Highways England apologises after reporter's video of A27 event is deleted

A reporter working for the Chichester Observer had his material deleted by a Highways England representative at a public exhibition.

Wednesday, 27th July 2016, 12:31 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 1:57 am
Visitors viewing the A27 options at one of the public exhibitions. Picture Kate Shemilt ks16000863-5

Highways England immediately apologised to the reporter and he was given the opportunity to film again.

Reporter Steve Pickthall had been filming at the first public exhibition on Highways England’s plans to improve Chichester’s A27 at Council House in North Street on Monday, July 25.

Mr Pickthall said: “I had been interviewing two Highways representatives about the plans, and was taking some background video clips and pictures of people at the exhibition to use with it for a video for our website later that day.

“I had asked the appropriate media officer if it was OK to film the formal interview, and been given permission, and having conducted further filming background filming at the exhibition, was asking those who I had already filmed if they were OK to potentially be in the video and no one had any problems.

“But then a Highways representative who I hadn’t met demanded to know who I was and why I was filming without permission.

“He said I had filmed him and demanded to see my phone.

“I showed him and sure enough he was featured in the background of the video for around a second, and in two pictures which I deleted in front of him.

“He demanded I also delete the video. I said that because the clip was around three minutes long I didn’t want to lose it all, but gave him an assurance that I would cut out anything that featured him.

“A short while later I was showing the video to two other Highways staff who were briefly featured in it and also did not want to feature, when the same man came over, took the phone and deleted the clip.

“When I told him I would be making a formal complaint he removed his name badge.

“Another man, who I assume was representing Highways England, said that I needed written permission from every person featured in the video to use it.

“I told him that wasn’t accurate, that verbal permission was substantial enough, at which point he said he had the power to remove me from the exhibition.”

A spokesperson from Highways England said: “It is very important that as an organisation we respect and protect the privacy of all those who attend our events, including our staff.

“Our representative had genuine reasons for not wishing to appear in the footage and was not asked nor gave prior permission to be filmed.

“He was uneasy about being filmed and after being handed the phone some further footage he featured in was also deleted.

“It is unfortunate that this misunderstanding occurred.

“We immediately apologised to Mr Pickthall and he was given the opportunity to film again, this time without including the individuals.”

Mr Pickthall added: “I was totally gobsmacked to be treated like this when I was simply trying to do my job and report on major transport plans that have affected our Observer readers for years.

“I felt his actions were an attempt to intimidate me and, in my opinion, were wholly inappropriate for someone in his position.

“I would never publish video footage of anyone without their prior permission, and certainly not if they had expressly stated they didn’t want to be featured, I would be breaching the IPSO editor’s code of practice if I did so.

“This man was representing a government company at a public meeting, where anyone there would have been within their right to film and take pictures.

“I want to add that everyone else who I met from Highways England at the event I found to be extremely helpful and accommodating.”

The Chichester Observer has chosen not to name the official, as requested by Highways England.

The paper is considering making a formal complaint over the incident.

All the A27 consultation documents, including video visualisations of each of the route options, can be seen here

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