The Bristol Evening Post has slammed “barmy guidelines” which has seen the paper banned from publishing photographs of a school concert.
The paper was unable to take photographs at a concert staged by primary school children from across the city at Colston Hall after a blanket ban on all photography was imposed by organisers, who feared objections from parents.
The annual event has been covered by the Evening Post for the past 25 years, and this year saw 1,000 six to 11-year-olds from 31 schools taking part.
But after seeking advice from Bristol City Council – which itself follows guidelines set out by the Department for Education and Skills – organisers were told they would need parental permission before the children could be photographed.
As this would have meant contacting more than 1,000 parents and legal guardians at short notice, they reluctantly issued the blanket ban – a move which the Evening Post has slammed as “an example of stifling political correctness”.
In an editorial comment, editor Mike Lowe said: “Never mind that we have covered this event for a quarter of a century; never mind that the majority of children and their parents are pleased to see us there and enjoy looking at the pictures we publish.
“We and they are the victims of official guidelines born out of a paranoia which is damaging our children’s lives.
“Most of us have been pictured by the local paper when we were children. It’s part of growing up.
“We might live in more complicated, maybe more sinister, times, but we need to keep the risk to our children in perspective.
“It really is time some common sense was applied to situations like this. Part of the joy of performing is the accolades it brings, and that includes recognition in our paper.
“We would be the very last people to want vulnerable children to be put at risk. But we have to guard against being over-protective and in doing so wring the fun out of an event and out of their young lives.”
In January, education secretary Charles Clarke said there was no Government guideline banning identification of children pictured in the press – and that it was over-zealous education authorities that may have misinterpreted official guidance.
He told the Newspaper Society: “My department has not issued advice about the press photographing school pupils.”
The current DfES guidelines on its website say that pupils should not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.
Its advice explains that the Press Complaints Commission publishes a Code of Practice which includes guidance on the way in which children should be depicted in newspapers, and that if schools or parents have concerns regarding the use of photographs by the press, they should contact the Commission.
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