Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content


As the discussion about the definition of UGC at the beginning of this report demonstrates, the term includes many different types of content. It might be footage filmed by a holiday-maker caught up in a breaking news event, a video shot by a Syrian activist group, a photo of refugees crossing the Jordanian border captured by a UNHCR staff member on an iPhone, or an anonymous viral video that has actually been created by a PR company for the launch of a new product. Simply labeling content “Amateur Footage” or “Source: Internet” does not capture these differences.

As one manager commented, “I don’t believe you can be too transparent, and I don’t believe there can be too much disclosure.” However, the question remains how to share this information with the audience. The Web makes all of this much easier, but with television it is more of a challenge, particularly when different regulations govern public service versus commercial broadcasters, and different countries have different legislation relating to social networks. Until someone is able to find a tag that adequately describes footage that has been captured by someone outside of the newsroom, these issues will remain. Fergus Bell from the AP has suggested the term “External Content,” or “ExCon” for short. Maybe that will catch on. Most important is the need to describe who has uploaded the content, with a description of why their motivations should be taken into account by the audience. A video uploaded by Greenpeace or Shaam News Network should be treated very differently than one sourced from a passerby who happened to capture a breaking news event. However, the best way of accomplishing this is yet to be agreed upon across the industry.