Paedo fear strikes again as kids' concert bans pictures

Evening Post: has covered concert for many years

One of the country’s biggest musical festivals for primary schoolchildren has banned photographers from covering the event in another blow to press access created by a fear of paedophiles.

The picture ban on the concert at Colston Hall in Bristol, which involves more than 1,000 children, is a major setback for the press, which believed it had overcome such restrictions being wrongly imposed.

In an apparent breakthrough in January, Education Secretary Charles Clarke made it clear that his department had never issued advice to schools restricting the press taking photographs of pupils.

Instead, he claimed some local authorities and schools had “misinterpreted” guidance given by the Department for Education and Schools about schools using pictures of their own pupils for publicity purposes (Press Gazette, 16 January).

Clarke was responding to complaints by the Newspaper Society, which had a catalogue of examples of regional newspapers being told they could no longer cover traditional school events such as plays and sports days. Papers were erroneously told that allowing any pictures to be published would breach the Data Protection Act.

The Bristol Evening Post was told the ban on photography at the concert, which even extended to the parents of the children, was imposed after a private company asked the organisers for permission to video the event and sell copies afterwards.

John Searle, president of the Bristol Schools Music Society, said he decided to investigate the legal implications with the local authority, Bristol City Council.

He told the Evening Post: “I was advised that it was not illegal to photograph children, but we would need parental permission from all those children whose pictures were taken before they could be used in any way.”

It was considered impossible to contact all the parents before last week’s concert. The Bristol Evening Post has covered the event for more than 25 years.

Editor Mike Lowe told Press Gazette: “Just about every person in the country must have a yellowing cutting tucked away somewhere of their first appearance in their local newspaper.

“It would be a great shame if future generations were denied this because of a combination of misplaced paranoia and political correctness.

“We can see no reason why parents can’t be consulted on whether or not they want their children to appear in press photographs at the start of every school year. Those who want to opt out can.

Teachers then know exactly where they stand when the local snapper turns up.

By Jon Slattery

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