Appealing for phone images is dangerous

The recent London bomb atrocities have seen the widespread use of mobile phone pictures in all sections of the media.

The
use in newspapers, and on television, of pictures by amateur
photographers who have been at the scene of a major news story has
always been acceptable. However, recent attempts by TV channels to
encourage viewers to go out and get news pictures, and then transmit
the results direct to them, are totally unacceptable and border on the
irresponsible.

ITV’s London Tonight has been making regular
appeals to viewers with mobile phone cameras to “register with us, so
we can contact you when a news story breaks in your area, because we
want you, the viewer, to feel a part of the exciting world of
newsgathering”.

What happens if a viewer is seriously injured while taking part?

Will ITV be there to pick up the pieces and pay the medical bills?

To
add insult to injury, on its website appeal for pictures, ITV states:
“By sending us your video footage/ photographs/audio, you agree we can
broadcast, publish and edit the material and pass it onto others for
similar use in any media worldwide, without any payment being due to
you.”

(Italicisation by this writer.)n The BBC is also trying to
get in on the act. It is possibly the most wellknown and respected
broadcaster in the world, yet it seems to want to obtain material for
free, playing upon the lack of knowledge of copyright law by the
average mobile phone snapper.

In each of these cases, the
broadcasters seek the right, which could be highly lucrative, to
license, syndicate or otherwise make the material available to other
broadcast and publishing organisations, keeping all profits for
themselves and without guaranteeing the contributor that they will see
their name credited in print, or hear it broadcast.

But for sheer
effrontery, surely CNN takes the prize. It not only expects its viewers
to send it material without payment, but it states on its website: “You
agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless CNN, its parent and
affiliated companies… from all liabilities or losses, including,
without limitation, reasonable attorney’s fees.”

These TV
companies deserve condemnation for their outrageous demands. Remember
that two press photographers in recent times have been killed while
attending major news stories in London alone: one by the IRA’s
Bishopsgate bomb blast, the other during rioting in Brixton.

We
at the Chartered Institute of Journalists recommend that
nonprofessionals should not send in material to these above-mentioned
TV companies while they continue to exploit and denigrate news
photography and their potential contributors, both professional and
non-professional, in this way.

Barry
Beattie (freelance division), Dominic Cooper (general secretary),
Kenneth JA Brookes (copyright representative), Paul Stewart
(photographers’ division)n Chartered Institute of Journalists

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