The People’s Voice, part 1

The launch of The People’s Voice – and its spectacular decline – was one of the biggest stories of 2014 for those interested in the conspiracy / spirituality milieu. It was to be an independent “alternative” TV channel, initially broadcast through the Internet, entirely funded by public donations and advertising. It was also to a considerable degree a David Icke production. He fronted the initial campaign, and was heavily featured in the programming; davidicke.com’s webmaster, Sean Adl-Tabani, was the project’s manager, and a number of Icke’s collaborators and family had prominent roles.

I followed the project from its inception, watched much of the programming, and observed the decline and eventual implosion. I also took notes now and again, especially when I thought there was a risk of certain things being retracted or redacted down the line. So as a matter of historical record, I offer this account. I offer no speculations on the motives or morality of the people involved, although you can easily find such speculation online, if you want to (for example, here and here).

The project was launched with a fundraising campaign on Indigogo on May 31st, 2013. It ended July 10th 2013, and raised £300,692, more than three times its £100,000 goal. The video has been removed from the web, probably because it prominently featured Sonia Poulton, Barrie Sharpe and Elissa Hawke, all of whom would leave the station shortly after (or in Sharpe’s case, before) the station launched.

The campaign also prominently featured a quote from Russell Brand, although Brand would ultimately not appear on the People’s Voice:

‘I am excited by David’s new venture. We all complain about media bias and now we will have an outlet beholden only to the people. I think it will be crazy and fun and I hope to be on it.’ – Russell Brand

10/11/13 – first fundraising telethon. This was essentially a dry-run of the station’s capabilities, using the second studio for performance segments and the main studio for interviews, and so on, interspersed with film of Icke and others asking for donations and extolling the promise of TPV.

25/11/13 – The station launched with an ambitious aim to broadcast 24 hours a day. The schedule was initially structured around two two-hour current event talkshows – Richie Allen in the morning and Sonia Poulton in the afternoon. Around these were slotted other regular shows on a weekly basis, many produced in-house. Several ran for almost the entire 4-month existence of TPV, including The Banned (music and comedy, hosted by Icke’s son Gareth), The People’s Health (hosted by Elizabeth Seninde) and David Icke’s Newspaper Review. Others including Ken O’Keefe’s Middle East Show, WTF (a youth program) and Wakey Wakey (a breakfast magazine show presented by Elissa Hawke) had only a few episodes produced, and some, like Barrie Sharpe’s, never appeared at all. There was a nightly meditation, a late-night phone-in show, and the rest of the schedule was made up of shows and podcasts produced by others, and repeats. The schedule was not reliable, however.

Given that this was essentially a one-room operation with a skeleton crew, many of whom were volunteers, it was an impressive start. By and large, the DIY quality was rather charming, and Allen and Poulton managed to produce a lot of pretty professional content in what must have been a fairly chaotic situation. But by the middle of December, you could tell that the crew were becoming tired, and more and more repeats appeared in the schedule.

3/1/14 – A second telethon was held only 6 weeks after the first. It was claimed that this was to tide the station over until advertising revenue increased.

 

6/1/14

Sonia Poulton

6 January via BlackBerry Smartphones App

Today I have left The People’s Voice. I didn’t want to. I have put my heart and soul into it but I have become aware that to stay there is very bad for the things I stand for and fight for. I will be issuing a statement soon. Thank you for all the wonderful support. New plans already underway.

The People’s Voice

Statement regarding Sonia Poulton:

Sonia Poulton has decided to leave The People’s Voice today after threatening to walk out in the middle of a live show if she didn’t get her way. This was the third time that she had threatened to walk out if her view did not prevail and she chose to leave after a discussion about her behaviour during the live show and other matters.

We thank Sonia for her efforts over the last few weeks since The People’s Voice has been on air.

If TPV is going to succeed everyone must work together for the common good and treat each other with equal respect.

 

Sonia Poulton

I am aware of the statement put out by The People’s Voice regarding my departure today. I can state, with absolute certainty, that the reason given was not even mentioned at this morning’s meeting. It was the ‘other matters’ that was the cause of my leaving. I hope you can bear with me as I gather myself to release a statement of full events from the start of my time at TPV until the finish.

 

7/1/2014 

Sonia Poulton

I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received following my departure from The People’s Voice on Monday, January 6, 2014.

This is my statement of events.

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.

 

8/1/2014

Response to Sonia Poulton statement.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a producer here at TPV and I have had to suspend my work on programming this morning in order to respond on behalf of TPV to unfounded and malicious public comments made by Sonia Poulton in relation to her departure from the station. I will attempt to answer as many of the concerns as possible which have been raised in this forum, as a result of the scurrilous, ambiguous and potentially harmful allegations which our former presenter decided to publish yesterday afternoon.

TPV would like to announce that a full cost report of expenditure from day one until the present will be made public imminently, hopefully within the next 48 hours. These will not be full audited accounts prepared by chartered accountants – those will follow in due course at the appropriate time, as this is indeed a legal requirement. It is, however, necessary to respond to allegations of financial impropriety as soon as we can, in view of our publicly funded, not-for-profit status, and the fact that you, our viewers, have funded TPV. The malicious allegations which Sonia decided to make in her statement of January 7th could be harmful to TPV, and whilst we really do have better things to do, certain things must be cleared up once and for all so that this entirely selfish attempt to slander us comes to an end.

Further, in response to unfounded speculation on this forum, we draw your attention to the fact that we are always here to respond to your concerns or questions through the ‘Contact Us’ button found in the ‘About Us’ section of our website http://www.thepeoplesvoice.tv.  We are, of course, aware that sometimes people do not receive a response as quickly as they would wish, but please remember that we are staffed largely by volunteers, who are stretched way beyond the normal realms of expected workload, even for a TV station, and we are all doing the best we can. Apologies to those of you who may have had difficulty engaging with TPV in this way, and this situation will improve as we move forward 

Sonia’s allegations yesterday are completely unfounded and made with malice. We could become embroiled in a petty mud-slinging exercise but we choose not to, out of professionalism, human decency, and the fact that we do not want to indulge in this schoolyard behaviour. 

The accusations she made yesterday are untrue, unfounded and unsubstantiated, but it is easy to see through them. No names are mentioned, emotive adjectives are used liberally in an attempt to create drama, and sympathy for herself. And then there are outright lies.

For instance: the mention of a “missing camera: is used to create an impression of perhaps thirty thousand pounds worth of kit walking out of the door into someone’s car boot. In reality, this was a £400 domestic handycam, which was inadvertently left on a train by one of our most valued and talented volunteers after she had been out filming. Luckily, she still had the memory card in her pocket. Sonia knew all about this, yet chose to imply a picture of endemic theft and wrongdoing.

As mentioned above, our financial statement will be available to you all as soon as possible. Close inspection of this will yield no surprises. The set up and ongoing running of this channel has been an expensive undertaking and miracles have been worked in all areas. Stories of staff and volunteers squandering money on drinks in pubs and takeaways are also fabricated. We are happy to indicate the rare instances of where we made valid production decisions on catering to anyone who is interested.

I am making this statement as a senior producer at TPV with 20 years experience in TV. As many members of the TPV crew as possible were consulted in the draft of this statement in order to ensure its veracity, accuracy and the feeling of all staff here.

A response on behalf of The People’s Voice staff and volunteers. Please direct your response via the ‘About TPV’ button above and ‘Contact Us’.  Thank you for your continued support during the past few days.

9/1/2014

Statement regarding Transparency

When we decided upon a legal structure through which to operate TPV we had to balance the need for transparency against cost and regulation.

After taking advice we decided to incorporate Peoples Voice Broadcasting Limited as a private limited company. Principally because we did not wish to burden TPV with the increased regulatory cost and operational restrictions that apply to Charities and Community Interest Companies (CIC).

However, transparency is important to us and we are happy to give the following undertakings:

1) That no shareholder of TPV will ever take a dividend from the company.

2) We will voluntarily publish quarterly management accounts on our website, these will be reviewed by our external Chartered Accountants. Our next quarter-end will be 31st January and we aim to publish figures within two months of each quarter end.

3) As a small company we are only required to file abbreviated accounts at Companies House, however we voluntarily file full statutory accounts.

4) As a small company we are not required by law to have our accounts audited and this is helpful because it reduces our costs, an annual audit would cost in the region of £12,000 plus VAT. However, our statutory accounts will be prepared by our external Chartered Accountants and as such will carry an Accountant’s report in the standard ICAEW format.

5) Our first statutory period-end is 31st October 2014 and then annually thereafter. We will publish our full statutory accounts on our website by 31st January each year, just four months after each year-end. This is much sooner than the statutory filing requirement of nine months following each year-end.

6) We will voluntarily hold an annual “stakeholders” meeting, in London, within five months of our statutory period end, where we will be happy to answer questions from our sponsors, employees, volunteers and donors. We will ask a representative from our external Chartered Accountants to attend that meeting. We envisage that attendance at the meeting will be via a pre-booked ticket, sold at a small charge to cover costs, such as room hire. The precise format of the meeting will depend upon the number wanting to attend.

7) Our statutory accounts will voluntarily disclose details of any remuneration paid to any shareholder or director, or to any family member of a shareholder or director.

8) Our statutory accounts will voluntarily include a note showing the number of employees and sub-contractors paid in £10,000 (annualised) bands. We will not be disclosing individual names as we consider that would be an invasion of personal privacy

 

Financial Statement June 2013 to January 2014

As promised below is an overview of our expenditure since June 2013 – January 2014 broken down into categories.

As has already been mentioned on our previous statement the set up and ongoing running of this channel has been an expensive undertaking and miracles have been worked in all areas.

Department Bank Float
I.T./Editing equipment £5,012.41 £781.47
Website (Servers, bandwidth, set-up) £15,150.00
Repairs/Maintenance £226.61
Travel – Volunteer £2,069.25 £1,384.79
Travel – Other (Guests and Staff) £2,255.03 £142.11
Accommodation Hotels & Hostels £2,440.14
Food & Catering £589.09 £211.54
Studio Maintenance £1,055.93
Office Rent £1,200.00
Music Licences £1,456.80
Merchandise £700.00
General Office Overheads £2,590.34 £228.91
Utilities (Water, gas, electric) £1,407.97
Direct Wages £75,530.54
Video Streaming £18,109.63
Accounting/Book-keeping £1,957.50
Set-Up Costs (Studio equipment) £142,302.64 £365.98
Total £274,053.88 £3,114.80

A full financial statement will be released in accordance with our legal requirement at the end of the financial year.

 

3/1/14 – A second Indiegogo campaign, called The People’s Voice Must Get Louder, was launched. It closed on 2/2/14 having raised only £103,163 of its £400,000 goal.

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