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Right place, wrong time

Simon Waldman | 16:55 UK time, Monday, 28 July 2008

The spectacular fire on the pier at Weston-super-Mare caused a fair degree of early morning teeth-gnashing in the newsroom, swiftly followed by heartfelt and relieved thanks to our fantastically public-spirited and technically literate audience.

BBC News channel logoWe watched the fire raging - live - on a...err...rival news channel, who had the good fortune to have a cameraman/sat-truck operator living not far from the town. And boy, did they make the most of that stroke of luck! It was an uncomfortable hour, to be frank.

By the time our own team had hot-footed it to Weston, the fire was beginning to die down - but by then we had already received some fantastic "UGC" (User Generated Content) from scores of citizen journalists who were instrumental in helping us convey the drama and sheer scale of the fire.

In fact, by lunchtime BBC News had received almost 500 stills and dozens of video sequences from members of the public, either e-mailed or texted in to us. To everyone who contributed, a big thank you!

Whilst lots of you were contacting BBC News in London direct, many were in touch with the Points West newsroom in Bristol, while others were delivering some amazing pictures direct to our satellite truck in Weston (Ray and Ralph, that's you!). You can see some of their fabulous footage here.

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Which just goes to show that you can strike lucky - or not - in having a camera crew on hand for unexpected news stories, but you can almost always count on someone with a camera being nearby. And that someone could be you!


  • Comment number 1.


    That statement: "Right Place, Wrong Time" is absoltetly correct...

    I hope everyone in Weston-Super-Mere, is safe and sound...

  • Comment number 2.

    Ray and Ralph,

    thanks for your coverage during the incident in Weston-Super-Mare....

    thanks again....

  • Comment number 3.

    My friend Simon made a good point about your coverage:

  • Comment number 4.

    #3: Yeah, they said that on Breakfast this morning too. It made me smile.

    I can't watch Sky News as I have BBC Freesat, so I never knew they had pictures!

  • Comment number 5.

    So, it's the most important thing in the world to get live coverage of an event like this?

    To be blunt, did it really matter that the BBC wasn't first on the scene, or didn't have an expensive crew and truck in the area?

    While it would be important to get some images for the news bulletins, at least the lack of professional gear meant we wouldn't be treated to endless footage or what, after all, was just a huge fire.

    Having been at work all day, I will have to speculate that Sky News managed to fill hour after hour with billowing smoke, vox pops of astonished people describing the flames and billowing smoke, etc. Let them have their day. I'd rather the Beeb spent time gathering accurate reports than rushing about to be first to air a story.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am glad you got your 'fabulous' images of this sad event.

    Maybe tone down the glee next time.

  • Comment number 7.

    It’s great that you were saved by your listeners, but it would be nice to know if you paid your viewers for material used (As any newspaper would).
    I think it’s bad that like other digital media that you feel you can take advantage of amateurs in this way and reserve the right to pass the pictures to other media without payment.

  • Comment number 8.

    Ray and Ralph... please inform us how much you got paid for your excellent coverage.

    I suspect it was 'zero'... but hey!... a thank you on a blog surely is priceless!!

    On a serious note, I worked in the newspaper industry and the rag I worked for was often asking the public to send in photos and video of news stories... for no recompense what so ever!!... it didn't really take off in the 'BIG' way that was anticipated... funny that!

  • Comment number 9.

    I must agree with the comments about the BBC's terms and conditions. If the BBC are willing to air the pictures they should be willing to acknowledge the contributors, and give them a cut of the profits when they sell the content to other news organisations.

  • Comment number 10.

    I've got to disagree with the above comments - the BBC do make their terms and conditions very clear to users before they submit pictures (as I have in the past). If you want to get paid, then you go elsewhere. If you don't mind granting a royalty-free, non-exclusive license to Auntie Beeb, then you submit.

    You can't complain if the BBC are making their stance very clear to the user before submitted their content.

  • Comment number 11.

    #10. I don't mind giving pictures to the BBC for free. I wouldn't mind the BBC then giving those pictures to other people. What I'd object to is them then SELLING those pictures on and making money from it.

    On a wider issue why is the BBC getting so obsessed with being 'first to break a story'? In the past they were often an hour or so later than everyone else getting a story out, but the story was always correct. I'd rather accurate than first anyday.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks to all for your comments - I'm sorry not to be able to respond to all of them.

    ScottTheDot: point taken - though I feel "glee" was a tad harsh! The destruction of this historic pier was indeed a sad event, in fact I suspect that much of what we would call news falls into the sad or bad category. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire.

    Combehay99 and others: the BBC does not generally pay for "UGC" - it is licence fee payers' money after all. The terms and conditions are very clear and are set out here. Essentially the person who shot the material retains the copyright - they are simply allowing the BBC to use their images. The BBC does not sell on these images to other news organisations or anyone else, so there is no "cut of the profits" to share.

  • Comment number 13.

    The truth is that Breakfast "news" is solidly anchored to the trivial and facile. At the same time of the fire breaking out at WSM the BBC Breakfast team managed to have a reporter (and camera and sound crew) out (live) saying er.....what precisely? Nothing, absolutely nothing except some speculative and (apparently) contradictory nonsense about Britons either continuing to spend their holidays abroad (as the case may be). Followed by Billy and Sian having a good old laugh about changing their names...

    Perhaps you perceive your viewers to be stupid or ignorant (its beginning to show) but many of us are beginning to get heartily sick of the extravagant use of licence payers money.

  • Comment number 14.

    How were Ray and Ralph delivering images direct to your satellite truck? I`m just curious as to the type of equipment they used, it seems a bit more required than just a camphone or digicam.

    The comments about people deciding to try asking for fees or essentially choosing to give footage to broadcasters are valid; I suspect one major deciding factor would be if they were the ONLY peope to have film of something. Given the dozens of ametur videos of this fire on YouTube I suspect barganing would have been pretty fruitless in this case.

    Given that our piers seem prone to collapse/fire/storms would it be worth just pointing a webcam at each one that remains?

  • Comment number 15.


    What you don't say is that people are being robbed of their 'image rights'.

    I would never offer anything to the BBC without a fee or a contract.

    People here may think, 'great I got a pic on the BBC' but they don't know that their image/footage may well be used by other news organizations around the world.

    BBC is getting material for nothing.

    But also, as one poster said.
    It was just another fire. Not news worthy.

  • Comment number 16.


    I apologise.

    You did day in a reply that, "The BBC does not sell on these images to other news organisations or anyone else,"


  • Comment number 17.

    Perhaps if the BBC devoted fewer staff to the USA and more to the UK, we, the general public, would not have to do your job for you.
    This is unfortunately becoming more and more commonplace, with not a single news or weather programme failing to devote time to imploring the public to send in the news or pictures.
    We actually pay for the service, and are now expected to do the work too. Pathetic.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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