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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Landmark ruling on phone footage
Hamilton Advertiser website
The newspaper removed the material from its website
A newspaper has been criticised in a landmark Press Complaints Commission (PCC) ruling on the use of video material on its website.

The Hamilton Advertiser used mobile phone footage of an unruly classroom, which had been filmed by a pupil.

The PCC agreed that the story was a matter of public interest - but said the paper should have taken steps to obscure the pupils' identities.

It was the first case involving audio and video to be considered by the PCC.

In recent years an increasing number of national and local newspapers have added video footage to their web content and have begun asking members of the public to send in their footage. The commission's remit was extended in February to cover such material.

The BBC's media correspondent, Torin Douglas, said this was likely to be the first of many such complaints to the PCC.

In March the Hamilton Advertiser reported that a 16-year-old student at a school in the town had filmed her unruly mathematics class on her mobile phone in order to explain poor results to her parents.

No permission

The paper printed still images from the video, in which pupils and the teacher could be identified.

It also published the unedited moving images on its website.

John Ogilvie High School's Parent Teacher Association complained that no permission had been given for the class to be filmed.

The newspaper argued that there was a clear public interest in the lack of supervision in the class.

The commission considered that any public interest in identifying the pupils was not so great as to override their rights under the code
PCC ruling

It said the footage did not intrude into the education of the children, who were all over 16.

The newspaper removed the video from its website on the date of publication and had promised not to use the images again in the future.

The commission said it had been "entirely legitimate" for the paper to bring conditions in the classroom to public attention - and to use, at least in part, the information contained in the video.

"At the same time, the newspaper had a responsibility to ensure that the material it published did not infringe the rights of the pupils appearing in the footage, some of whom were clearly identifiable," said the ruling.

"While the newspaper had argued that obscuring the faces would have undermined the impact of the story, the commission considered that any public interest in identifying the pupils was not so great as to override their rights under the code.

"Steps should have been taken to conceal their identity or to obtain proper consent."

Tightly controlled

The BBC's media correspondent, Torin Douglas, said: "This is likely to be the first of many such complaints to the PCC.

"More and more newspapers and magazines are running videos and podcasts on their websites because so many people have high-speed broadband."

He said some of the material came from professional sources, but many others were submitted by readers or taken from video sites such as YouTube.

"Ironically, the extension of the PCC's remit means that in some ways videos on newspaper websites are more tightly controlled than those put online by the broadcasters," he said.

"The media regulator Ofcom - which regulates TV and radio - doesn't have any control over their websites, although material on the BBC website is subject to the BBC's editorial guidelines and complaints process."

School mobile phone ban ruled out
06 Feb 07 |  Glasgow and West
Curbs call on pupils' phone usage
05 Feb 07 |  Scotland

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