
Franny: I think all documentaries (and all media) are biased. Some pretend that they're not, but is that really helpful? At least ours isn't pretending to anything other than it is.

Jesse: ... yes it's 2am, well 2am is the 'official' closing time ... prob a bit of a lock-in for a bit ...

Question to Franny: Hey Franny, out of interst if u spent 10 years with Helen and Dave how did u fund the film, not to mention afford to live? also what format did u edit on?
Franny: We edited on Avid DV Express, which is mindblowingly brilliant, considering how (relatively) cheap it is. The film did take 10 years to make, but I had about 6 years off in the middle! (when I made some other docs, including 'Drowned Out' about the fight against the Narmada dam. See ). The film was funded mainly from donations from the public and selling our footage to the news.

The Crazy Frog: You should organise some McD's protests, call em Golden Marches ... that could annoy McDs
Frank: Golden Marches - great name! But who is this "you" who should organise them? How about you?

[The live chat ends 2:05am ... Frank manages to get the last word ... AGAIN!]

The film: Spanner Films
The broadcast: BBC2 listings
The time: World Time Server