British PM David Cameron Put Pressure On Sony To Stall “Outlander” TV Show In UK Fearing Yes Vote In Scottish Referendum, Says WikiLeaks

By @diplomatist10 on
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to the media
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to the media following the killing of Scottish aid worker David Haines, at Number 10 Downing Street in London September 14, 2014. Cameron chaired a meeting of the government's emergency response committee on Sunday under growing pressure to sanction air strikes after an Islamic State video showed the beheading of a British hostage. Reuters/Stringer

The latest in WikiLeaks allege that British Prime Minister David Cameron put pressure on Sony Pictures, weeks before the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, to delay the release of a TV show "outlander" in the UK. The leaks talk about a meeting that Mr Cameron held with officials of the Sony Pictures, which also finds its mention in the internal communication of the media company.     

The 'Outlander' TV series depicts 18th century life in Scotland under a repressive British rule. WikiLeaks asserts that the screening of the serial was stopped under political pressure from the highest level. It seems the political leadership of the U. K was was wary of the TV serial fuelling nationalistic sentiments in the lead up to the independence referendum that was held in Sept 2014. The media company also sensed this, but, in its own perspective. 

Sony’s Internal Mail

The WikiLeaks released a leaked email from Sony Pictures' vice president Keith E. Weaver addressed to Sony executives, substantiating its claim. It speaks about a planned meeting with British PM David Cameron, and Weaver is seen reminding the staff about the "importance" of the TV serial to the political situation at the time.

"From a SPE [Sony Pictures Entertainment] perspective, your meeting with Prime Minister Cameron on Monday will likely focus on our overall investment in the U.K. — with special emphasis on the jobs created by Tommy Cooper [the ITV show], the importance of Outlander (i.e., particularly vis-à-vis the political issues in the UK as Scotland contemplates detachment this Fall), and the growth of our channel's business…" the email read.

Assange Flays Big Business

Justifying the release of the documents, WikiLeaks editor in chief Julian Assange said the leaks showed how big businesses were trying to influence certain decisions to suit their own interests. He said, “this archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geopolitical conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there."

However, the U.K government and Sony representatives did not make any comment. But the Scottish independence supporters seized on it and slammed Westminster for lobbying with foreign governments and for reportedly contacting more than 30 countries in the hope they would call for Scotland to remain in the union.

Political Motive

The Herald Scotland observed that the leaked email has endorsed the speculation that the U.K. Government did not want the TV show broadcast before the independence vote in September 2014. It said, London seems to have feared a backlash from the show's depiction of heroic, Gaelic-speaking highlanders fighting red-jacketed British soldiers may boost the Yes vote at the referendum.

The report also quoted an Outlander insider, who said if Mr Cameron had made an intervention on the transmission date of the show that would have made sense. But it added a sense of soft-pedaling by Sony was in sight and Sony "took their foot off the pedal with UK sales.”  It had all systems and the BBC up to see the set etc, but there was a definite sense of trying to back pedal, the source said.

“Outlander” was based on the best-seller book written by Diana Gabaldon. It was shot in Scotland. Finally, the TV show was broadcast in the U.K. in 2015, that too after screening it in all other countries. It is now available on the Amazon Prime streaming system

 (For feedback/comments, contact the writer at k.kumar@ibtimes.com.au)