The end of the filming permit?


Earlier this week Ed Campbell, a BBC journalist, blogged about how footage he shot on a smartphone at Heathrow Airport was used for the lead story on the News at Ten. His post outlined how training and a proprietary app had helped him easily film and upload his video. 

From one perspective, the story was interesting because it shows just how far smartphone video and uploading technology has come. What interested me as well though, is the issue of filming permits. Heathrow Airport media centre has a section for applying for a ‘breaking news’ among other filming permits, and the airport states that anyone found filming without a permit will be asked to leave. 

In his post, Campbell states: “What we were clearly lacking was stuff from inside the terminal … The desk had asked permission to film and been knocked back. Fortunately two of us were kitted out with iPhones fitted with PNG [the BBC’s filming app]

“Once or twice I sensed I was being clocked by the terminal staff and moved on. But the sheer ubiquity of iPhones meant that for all they knew I was just another frazzled would-be passenger updating his Facebook status.”

“I’d covered the basics, and grabbed and sent a few more ‘nice to haves’ before heading back to joining my colleagues. One of them had brought an ENG camera to Terminal 2 and gathered more material that way, but was quickly spotted and thrown out by the terminal staff.”

“When you are filming on a phone as opposed to a camcorder or DSLR, you can just blend in and melt away, as easy as that. No-one bothers you, or asks what you’re up to, because, well, everyone has a smartphone, right?”

He’s absolutely right. How can you police filming when so many people have their own camera in their pocket? In the comments section of the blog, Campbell points out that members of the public were taking pictures and uploading them to media. 

The ubiquity of smartphones, and the emergence of live streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope, mean that film permits for breaking news are a throwback to the days when the press office was an all-powerful gatekeeper. And however much it may be railed against, technology continues to open those gates wider and wider.



  1. 3 years ago I was stopped from filming at Leeds Station. I was using a Flip-type camera, so it was obvious what I was doing. If I had been using a smartphone it would have been much less apparent

    1. Did they give you the reason why you weren’t allowed to film, John? Smartphones must mean that it’s almost impossible to spot/stop filming now in areas open to the general public.

      1. I blogged about it here, and I think you can hear the jobsworth speaking to me at the end of one of the videos. I think it was “security reasons”. Virgin stations have notices up saying you need permission to film, and not to use flashes which can distract train drivers. It’s all nonsense really, and, as you say, increasingly unenforceable. A few years ago I saw a PCSO questioning somebody who was taking “before-and-after” photos of a shop display in Huddersfield town centre.

    1. ‘Security reasons’ seem to be one of those coverall responses that don’t really help anyone, especially these days when anyone and everyone films and takes photos *everywhere*

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