7. Ethics and risks and drones



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All media projects are likely to throw up some ethical considerations that will need to be considered by you.

Issues such as;

  • consent
  • copyright
  • factual content
  • sensitive or taboo subjects
  • drone filming
  • risk assessment

As a good producer you should be completing all the necessary production paperwork and making sure you are up to date with the current guidelines.


Consent: This is recorded/signed permission from your contributors that they have given you permission to use material containing their image and/or representations.

Treat your contributors honestly and with respect.   Before they participate, contributors should normally know:

  • why they are being asked to contribute to and where it will first appear
  • the context of the content
  • the nature of their involvement.

The more significant their contribution, the more detail you should provide. Try not to make any commitment to a contributor that you can’t keep.  Third party websites may reproduce our content globally without our knowledge or consent, so no guarantee can be given that a contribution will not be seen in particular countries.

(see Moodle for the consent form)

When filming openly in public and semi-public places, you do not normally need to obtain express consent from individuals who are incidentally caught on camera as part of the general scene, unless they are engaged in an activity where they have a legitimate expectation of privacy that is not outweighed by a public interest in showing them.

However, if an individual or organisation asks you to stop filming or recording (whether live or recorded) because of a concern about privacy, you should normally do so, unless it is editorially justified to continue.

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Copyright: All creative work in the UK is automatically copyright protected (you don’t have to apply or pay a fee. There isn’t a register of copyright works in the UK).

If you want to show, adapt or perform someone else’s creative work  (for example, music, images, text or video clips) you need to get the owner’s  permission.  It’s only exempt if it’s under CCC (Creative Commons Licence).

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 4.01.18 PM.png   How to find the owner – http://www.copyrighthub.co.uk

The owner of the work has to give you signed permission (use the form on Moodle) or email them and keep a copy of their response.


Factual Content: If you are representing a subject or statement as fact in your programme you must have the evidence to support your claim.

  • It is therefore particularly important that all production documents, including but not limited to notebooks, email correspondence, rushes, programme treatments are kept in your production folder
  • Facts should be thoroughly researched, corroborated and double-checked
  • Care should also be taken when using people to translate material and appropriate checks should be made to ensure that they are reliable.
  • Extra care needs to be taken when relying on evidence or footage sourced from the internet or social networks or from a third party, where the bona fides of the material may be open to question. Appropriate checks must always be undertaken to ensure that the material can be independently corroborated and producers should be vigilant that such material can be inaccurate, manipulated or faked.


Sensitive/taboo subjects: If your work involves any of the following you MUST get permission from your tutor and the MP course director BEFORE you start filming.

  • Secret filming
  • Under 18s
  • Animals
  • Sex/ sex workers
  • Criminal activity (including drugs)
  • The dying or death
  • Vulnerable adults
  • Filming in dangerous places or countries
  • Risky activities (including skydiving, bungee jumping)
  • Weapons (of any kind)

If what you are doing is not on this list, but you are unsure about it, make sure you see a tutor.

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Further Reading – Critical Comment on The Act of Killing by Joshua Oppenheimer and Ethics on Film: Discussion of “The Act of Killing” by Alex Woodson |  AUGUST 26, 2013


Risk Assessment: A risk assessment helps to identify what harm could result from an activity or situation and what control measures are needed. It involves thinking about: what you want to do, what could go wrong, what you do to stop it going wrong.

The earlier in planning an activity that you start thinking about risk, the easier it will be to plan and implement control measures.  Here are the 5 steps you need to t

1.Identify the activity and hazards

2. Decide who might be harmed and how

3. Evaluate the risks and determine the controls required

4. Complete the risk assessment form and distribute

5. Record what happened and revise if necessary


Drone filming: Drone filming is becoming easier to do and more popular.  But it has bought with it concerns about security and privacy and raises a number of issues including rules and data protection guidelines, property owner rights, and/or compliance with civil aviation legislation.

  • If you are flying over a private home or over commercial property this may raise privacy concerns.
  • In addition, there may be issues over property rights, including trespass and nuisance, with using drones.
  • Prior permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (“CAA”) may needed to be obtained in certain circumstances.
  • Fit to fly?  You will need to demonstrate you have the technical skills to operate drone kit safely and responsibly.

Further reading: Flying with drones what you need to know 


Essential Further Reading:

All FMPs need to go through the Coventry Univeristy ethics portal. See your tutor to talk through this. https://ethics.coventry.ac.uk

BBC Editorial Guidelines – useful resource if you are unsure about any ethical aspect of production.

Channel 4 Producer’s Handbook – similar to the above

BBC Risk Assessment – dedicated website for production risk assessments

Copyright hub – http://www.copyrighthub.co.uk


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