BBC Starts Identifying Unauthenticated Amateur Footage Used in News Shows

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A review found that most user-generated videos and pictures shown during the U.K. public broadcaster's coverage of the Arab Spring were not identified as such.

LONDON - The BBC has started pointing out when it uses amateur video or pictures during news shows that it couldn't fully authenticate.

The decision came after a review found that most user-generated content shown during its coverage of the Arab Spring wasn't labeled as such.

Three quarters of amateur footage used during the U.K. public broadcaster's Arab Spring coverage did not include cautions about its authenticity, a review ordered by the BBC Trust, the broadcaster's governing body, found. It wasn't clear if the BBC team that authenticates amateur material cleared some of the footage used in the coverage and how much, it said.

The BBC Trust said in a follow-up report to a review published last summer that the BBC now tells TV viewers when it has failed to independently verify pictures or video footage procured from amateurs.

"The BBC has not been able to fully authenticate this footage, but, based on additional checks made on it, it is believed to be genuine," one of the warnings says.

"Since the [initial] review was published, the BBC has adopted new wording for all user-generated footage where independent verification has not been possible," the BBC Trust said. It added that it believes "this will help the audience understand the vetting process, to which all such content is subjected."

Among other changes introduced after last year's review, the BBC has also named so-called "story champions" to help influence its news coverage. It has also ensured the regular attendance of Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen at news unit board meetings to allow him to "provide his analysis of future stories and themes and his reflections on past coverage."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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