Vigil for the BBC World Service

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear addresses the crowd of protesters and workers outside Bush House

BBC employees and NUJ members held a vigil for the World Service outside Bush House where it is based after it was announced that 650 jobs would be cut as well as ending the Azeri, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese and Ukrainian language services.

General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists Jeremy Dear said “We do not accept that there needs to be a single job or service cut” adding that the union was prepared to ballot for industrial action over the proposed cuts and job losses.

Photos: Vigil for the BBC World Service

BBC Staff begin 48hr strike at Television Centre

A NUJ placard outside BBC Television Centre
BBC NUJ members across the world started a 48 hour strike at 1 minute past midnight after 70% of members rejected the BBCs final offer on a reduced pensions deal.

The strike is set to paralyse the BBC’s news and current affairs output during the 48 hour walkout, as journalists across the world take part in the action. It’s thought that many of the BBC’s flagship news programmes will not air at all and will be replaced with repeats of old or prerecorded shows.

BBC journalists worldwide as well as across the UK will be picketing workplaces, with action taking place outside the BBC’s Washington, Los Angles, Paris, Rome, Kabul and Istanbul bureaux.

Photos: NUJ members strike over pensions deal

The Journalist Hustings

Candidates divided over how to take magazine online and charging for it

Candidates at the hustings last night. From left to right:

Last night seven of the eight candidates for the next editor of the NUJ’s magazine the Journalist were at hustings hosted by London Press & PR Branch at the NUJ’s head office in Kings Cross.

Each candidate was first given five minutes to introduce themselves and their candidacy after which questions were taken from the audience.

Between the seven candidates almost all sectors of the industry were represented, with a heavy leaning towards print. Candidates varied greatly in their union involvement – Christine Buckley, Michael Cross and Mark Watts all used the phrase “I’m a journalist, not an activist”

One of the most divisive subjects between the candidates was the level of involvement that online should have. Some said it should continue in it’s current form as ‘complementary’ with a PDF of the print edition, others were much bolder in their proposals of daily news items online, more discussion of issues and the use of social media.

Candidates were asked how they would generate income outside the central funding allocated to the magazine, Steve Usher said “The magazine is a potential goldmine to fund all the web work we need to do. It goes out to over 40,000 ABC1 journalists, advertisers offered that will go for it big time” Richard Simcox proposed that revenue should be increased by the recruitment of new members, not advertising. He quipped “I’m a union rep, not an ad sales rep” Mark Watts said that as the Journalist was specialist content he would charge non-union members for access online.

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Climate Camp: Code of Conduct

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A metal fence has been placed around the camp to 'defend' the site.

As Climate Camp set up on Blackheath in south London yesterday I got hold of a copy of the code of conduct that journalists will be asked to sign if they want to stay on the camp outside of media hours (10am-6pm) and it makes for fascinating reading.

Most of it reinforces the camp’s existing media policy such as asking for everyone’s permission when taking a photograph. The code says ‘When you want to take a picture or a video and it includes people, always, always ask first. If you can’t ask don’t take the picture.

The camp’s organisers claim that all decisions are made with consensus from everyone. But reading through the minutes of the national meetings before the camp, the code of conduct is only ever mentioned in passing. There is never a discussion about what it should be and what it should contain.

So what has resulted is the media team’s moral view on what the press should be allowed to do being imposed on everyone at the camp and on journalists. We do not allow the police to impose their moral view of what should be photographed on us, so why should journalists subscribe to the media team’s views?

Are they supposing that if the police were to raid the camp we wouldn’t be able to photograph it unless we asked everyone defending the camp their permission first? I spent all day photographing people setting up the camp, I didn’t ask a single one for their permission and no-one asked me not to take their picture.

In an interesting twist, this year’s camp is on common land, unlike previous years where they have squatted someone else’s land for a week. So the argument is no longer that they have no right to impose rules on land that doesn’t belong to them, but that they have no right to impose rules on land that belongs to everybody.

Their right to be on the land is equal to mine and any other member of the public. Just because they’ve put a fence up does not give them the right to restrict access or impose restrictions on access.

The final bizarre section is entitled ‘Understand our community’ and states:

  • Anyone who is responsible for violence, intimidation, harassment or unwanted sexual contact will by their behaviour exclude themselves from the camp.
  • We reject any form of language and behaviour that perpetuates oppression, however unintentionally: for example a racist or sexist joke, or interrupting someone on the basis of unspoken privilege.
  • Stealing and other breaches of trust, including informing on camp activities, will also exclude the person responsible from the camp. All allegations will be treated seriously but with an awareness that they can be divisive, especially if unsubstantiated.

Perhaps they copied and pasted this section from something they were going to hand out to campers because I certainly don’t think it can apply to journalists.

No interrupting? I’m not sure broadcast and radio journalists will be able to be follow that one for more than a minute interviewing someone. And the idea that journalists would steal, use violence or sexually harass someone on the camp are so far fetched I’m not going to discuss them.

I find the last point particularly insulting, I’ll assume they mean ‘informing’ in the sense of passing the police information that was given in confidence, rather than informing people by reporting – as is our job. Not giving unpublished material over to the state is an issue that journalists go to prison for.

In any case the campers needn’t worry as we’ve already to agreed to a code of conduct – the NUJ Code of Conduct. And that is the only code I will be agreeing to as I cover Climate Camp this week.

Climate Camp: Give it up for the Guardian!

The Guardian has set up a Flickr group asking people who are attending the Climate Camp this week in South London to send in their pictures from inside the camp:

Please share your photographs with this groups [sic] as events unfold. We’ll feature some of our favourites on guardian.co.uk and maybe in the newspaper version of the Guardian as well. By posting your pictures in this group you agree to let this happen (though copyright remains with you at all times).

Which is a nice way of saying, please send us your pictures so we don’t have to pay photographers for theirs.

Now while getting people to send photos and video to news organisations is a old hat for broadcasters, for the Guardian to set up a Flickr group to harvest free content specifically for an event is something new.

Citizen reporting is far from the best way to gather news. Climate Camp has always instilled a strong sense of Us vs. Them when it comes to the media and for the Guardian to try and cosy up with the campers and use their content for free has serious implications for how the Guardian reports on the camp.

If they want protesters to send them pictures for free they aren’t going to want to be too critical about the camp or actions that people from the camp might be doing. To say nothing of the veracity of the pictures that might be sent in by those opposed to its aims as well as by supporters.

It is no longer news gathering when the subject of a story provides their own content – it is propaganda. Would you trust the Guardian if it took content supplied by the police in the same way?

Or maybe they should employ professional journalists and photographers to independently report what is actually happening.

In a very small way this is actually good for professional photographers as it further invalidates the restrictions Climate Camp organisers want to impose on journalists, which I wrote about yesterday.

If anyone can go on to the camp at any time and take photographs – and now thanks to the Guardian’s Flickr group send them straight to the newspaper – there’s no reason that professional photographers shouldn’t be allowed to either.

The timing of this event may be by no means coincidental. On the 1st of September (half-way through the camp) photographers will be protesting outside the Guardian because of a new contract they have issued that says that they will no longer pay photographers for reuse of photographs.

This means that the Guardian will be allowed to use photographs as many times as they like and syndicate them to other news organisations in perpetuity without having to pay the photographer any more than the original fee for the photographs. Photographers rely on reuse fees to earn a living.

Over 800 photographers have signed a petition against the new conditions and many of them, including myself, will no longer supply the Guardian with images after September the 1st until they renegotiate the terms with the NUJ.

So if you want professional, uncomprimised reporting and photography from Climate Camp this week you might want to look elsewhere than the Guardian.

Climate Camp: No Out of Hours Access

Later this week hundreds of activists will be swooping on an undisclosed location (most probably in East London) and setting up Climate Camp for another year.

And like previous years there are restrictions on reporting.

In the past the media rules included black-listing journalists who had given the camp ‘hostile coverage‘ and giving ‘sympathetic’ press and radio journalists extended access but only after they had told the camp organisers what they intended to publish.

Thankfully those rules were dropped after complaints from the NUJ and all journalists were escorted around the camp for an hour a day. They also didn’t go through with idea of carrying a flag around so that journalists and photographers were identifiable.

This year the restrictions are less stringent, but are still a futile effort to control the story. Print and radio journalists will once again be allowed to cosy up with campers, as long as they sign up to the camp’s code of conduct. I did ask for a copy of the code of conduct but the camps media team did not respond before publication.

Photographers and videographers on the other hand will only be allowed on the camp from 10-6 which is an improvement over the 1 hour that was allowed at the 2007 camp at Heathrow and the 2 hours at last years camp in Kent.

We will also be accompanied by minders who will make sure “that consent is obtained from people being filmed and photographed” – It’s not like we’re professionals and photograph and interview people every day for a living or anything.

In previous years photographers have been herded around the camp to a series of photo-ops with lots of fluffy activists dressed as polar bears and penguins, which is great PR for the camp but not what most people would consider good reporting or journalism.

The camps organisers insist that the restrictions are to prevent the camp turning into a ‘media goldfish bowl’ but by placing restrictions on access they create exactly that.

The camp will be most likely once again in a field or park that they have squatted without the landowners permission for the week and will be inviting the local community and members of the public to come along to workshops.

So if anyone can turn up and attend the camp, why can’t journalists? As John Vidal the Guardian’s Environmental Editor said after the Heathrow camp in 2007:

I refused to go on the absurd camp tour. On a personal level, every journalist and photographer I talked to felt insulted. Why is a journalist – good or bad – not classed as a citizen? Why could not journalists inform themselves by going to the lectures and debates? Why should they not enjoy the same rights as anyone else? Why was my partner allowed into the camp but not me? Why could I only talk to people I had known for years only in the company of a minder?

Climate camp’s media mismanagement, John Vidal – The Guardian

Just as we should not swallow the police line that everything is going to be softly-softly community policing we should not accept the camp’s line that everything there is compost toilets and renewable energy.

It is our job to report events as they happen, not as others would tell us they happened.

NUJ London Photographers Branch Meeting

Photographers are under attack – job losses in local and national media, picture rate cuts and police repression on the streets. It’s time for photographers to come together and plan and build the best way to defend our profession. London photographers are meeting on Thursday 16 July 2009 at 6.30pm at Headland House to start the process of setting up a London Photographers Branch. If you live or work in London – freelance, agency or staffer – and an NUJ member this is the meeting for you.

If you are a photographer and not yet an NUJ member we would like you join us and be part of this new branch.

More Info: facebook.com

Update: The meeting voted overwhelmingly to form a London Photographers Branch (LPB) The branch must now be approved by the NEC and the next meeting will be in early September to elect a interim committee.

The meeting moved a motion with 26 votes for, 1 against and 1 abstention:

This meeting calls for a London Photographers’ Branch to be established. The branch will be open to NUJ members whose work as photographers or as other lens based journalists is carried out in London.

The new branch will be active in campaigning against job cuts, rate cuts, restrictions on photography, attacks on media workers across the world and a strong force in recruiting new members to the union.

We seek the NECs approval of a new branch.

Journalists and their sources mini-conference

From left to right: Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Suzanne Breen, Michelle Stanistreet, Mark Stephens, Jo Glanville and Bill Goodwin.
From left to right: Sir Geoffrey Bindman, Suzanne Breen, Michelle Stanistreet, Mark Stephens, Jo Glanville and Bill Goodwin.

Last night Suzanne Breen, Northern Ireland Editor of the (Dublin) Sunday Tribune, flew in to the NUJ headqaurters on Grays Inn Road to talk to members about the case being brought against her by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) under the Terrorism Act (2000) to reveal her sources in the Real IRA.

Also speaking were Bill Goodwin, the technology journalist who set an EU legal precident to protect his source in a case brought against him by Tetra. Sir Geoffary Bindman senior lawyer and founder of Bindmans solicitors. Jo Glanville from Index on Censorship and Mark Stephens media and libel specialist lawyer with Finers Stephens Innocent.

The panel were in agreement that the the security services use of of journalists as intelligence gathers by using production orders against them was unacceptable and a threat not only to press freedom but in Breens case a threat to her life if she is forced to reveal her source.

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“Who’s a Journalist, Who isn’t?”

Commander Broadhurst addresses the NUJ Photographers Conference
Commander Broadhurst addresses the NUJ Photographers Conference

On Monday Commander Broadhurst, head of public order at the Metropolitan Police spoke at the NUJ Photographers Conference and with all the events over the past few years he received a rather frosty response from those there.

The Commander was heckled off the platform as he began to question the legitimacy of those carrying press cards. He asked in his speech, probably rhetorically but received some very pointed answers:

I don’t know what vetting system there is for holding an NUJ card. Can anybody who has a camera apply for an NUJ card? […] How do we manage who’s doing what? legitimately or otherwise.

– Commander Broadhurst, Metropolitan Police

He went on to question the motives of journalists working in public order situations and it quickly descended into a shouting match between the conference and the Commander. Probably sensing he had dug himself deep enough into a hole he left the platform and went into answering questions.

It’s well worth listening to both the Commanders speech and the discussion afterwards as it probably explains a lot towards the treatment of press photographers by police over the last few years. If the man in charge of public order policing doesn’t know how the UK Press Card works it’s little surprise so few police respect it.

The Commanders Speech.

Discussion with Commander Broadhurst.