Here’s a date for your diary: Tuesday the 7th of February. “Why?” I hear you ask, well it is the day when The BPPA will finally get to appear before the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice & ethics of the press.
In our main submission to Lord Justice Leveson’s Inquiry we proposed a four-pronged solution to the issues raised in connection to photography at the hearings to date:
- Make the publishers of websites, blogs, magazines and newspapers and their editors financially and professionally responsible for any lack of due diligence in checking how, where and why pictures that they are publishing were taken. Photographs acquired from citizen journalists, CCTV systems and inexperienced photographers should have a clear and strict series of tests applied before publication to verify their provenance
- Images purchased from holders of UK Press Cards or from reputable agencies that are members of a United Kingdom Press Card Authority member body would require a lower standard of checking and proof because the photographer holding the press card would, according to the new ethical code, already have performed tests as they were shot. Should the images turn out to have been acquired irresponsibly, that would constitute a breach of the code of ethics that they sign up to when receiving their new UK Press Card
- Strengthening of the UK Press Card scheme with an enforceable code of conduct including the suspensions and cancellations of cards. This obviously will not stop the cowboys who don’t have genuine press cards but it will provide a framework within which to work
- Agree a simple outline about exactly which laws apply to photographers when they are going about their legitimate business: trespass, assault, intimidation, harassment and so on. It would also be advisable to clarify where and when the various elements of the Human Rights Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of The Child become applicable without allowing rich and powerful vested interests to slip a de-facto privacy law in by the back door
We started the ball rolling back in November when the association’s AGM took place and we started to discuss what we could do about the beating that press photographers were taking during the first couple of weeks worth of evidence at The Inquiry. Like most people, we had thought that the early stages of Lord Justice Leveson’s hearings would be about phone hacking but time-after-time the actions of photographers seemed to get more coverage than those of private detectives and over-zealous reporters.
Within days we had made our first submission in the form of an open letter to The Inquiry where we outlined our objections and sought to be awarded “core participant” status for the proceedings. The legal team behind the Leveson hearings took a couple of weeks to get back to us to let us know that we would not be offered that status they invited us to make a second and much more detailed submission by the beginning of January. We put the 18 page document in on time and following a few emails back and forth asking for clarification of one of our points we finally learned this week that it is all systems go for Tuesday, the 7th of February.
The BPPA wants to be there at the table when solutions are discussed and when decisions are made. The BPPA wants the voices of press photographers to be heard. Most importantly, The BPPA wants to make sure that the profession comes out of this process with its reputation enhanced, with its future as secure as it can be and with improved media and public perceptions of who we are and what we do.
These are simultaneously worrying and exciting times for press photographers. As a profession we have worked hard to create some momentum towards those goals and it is our aim to keep that momentum going on February 7th.