TV saved from ban on hidden cameras

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The Independent Online
The Broadcasting Standards Commission has backed down over a Draconian new privacy code that could have ended the right of documentary makers to film in secret.

Television researchers raised concerns after a report in The Independent in April that the BSC was proposing a code that would require an "overwhelming" public interest before programmes like World in Action or Dispatches could use hidden cameras. The BSC has now rewritten the code before it becomes law in January so that reporters just need an "over- riding" public interest.

"The first draft was appalling", said Bernard Clark, who produced the Channel 4 Dispatches programme that used a hidden camera to expose Sotheby's involvement in smuggling art treasures. "Since The Independent's report the BSC has whittled down the code so that it now strikes a balance between respect for an individual's rights and our ability to do our job properly. If the draft code had been approved I would have moved to making Blue Peter."

The public interest can now over-ride an individual's right to protection from secret filming if the programme-makers are trying to expose or detect a crime or disreputable behaviour, if they are protecting public health and safety, exposing misleading claims or disclosing incompetence in public office.

l Code on Fairness and Privacy, Broadcasting Standards Commission, 7 The Sanctuary, London SW1P 3JS.