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Friday 10 November 2006

How submitting your video content to the BBC could cost you money

Quality content and creativity are valuable things. If you need proof, just look at the millions of pounds that businesses earn from back catalogues of music, films, TV shows and news footage.

To give an example… It will cost you £587.50 to use a 77-second-long Pathe News clip from 1959 on your website.

These days, it doesn’t matter who makes it — professional or ‘amateur’. Good content is worth money. However, some broadcasters don’t want you to think that way…

If you capture the only video footage of a newsworthy event that material can be worth an awful lot. It could potentially provide you with a small income for the rest of your life.

Last year, when a member of the public captured video coverage of the arrest of two terrorist suspects on a balcony in Notting Hill, ITV News and the Daily Express were reported to have bought the footage for £65,000.

Of course it’s important to move quickly while the news is hot. Also, be aware that broadcasters will always try to pressure you into selling footage to them outright because it’s easier for them and they know they can make a small fortune by reselling it to others in the future (see the Pathe example above).

But, instead, you could offer a broadcaster the right (a licence) to use the footage exclusively for a week, a month or a year. While holding onto the copyright yourself.

If the video material is unique and something that people will want to include in programmes for decades to come, you could have an small ongoing income for life from it. But only if you keep the rights (the copyright).

On the other hand, how about you give it to the BBC for free and let them make money from it while you get almost nothing? Of course the BBC is a public service broadcaster, so they may convince you that the warm feeling you get from helping them, is a worthwhile substitute for hard cash.

Which is balls quite honestly. The BBC employs numerous people, pays for programmes and video material, and arranges licensing deals the whole time. So what’s the difference?

It may not be right for a public service broadcaster to get into a ‘bidding war’ over footage. But, currently, they are taking advantage of the fact that most members of the public don’t know any better, don’t appreciate the value of what they shoot and probably don’t read the ‘small print’.

Check the BBC’s terms and conditions for user submitted content and you’ll see that, by sending them your valuable photos or video, you automatically grant them:

…a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licenseable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, play, make available to the public, and exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to your contribution worldwide and/or to incorporate your contribution in other works in any media now known or later developed for the full term of any rights that may exist in your contribution…

Watch out because, once you’ve sent them your exclusive news footage and agreed to those terms, you’re screwed…

The BBC can use your material in any way it wants, free of charge, for ever. So your news footage may appear on the BBC’s commercial DVDs or on BBC America, which carries ads.

Yes you’re still the copyright owner. But, once you give the BBC those rights, the value of your footage to other broadcasters is much, much less. It isn’t exclusive anymore, the BBC will have it everywhere: on its channels, on its website… It won’t hold back because, hey, its free content and the BBC doesn’t have to pay to show it.

So you may have lost many thousands of pounds. Not only has the BBC taken your content for free, but you have effectively paid the Corporation to do it.

I realise that money isn’t the only consideration for some people. I just want to highlight the realities of the situation, so no one gets suckered…

The latest show to ask for free content is Newsnight with its Oh My Newsnight slot which will be part of ‘Geek Week’.

Although this page has different terms and conditions for videos submitted, it also has a link to the terms that I’ve quoted above.

The BBC pays hundreds of pounds per minute for the right to show even the cheapest, poorest bought-in film or programme to the smallest audience. But no payment here…

In the past, there probably would have been a prize at the very least. But not now. Just top quality films provided for free by the public. And, by the way:

‘the BBC will include your name (but not any other details) on programme and web page on which your film is featured.’

So not even a link to your website in exchange for your hard work and for filling two minutes of airtime for them.

But is it really such a big deal to finally make it into the top five films on ‘merit’ and get your movie shown on BBC2 at 11pm? I can’t help thinking that Auntie Beeb hasn’t quite grasped the realities of the new world we live in, post-YouTube…

And why is it, when the public make a video for Newsnight they are ‘geeks’. Whereas, when BBC people do it they are ‘reporters’, ‘correspondents’ or ‘journalists’?

There are dozens of video hosting sites out there that will distribute your video for free, let you put up your information and site links, won’t take away your rights and will even let you earn an income from your work. Blip.tv for one.

Considering the billions of pounds that the BBC has to spend each year. I do think it could spare a few thousands to reward some video-makers, help them buy equipment and, who knows, maybe start them off on a career?

The more of us who say no to this, the sooner we will all get a better deal and a bit more respect. It’s a policy that I think could come back to haunt the BBC, as more people realise what’s going on and see which organisations are behaving fairly and which aren’t.

So, come on BBC, start paying for good content, whoever and wherever it comes from and stop patronising us. Currently you are the ‘user’ in this content arrangement.

UPDATE: (19 January 2007) here are the BBC’s own guidelines for staff. I think the bad attitude comes across loud and clear in this.


Filed under: The media,TV & film,Video-making — GS @ 9:57 pm

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