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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Consternation over media’s use of “amateur snappers”


11th October 2005

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has warned of the potential for “confusion and mayhem” should television companies continue to encourage members of the public to attend and photograph news incidents.

Since the July bombs in London it has become common practice for the BBC and other media organisations to use amateur photographs and video footage, and several news organisations have openly advertised to encourage non-professionals to cover such incidents.

Most recently, there have been reports that extra police had to be dispatched to Liverpool Street station to deal with more than 30 members of the public who had congregated to take photographs of a police incident, mostly with their mobile phones.

“It won’t be long before the police begin to widen their cordons around incidents in an efforts to keep at bay phone-wielding mobs,” said Robin Morgan, chairman of the Institute’s Professional Practices Board. “This will make it even more hard for professional photographers to do their job.”

The Institute’s annual general meeting, held in London at the weekend, agreed a resolution condemning the terms of use issued by television companies which insist that the contributors indemnify the organisation against any legal action resulting from the use of their material, as well as expecting them to provide it for no payment. The meeting also condemned the practice of soliciting contributions from non-professionals, which “cheapens the profession” as a whole.