Archive for July, 2005

Separated at birth..

Bill Thompson and D’Argo from Farscape.

Appeal to Bill

Bill… please please please please get a new picture for the 203 on your BBC articles. Or use another picture that goes with the story… I’ve found myself not wanting to read the rest of your articles anymore as I know you’re always down the page, waiting.

It’s on your own site, it’s your Flickr badge.

Thank you.

Were all reporters now (?)

Yesterday I went to ‘We are all reporters now?’ a presentation by Vicky Taylor and Guy Pelham from BBC News. It dealt with the covering of 7th July and the role user generated content can play in news reporting.

The presentation began with a slide to illustrate traditional photo journalism, images of Life magazine’s moon issue, Don McCullin’s shell shocked solider and some other classic imagery, all taken by professional photographers and sent back to a magazine maybe months later to be published.

The presentation then went on to talk about how News Interactive have actively encouraged users to send in images, emails and SMSs. Either by sending it to 07921 648159 or mailing to

They then went on to talk about the actual events of the 7th.. how emails from users were ahead of the authorities, giving them a more informed picture of what was happening on the ground. One email read: “My gf works up by Holborn and has just called to tell me a bus has exploded outside her office in Tavistock Square, bodies strewn all over the road”. This came in at 9:57am, when the emergency services were still talking about power surges on the tube.

So, emails come in first, then images, most of which were verified and checked, and then used on News 24. Then a little later came the video footage. One movie actually went out whole, with no professional shots in at all, just a voice over the low res images describing the events as they were happening. And this went out on the Six o’clock news.

The next and most interesting slide illustrated server load. As you know the less robust homepage servers were running really hot… News have a more battery approach to their servers and so I think they coped a little better.

Here’s the slide showing the 7th of July against other world events. Simply incredible.

Some more stats.. Have Your Say normally gets 10,000 emails a day and emails to your pics average 100-200 images a week. On July 7th they got 20,000 emails on the London Bombings, 1000 images from the public and 3000 SMS messages. That is a lot of ‘reporters’ in the field. And two weeks later on the 21st, it happened again…

Guy then talked about the knock on effect. When a warehouse caught fire in Wembley, normally not that news worthy, they still got 3 videos and over 20 pictures.. people now know they can send in stuff and get it published.

This is a complete paradigm shift for News and the rest of the BBC. Hopefully we’ve now proved ourselves a hub of user generated content. There were some good points made in the Q&A that followed that addressed this. One older guy in the audience echoed Guys earlier ‘not my generation’ sentiment by asking ‘why do people do it?’ Well it’s the same answer as I talked about in the post below.., the iPhoto generation, people now share images not for money, but for kudos. Danny O’Brien at Open Tech talked about the de-coupling of fame and fortune, and perhaps this is the result of that.. that you can get fame and kudos simple by sharing, like this for example. It’s peer group admiration, mixed with hero syndrome and recognition, in short, ‘I was there therefore I’m important’ and the photograph is the witness to that event. In that respect, it’s transcended traditional photographers. That’s why all the best shots of the bus were by amateurs, taken before the police put up the white screen, and as Guy went on to explain, the Met even set up exclusion zones over the sites so helicopters couldn’t get the shots.

The question of payment again came up. This was answered with, ‘you send it to us, you give it us for free’, or ‘if it’s at the right price, we’ll pay for it’. The other thing to bare in mind is that this story present a unique scenario for this paradigm shift to grow in. When the transport system itself shuts down, you can move photographers around. That’s why the other main source of ‘holding’ footage was from the BBC’s traffic cameras positioned around London.

The presentation ended with the first slide, only with the ? removed. I’d sort of disagree a bit, as they made quite clear in the presentation that it’s still them in control, they apply the same journalistic principles to all submissions, they check against the editorial guidelines, they will not do a Peers Morgan or a BBC World/Bhopal and get caught out.. So maybe it’s ‘were all camera (wo)men now’ ?


In other news, today was a Thursday and London was on high alert. There were six police officers at Gipsy Hill station this morning, and some at every station I went through on my way to work. Coming home each platform at Clapham Junction has on average three officers on it… which kind of made me laugh when the ‘pickpockets operate on this station’ auto-announcement cam over the PA. Is this what a policed state looks like.

Also on the footbridge over the station I saw officers do a stop and search on a Asian guy, Search_claphamjunction. It’s hard to see what’s going on but basically two WPCs asked if they could look inside this guy’s bag as he came up to the footbridge from the platform. He was smart looking , but did have a long raincoat on so they searched his bag and his person as well as taking down a few details… the picture’s poor as I was try to act normal as another PC was nearby keeping an overview of the situation. After the police said good bye I approached the guy and told him I worked for the BBC. I asked him if he objected to what had just happened. He said no, it was all done politely and he didn’t mind at all.. in fact he said he’d be worried if they weren’t carrying out searches… but imagine doing that five/six times a day?

Today’s other ‘terrorist news’ was the end of violent struggle by the IRA. It’s mad to think that after nearly 40 years this has come to an end, and I was thinking about how that has touched my life.. what a month.

Shooting Mountains, printing molehills.

Late last week I attended a presentation given by the project producer of A Picture of Britain. In the same week or there abouts there appeared in the British Journal of Photography a letter entitled Complaints to the Beeb, from Gwen Thomas, Business and Legal Affairs, The Association of Photographers.

The letter and some comments are reproduced here. And the original post on DP review is here. The Picture of Britain website is here

Here’s my thoughts… The competition was clearly aimed at amateurs and hobbyists; all those people who’ve been told digital photography’s the future, how inclusive and easy it is, how you can share your photos online, the people who read features entitled ‘shoot like a pro’ and try to with a £150 camera… In short the iPhoto dabblers. It was not aimed at professional photographers, Mr Thomas points this out in his letter, and by that I’m assuming people who make a living from photography, so no one’s being deprived of a livelihood here…

Now, I’m no legal expert, (and clearly by his job title Mr Thomas is) but it states in the DPoB submission rules:
8 In accordance with section 9 of the BBC’s Terms of Use you agree to grant to the BBC a non-exclusive licence to publish and use your photographs for non-commercial purposes. Copyright will however remain with the photographer.
section 9 of the T&C seems to be a blanket term covering all submissions, be they photos, email, message board posts, votes etc.

What I don’t think this is about is swelling the BBC image coffers with ‘on the cheap’ imagery or a way for Worldwide to knock out a quick book, DVD, tea towel or jigsaw and make a mint. It says copyright will remain with the photographer, but by submission they do grant some publicity and promotion rights. In fact the competition rules look a lot like the News image submission rules which look a lot like the Observer’s rules for their recent food competition.

So, back to the presentation, here’s some key stats..
70,000 photographs sent in to the website to date. The site recorded more than 2 million page impressions in the first week. Now that’s a lot of imagery; in fact it’s a great collection showcasing the best of the British landscape by the very people who live in it. In a hundred years time this will be exactly the sort of thing turning up on the future equivalent of Nation on Film. The question is, what are we to do with it in the meantime? Delete it?Leave it on our servers? stick it on Flickr? Burn it on to a couple of DVDs and pop in a draw somewhere? Give it to the NMPFT and the Tate?

So, some thoughts there, if you’ve any, leave me a comment. The next presentation in the series is entitled ‘we all reporters now’ and deals with the recent rise in user submitted images of the London Bombings… now that’s much more of a legal iceberg.

I’m f-in’

Then of course there’s the flip side to… Which still manages to feature Doctor Who.

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originally uploaded by

Everyone’s doing were not afarid stuff in light of the recent bombings… Some are great and funny; absolut bottles, Enders parodies, others (mainly American) entries are a bit jingoistic for my liking… I like this one this one.

Still most of the entries fall into ‘photoshop therapy’, dealing with tragedy through comedy, and that’s a good thing.

Crystal Palace Transmitter takes viewers back in time!

From the BBC’s Daily Brief.

A problem with the Crystal Palace transmitter yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 19th July 2005) meant that BBC ONE analogue transmitted in black and white on the analogue platform from approx 15.55 to 16.31. This affected the end of BB3B, a CBBC live link and the beginning of WATCH MY CHOPS. There was a further brief burst of black and white some minutes later when Crown Castle attempted to fix the original fault on the transmitter.

..and for a brief moment there was also a policeman on every corner and it was safe to leave your back door open. Sigh.

I’ve written about the CP transmitter before… here’s some other interesting links wikipedia and

homechoice ‘minimote’

There’s been a lot of beeb related bloggin on this site recently, and whilst that’s all well and good, it does mean I’ve neglected some other interests… namely design, photography and food!

So, yesterday I got hold of a ‘minimote’, a kid friendly remote control for my homechoice box. Like the box says, it’s not for grown ups… so, um, I’ll have to use it when my nieces come and visit, or just use it as my ‘monged’ remote!

It’s actually nicely designed using soft orange plastic and it’s lozenge shape means kids know which end to point at the TV. In fact I wish adult remotes were less slab like. Menu wise it uses a trumpet symbol for volume, a ladder for up and down navigation to some of the on demand shows and distinctly shaped buttons… But the key thing is that it only works on the kids channels, like Scamp, cbebbies, nickelodeon etc so parents know exactly what the kids are watching. You can also schedule the last 10 mins of your child’s viewing interspersed with ‘Time for Bed’ messages.

The Scamp channel won a D&AD silver nomination, but was beaten by our very own Spooks Interactive designed by the lovely Vibeke Hansen and Kim-Leigh Pontin.. two wise design ladies indeed…

I’m getting to like homechoice more and more, since it’s installation at Christmas they’ve upped the broadband speeds, and made subtle but useful tweaks to the EPG system, the replay function means I’m watching more and more shows on demand, the BB is fast enough for my use and all the evening phone calls a free… I should be on commission!

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
July 2005