As some of you might or might not know, I have a long and illustrious career in telly (quick, someone grab my feet). Yes, that lawless, soulless Wild West where pimps and thieves run free and good men die like dogs. As part of my role, I’m responsible for making sure that everything you see on your telly screens has been signed off, released, contracted and cleared. This goes for the music you hear, the people you see, the places they are in and any artworks et al in the back of shot. House numbers, number plates, passers-by and even clothing labels are double and triple checked before a programme airs.
Why this diligence in the land of loose whores and cheap liquor I hear you scream! For in this ‘Wild West’ you’ve got the watchful Deputy of Fair Representation, the all-knowing sheriff of Data Protection and the lock-down jail of Informed Consent. If you piss anyone one of these off then the cavalry will come down on you like a sack of shit. OFCOM.
OFCOM are the bad asses, the big bosses, the honchos that strike fear into all god fearing Telly folk. If ever you want to see a production shit itself and batten down the hatches, just listen out for the deep rumble of the OFCOM horses riding into town. And this hysteria is there with good reason…
The stories lurk in darkened telly saloons. One programme featured a shot from a foot bridge showing a general view (GV) of cars driving on a motorway underneath. One man’s car was in that shot for less than a second, but his number plate was recognised by his wife, who knew he should not have been on that motorway at the time. She discovered from this that he was having an affair, and filed for divorce. The man complained to OFCOM that he was not informed of his car featuring and his number plate was not blurred, which directly led to his divorce. His complaint was upheld.
Another story involves a night scene outside some bars in the early hours. Amongst the general shot of revellers, a man had got into a drunken scuffle in the back of shot. After the programme aired, this man went for a job interview and was turned down because the interviewers had recognised him from the programme. He complained to OFCOM that he wasn’t informed of the programme and his face was not blurred. His complaint was upheld.
SO: There is good reason for our pedantic diligence. But without this knowledge, you bright, canny lot believe you’ve got us pegged. There’s no getting one over on you, oh no. For when producing a release form during the tentative stages of filming, you smile, you snigger, you tap your nose and laugh out loud saying no, no, no, no, no:
Ah no mate I ain’t signing one of those, I ain’t signing anything, you’ll fuck me over, you think I’m stupid. I know your type! My mate signed one and they fucked him and made him look like a nob now everyone’s laughing at him. Nah. I’ll be on camera but I ain’t signing shit.
Ah my sweet potential contributors. It is all but a simple permission slip, which without it we cannot feature you AT ALL. To get to be on the telly, you must lay your mark saying that you agree to do so. Look, let me show you with puppets.
I can understand that the form can be a bit scary; it generally contains around five points in legal jargon that sounds like we’re going to steal your soul and sell it indefinitely. Here are those bits with a breakdown:
(i) grant to us all consents.. to use…. throughout the universe in perpetuity by any and all means in any and all media, whether now known or hereafter developed or discovered, without liability or acknowledgement to you;
You give us permission to go on the telly programme on the TV, DVD, Blu ray, all the iPlayers, iphones, and any other way you can watch telly. And, if they come up with holograms in a couple of years, we can put this show in that format too without having to call you up again.
(ii) grant us the right to reproduce your name and photograph by all means and in all media throughout the world and perpetuity for the purposes of advertising and publicity; and
Once the programme has been cut together, it might have a teaser advert made to promote it. If you say no to this, some poor bastard has to ear mark your face and watch every single recut to make sure you don’t accidently end up in it. But if you said yes to the programme, it is only bits of that programme being used for it, so if you say no to this, you’re saying ‘I want to be in it, but not too much’. Stop being difficult.
(iv) the right to edit, copy, add to, take from, adapt or translate the Contribution as we see fit and, in respect of the Contribution, you irrevocably waive the benefits of and agree not to assert any provision of law known as “moral rights” or any similar laws of any jurisdiction.
This means that whilst we filmed a lovely half hour interview with you, the programme is only an hour long, has x many more people to feature and a story to tell in a pacey interesting way. The series producer will have a vision, the company exec will have a vision and the channel will have a vision. This means recuts will be made until everyone is happy. So you might end up as a sound bite. Soz.
You won’t end up in Porn!
And there we have it. We’re not trying to fuck you over, or cut & paste your face onto porn in Japan. We just want to make a telly show of which you’ll be helping to colour the tapestry. If you have serious misgivings, then research the company’s output. Ask for a detailed explanation of the programme. Think about what you are doing, and whether you don’t mind seeing your contribution repeated to infinity on Sky.
But after all this, please: SIGN THE FUCKING RELEASE FORM.