No More Newspaper Front Pages On The BBC

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 9 August 2005

And so another useful feature of the BBC website bites the dust. This morning's BBC News review of the papers was not accompanied by the usual pop-up box of scans of the front pages from the major newspapers in the UK. Plus The Morning Star.

Hold the front page, website told

An explanation was given on the Newswatch site - "Hold the front page, website told"

The BBC News website has dropped its look at the day's front pages of the national newspapers because of fears it could be sued.

The pop-up picture box, which sat alongside the daily review of the papers, enabled readers to scan all of the front pages of the UK's most popular titles.

However, lawyers for BBC News advised editors that they faced a "considerable risk of litigation" if the website continued to show the front pages in that way.

The problem lies mainly with the republication of exclusive pictures, such as paparazzi shots.

Paul Brannan, deputy editor of the BBC News website, explained: "Many of the editions feature pictures which have been licensed to the newspapers by third parties.

"Publication by us - even as complete front pages rather than for specific use of the pictures - leaves us open to breach of copyright claims."

He added: "There is no 'fair dealing' exception for photographs for the purpose of reporting news and current events.

"BBC TV has already had to make pay-outs in this regard and since publication on the internet is for much longer than inclusion in a programme, any damages are likely to be higher."

That wasn't enough for some people, especially not at Biased BBC.

BBC News Online drops newspaper front page coverage - absolutely nothing to do with front pages like the one featured in the post below, oh no, of course not! It's all to do with copyright of photos you see - even though these could be dealt with in other ways, such as pixellation. Cowards!

They are referring to last week's Daily Express front page about the BBC over-representing Muslims in the audience for 'Questions Of Security'

Sadly for their conspiracy theory, the writing has been on the wall for newspaper pop-up for a while. Back in March the praises of the pop-up were being sung by Daniel Shaw, quoted in Pete Clifton's editorial column:

Daniel asks why it is not promoted better. We often do use a promotional box for this on the front page of the site or the UK index, but sometimes we decide there are other priorities. But you can always find the newspaper review, and the accompanying pictures, under "UK Newspapers" lower down the left hand side of the UK index. A link for the front pages can also be found within the Magazine Monitor column each morning.

Merely three months later, in early June the same feature was coming in for flak in the same column for the reduced scope it was operating under:

Curt Carpenter, from Dallas, Texas, asked: "Please can you tell us what legal nonsense caused the demise of the Front Pages archive?"

Curt refers to the pop-up gallery of front pages you can launch from stories like this. There was indeed some uncertainty over whether we had the rights to retain previous versions of the front pages in the archive, so I decided to drop it. Blame me.

The days of the pop-up were clearly numbered. The legal case isn't clear to some of the commentators on the Biased BBC site though. dave t wrote yesterday:

The BBC claiming they can't publish front pages of the Morning Star etc anymore is rubbish because this site gives you the front pages of hundreds of papers throughout the world including British their feeble 'copyrigth'[sic] excuse fails (how unusual). Will they EVER tell the truth to those who pay for all this?

The site dave t refers to is the U.S. run Newseum, and their global flash map interface into front pages from around the world is one of the best looking web apps I've seen. Still whilst making 2+2=5 dave t isn't strictly comparing like-with-like. The Newseum is a non-profit institution archiving newspaper material. The BBC is a newsgathering organisation. Checking out the UK coverage shows that Newseum doesn't get everything from the UK anyway. Of the weekday nationals only the Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, and The Herald appear. There is notably no The Sun or The Times. Mind you, Newseum's front page coverage of The Lancashire Evening Post and The Shields Gazette is more comprehensive than the BBC's used to be.

Personally though I'm quite put out by the BBC News pop-up disappearing. Firstly removing the archive has broken a whole heap of links on a contemporania site I run, and secondly, I no longer know who to strategically sit next to on the tube to grab their paper if they discard it, which I used to do based on the stories tantalisingly promised by the front-page snapshots on BBC News.

1 Comment

Haha, love the biased BBC comments, as usual.

I'd have thought that the front pages were safe, as they're effectively promoting the newspapers. I guess third-party images are more tricky though, but newswire photos may well have been bought by the BBC anyway.

Does this mean that Newsnight is going to stop its review of the next morning's papers at the end of its nightly TV show too?

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