Dale Farm: News media win legal fight over footage
The BBC, like other broadcasters, has a well-established process in place for dealing with police requests for untransmitted footage. Put simply - we require requests for such material to be made through the courts.
We have to consider in each case whether an order is justified and occasionally we conclude that it isn't and that it's necessary to challenge it. On Thursday a successful challenge was made which led to a significant ruling from the courts which fundamentally reinforces the independence of news organisations from the police.
In this case the order was so wide ranging it amounted to a fishing expedition. We believe journalists must maintain their independence, must not be seen as evidence gatherers and must not have their safety compromised. There is a real concern that our crews would be prevented from doing their job if the subjects they were filming thought the material was inevitably going to be passed onto the police. All of these things would be undermined by the courts agreeing to unfocused and speculative applications for footage.
The broadcasters won the challenge and the footage as requested won't now be released.
But, more importantly that that, today's guidance makes it clear that applications must be supported by proper evidence, must be focused and proportionate and the court has acknowledged that the over-use of production orders may make it harder for the press to do its job.
This won't change the way we deal with such requests in the future - our processes are tried and tested and designed to protect the independence of our journalism and the safety of our staff, whatever the subject of the footage. This remains an important principle and one which we will continue to take very seriously.
But the BBC, and other broadcasters, have been getting an increasing number of such police requests, which most people hear little about as they pass through the courts, and this ruling will significantly benefit both news organisations and our audiences.
Fran Unsworth is head of Newsgathering at BBC News.