Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content

Distribution and Syndication

There are real problems associated with the audience not understanding news terminology or how their content can be distributed and used around the world, especially when a person thinks he or she has just given permission to a favorite news program. As one editor explained: We work with lots of different partners around the world, so when we get content in, we always say to people, “Are you happy for it to be used across all of our platforms?” People are fine with this. But on big stories, you get all of our partner news organizations saying, “We really want to use that UGC.” Then what happens? The [terms and conditions people get via email when they contact us] do explain that our partners might use it but people often don’t read that. So sometimes we have to call people back and say, “We’ve had a call from Australia Broadcasting or Canada or European broadcasters, they want to use your material. Are you happy with that?” Often people

don’t know what that means and just say yes. I wonder if that’s an area we need to think about. I wonder whether organizations need to really think about their terms and conditions and revise them in some way. This isn’t a new problem. George Holliday was the person who filmed the Rodney King beating in 1991. He was encouraged by friends to pass on the footage to Los Angeles TV station KTLA, which paid him $500. In a story in the LA Times from 2006, he explained how much he regretted that decision when KTLA distributed the content to its networks, which played and played the video. “He didn’t have kind words for the media. He may have pioneered citizen journalism but he feels that he was swallowed up and spat out by CNN and the like, which, he said gave him little credit and no compensation of his contribution to history.”28could be argued that uploaders are becoming more astute and are certainly in the scramble for permissions that occur when compelling content is shared on social networks. Journalists are sometimes forced to justify why they’re not paying the uploaders. As an exchange in the immediate aftermath of the Glasgow helicopter crash showed, journalists are having to be more transparent about the news process to the people from whom they are seeking permission. In the example below (FIGURE 5) a Reuters journalist has to explain that the news agency’s business model is subscriptionbased rather than based on the sale of individual pieces of content.

FIGURE 5: Conversations Between a Reuters Journalist and Uploader Jan Hollands About Using Her Photo Examples of journalists asking for permission via Twitter are seen during every news event. Permission is almost always granted, but our research found that credit was very rarely added to the content when it was used onscreen or online. This can also be the case when UGC is distributed by Reuters and AP. In the instance of the Glasgow helicopter crash, the agencies advised of the need to credit the uploader (FIGURE 6) in the information

sheets distributed along with the content (the dopesheet). The broadcasters in our sample did not uphold this request. The graphic below is taken from the dopesheet associated with Christina O’Neill’s photograph, which she uploaded to Twitter. FIGURE 6: The Dopesheet Circulated by Reuters with a Picture Sourced From Twitter