The BPPA today wrote to the Leveson Inquiry and asked to be added to the list of those giving evidence. We did this because of the one-way traffic from witnesses criticising photographers and because of the dreadfully lazy television journalism that has painted each and every one of us as the worst kind of citizen paparazzi. This is what we said:
Initial submission to The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice & ethics of the press by The British Press Photographers’ Association
The British Press Photographers’ Association (The BPPA) has amongst its membership a large percentage of the country’s front line news photographers. Founded in 1984 to ‘promote and inspire the highest ethical, technical and creative standards from within the profession’, The BPPA has a unique perspective on the current practices and market place for press photographs in the United Kingdom. Press photographers led the way when it came to establishing the guidelines by which all UK Police forces (via ACPO) work alongside the media in the field and we would endeavour to bring a similar problem solving approach to the Inquiry.
Request to be added to the list of Core Participants
In the light of the nature of the evidence being given to The Inquiry by various celebrity witnesses, the association’s board took the decision that we needed to make a submission and to seek to give evidence in person. In reading the list of persons and organisations that may be considered as Core Participants, the association believes that the weight of commentary during the opening weeks of the Inquiry makes press photographers “subject to explicit or significant criticism during the inquiry proceedings or in its report.” In the light of this, we would contend that The BPPA is able to give evidence on the issues of culture, practices and ethics, which the Inquiry might not otherwise be able to obtain.
The BPPA can speak for press photographers who, because of the highly fragmented nature of our employment may well speak to the BPPA when they would not speak to the Inquiry. The Inquiry should know that our membership breaks down as follows:
• Directly employed – 24%
• Employed on fixed or rolling contracts 12%
• Working through agencies as freelance photographers 18%
• Entirely freelance 46%
As a profession attracting a great deal of criticism we would further contend that such a diverse group will not be represented in an equitable and fair way at an inquiry where such representation is both vital for a large and key group of professionals, and for the Inquiry’s ability to hear and consider the widest range of informed opinions.
Press photographers are, for various reasons, the very visible face of the UK print media. Because of this we are regularly subjected to false attribution and accusations as well as verbal abuse from members of the public and from a significant number of people who work in the celebrity, entertainment and even law and order industries. The continuous use of pejorative terms such as ‘paparazzi’ about the widest spectrum of news photographers harms our collective reputations.
The BPPA would seek to provide evidence on the following:
• The culture and practices of professional press photographers
• The market place for news pictures and how it affects those cultures and practices
• The problems that the market for celebrity images is causing
• The dangers of introducing French style privacy laws
• The need for cooperation between all parts of the media to establish clear and enforceable ethical guidelines and codes of behaviour and etiquette
• Our proposals to help control the problems of unethical photographers and citizen journalists with cameras
The association believes that it would be able to make a very positive contribution to The Inquiry by providing a more accurate, up-to-date and informed assessment than any other organisation on the specific topics where we have expertise.