In the Media

ITN to fight police pressure to hand over public unrest footage

PUBLISHED March 6, 2012

A 'worrying trend' of wide-ranging production orders is similar to situation in Russia, says news provider

Britain's biggest commercial news provider, ITN, has vowed to face down "increased pressure" from the police to hand over unbroadcast footage of public unrest.

The head of compliance for ITN, John Battle, criticised a "worrying trend" of wide-ranging production orders from the police.

He compared the situation to Russia and said journalists were in danger of being seen as an evidence-gathering arm of the police.

Broadcasters including the BBC, ITN and Sky News have been ordered in recent months to hand over footage of the England riots, the evacuation of Dale Farm and protests outside the Syrian embassy in London.

ITN, the producer of ITV News, Channel 4 News and 5 News, is seeking a judicial review of the Chelmsford magistrates' court order to disclose 36 hours of footage from the Dale Farm eviction to Surrey police.

"It has clearly become a real issue," Battle said. "In the past these things were rare ? they weren't a deluge. The message needs to be sent to police and the courts that broadcasters have a role to play and that is being jeopardised by increased pressure and being seen as evidence gatherers. It's a steelier stance than we've seen before."

Battle said the UK would condemn as "outrageous and chilling" attempts by Russian law enforcement to demand media footage of this weekend's election protests in that country. "The fact is that's what is happening here," he said.

Asked why there had been an increase in productions orders from police, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "Indications are that the increase in the number of production orders sought by police are a direct result of the summer disturbances and other such high-profile incidents that have attracted recent media attention.

"Broadcast and correspondence evidence retrieved in these cases has been fundamentally vital in securing convictions and furthering investigations."

Earlier on Tuesday, British Transport police chief constable, Andy Trotter, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that broadcasters should not be seen as an arm of the law.

Trotter, media advisor to ACPO, said the police have an "overriding duty" to obtain all evidence available. He added: "And the test we have to take to the judge, and this is a judge who decides, is a stringent test, there's got to be a serious crime. This is not something we can just do willy-nilly."

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