Australian TV media have finally woken up to the value of incorporating citizen journalism into the mix. But it's interesting look at the approach of each outlet and what it says about their expectations for community participation. Here's how it looks:
* The Ten Network have something called News Pics, which is an offer to be a "roving reporter" that sends them pictures via camera phones. But make sure you note the fine print: "you agree, in submitting footage to TEN to grant to TEN a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, unrestricted world-wide licence to use, and license others to use, your footage." There is no mention on the site, from what I can see, of what you gain in return for your efforts - that is, apart from paying mobile data charges. There are no guarantees the picture will appear anywhere, and if it is, whether they will credit it to you.
* Channel 9 calls their citizen journalism effort Newswatch. Like Ten, there is no promise of fame or fortune, as per the terms and conditions. They are, however, far more explicit about what you are giving away (my emphasis added): "In submitting Footage through the Footage Services, you grant to Nine an exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, transferable, royalty-free licence to use, copy, reproduce, edit, modify and exploit the Footage in any media, and to sublicence such rights to others, for any purpose whatsoever."
* ABC TV does not seem to offer any meaningful citizen journalism. There are plenty of RSS feeds and other goodies for the technically minded, including video on demand, but precious little in terms of community participation.
* Likewise, SBS has nothing.
The obvious conclusion to draw is that the commercial stations can see a financial benefit from involving citizens in the reporting cycle. They're also not afraid to tell you that your content will be exploited for commercial gain with little credit given to you for your work. And so you'd have to ask why you'd bother, right?
Meanwhile, it's surprising that the community-minded folks at ABC and SBS are behind the game on this given ABC's embrace of digital media. And given the government's penchant for cutting public broadcast funding, you'd think there were decent opportunities for ethical, intelligent contributions to help balance the equation.
So while we're making some good progress, there's a long, long way to go.