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Solo operation of new links vehicles agreed

For some months BECTU has been concerned about the potential use by managers of the new lightweight links units (uPods in some places, COFDMs in most urban areas) being operated by a solo operator in a live transmission situation.

It became clear that management saw this as a vital part of their newsgathering armoury, and so at the last BBC Divisional Committee negotiators were given the mandate to say an absolute “NO” if necessary to any live solo operation.

At a subsequent English Regions Divisional meeting both sides started out, naturally, at some distance. Faced with the strength of BECTU’s position (and hopefully, our arguments about the inherent dangers of solo live operation), we finally struck a deal which will cover the whole of English Regions, but will also be our template for negotiations about the use of similar vehicles in other divisions, and in the Nations – although it should be said that the same economic imperatives don’t seem to apply in News as they do outside London, and so no urgency has yet arisen.

The deal essentially agrees two situations only in which any such vehicle can be operated by a single person in a live transmission:

  • Inside a secure building, for a live down-the-line interview, with the vehicle locked but left unattended – the BBC has agreed that the responsibility for the safety of the vehicle during such situations does NOT lie with the operator;
  • And for a live GV shot – this shot would be set up with direction from the gallery, but once set up, the operator would stand back from the camera to ensure his/her own security and the shot would NOT be directed or changed during the actual live transmission.

Your negotiators believe that this is a substantial achievement, and has protected operators from some potentially dangerous and inappropriate situations.

We also made it clear that we would be monitoring assiduously, and should there be infringement of this agreement by any individual newsroom (for instance, producers seeking to do other live transmissions, or asking for the shot to be changed) we would not hesitate to withdraw from the agreement and return to our NO LIVES stance.

Posted by Mark Scrimshaw

Filed under: BBC News

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