REEL NEWS statement on BBC copyright abuse 7-11-13

bbc news screengrab

On Thursday October 31st  the BBC continuously ran a news item in which they accused the UNITE Trade Union of ‘bullying tactics’. This was brought to our attention by people who recognised that the report contained some of our footage which had been lifted from the REEL NEWS youtube channel.

We would like  to make it clear that footage which depicted a demonstration by UNITE members and others against the illegal practice of blacklisting was used without our knowledge or permission. It would be difficult to quantify our anger and disgust when we realised to what purpose our ripped material was being used.

We immediately contacted the BBC and demanded that the report be taken down as it violated both our copyright and our moral rights as creators. The BBC refused and the report continued to roll throughout the day on both the main news programmes and hourly on News 24. The report was later put on BBC iplayer despite our complaint being lodged.

At no point did the BBC attempt to contact us to ask permission to use the footage, though we can be reached very easily through a number of different channels. Nor did they credit the footage to us having used it without permission. We would only sell material to commercial broadcasters upon request if were completely satisfied that we agreed with the context in which it is to be used. We have regularly refused to license material on that principle, regardless of financial incentives offered.

In this case the footage has been used out of context to illustrate a narrative that we would never have agreed with under any circumstances, because that narrative is not supported by evidence. The news item in question centered around a lawful, theatrical and silent protest by, mainly retired, UNITE members outside the home of one of the Grangemouth Refinery bosses. The only available image of the action in question was a poor quality still. The news item then moved to our footage (shot over six months previously) of two UNITE protests that were part of their leverage tactics during the Crossrail dispute, targeting specific construction companies that are ruining people’s lives with the illegal practice of blacklisting. The protests in question were in response to a refusal to talk to the union over the sacking and blacklisting of a UNITE health and safety representative. In fact the second protest was organised in response to Crossrail security attacking the UNITE rep in question the day before, when he was protesting peacefully outside the gates, and was a typical example of bullying and intimidation that had been going on for months.

It is our belief that the BBC would have been aware of these facts as the footage was ripped from a short film with a very clear context and narrative.

Since 2006 REEL NEWS has built a close working relationship with rank and file trade unionists. We are regularly invited to events and actions that we alone are trusted to report on. We will not tolerate the BBC lifting our material and then misusing it to attack the very people whom we are trying to give a voice to.

Today we have had a meeting with officials at the National Union of Journalists and agreed the following course of action. Firstly they will on our behalf be contacting the BBC and demanding a right to reply on the Points of View programme or suitable medium. Secondly we seek and an assurance that this will not happen again. Thirdly we will seeking a financial settlement that reflects both the abuse of our copyright and also the damage to our professional reputation with our Trade Union friends. If the BBC do not cooperate we will not hesitate to pursue a solution through the courts.

Finally the jaw dropping double standards of the BBC’s report are not lost on us. On one hand they claim that a handful of people, most of them pensioners, silently protesting near a millionaires mansion to be “bullying”. Yet the fact that 800 hard working Grangemouth employees were blackmailed into accepting a deal they had previously rejected with the threat of unemployment was not even mentioned. That is exactly the kind of bullying that REEL NEWS was launched to expose.

The film from which the footage was lifted:

For further information: 07956 429059