Leading media organisations, including the BBC and Sky News, said Friday they had been forced to hand over untransmitted footage of the August riots to police.
At least 3,450 people have been arrested for the four nights of violence and looting in London and other English cities, but police are still trawling through an estimated 40,000 of hours of CCTV footage to identify other suspects.
They also want to look at television pictures, including footage that has never been released, but broadcasters resisted this request because of fears that they would be targeted in future disorder as police informants.
However, police successfully obtained court production orders to force them.
“We would ask the media to work with the police… Obviously in this case we’ve had to go to the courts and apply to get the footage released,” a spokesman for Scotland Yard told AFP.
He added: “They have footage that we don’t. Obviously we don’t have a camera at every angle of every corner so the footage that the media has is helpful in bringing those people to justice.”
The BBC and Sky News confirmed they had responded to the court order.
“We require requests for un-transmitted material to be made through the courts. A production order requiring footage of the riots was served on the BBC and a court agreed that the material should be supplied,” a BBC statement said.
A spokeswoman for Sky News added: “Our standard policy is that we do not supply material to the police without a court order.
“On occasions — as has happened with some of our footage of the riots — where police request untransmitted material and an order is obtained, we will comply with it.”
Police said the other leading British broadcaster, ITN, had also been ordered to release footage but the firm would not confirm this, saying only that when police sought production orders, they had challenged them.