Use of BBC News helicopter

A Willmore made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Y Gorfforaeth Ddarlledu Brydeinig

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Y Gorfforaeth Ddarlledu Brydeinig.

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

A video posted on YouTube today (https://youtu.be/1RSxfB41xbM) covering the special train worked by steam locomotive "Flying Scotsman" shows a helicopter branded "BBC News" following the train. At 1 minute and 33 seconds in to this video the blue helicopter can be seen flying on the opposite side of the train at the same level as the train as it passes along a low embankment.

I am not an expert but my understanding is that Civil Aviation Authority rules state: "The aircraft must not be flown closer than 150 metres (500 feet) to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure except with the permission of the CAA.".

Under the transparency afforded to me by the Freedom of Information Act I would like to know, please:

- Whether or not such special permission for this flight was granted to BBC News by the CAA.

- If it was granted, I would like you to supply a copy of said permission.

- If it was not granted, details of the arrangements the BBC has made to allow low-flying such as seen on the video.

I look forward to a timely and comprehensive response.

Yours faithfully,

Mr A Willmore

FOI Enquiries, Y Gorfforaeth Ddarlledu Brydeinig

Dear A Willmore,

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, below

Your request was received on 25 February 2016.

We will deal with your request as promptly as possible, and at the latest within 20 working days.

If you have any queries about your request, please contact us at the above address. The reference number for this request is RFI20160360.

Yours sincerely,

BBC Information Policy and Compliance
BC2A4, Broadcast Centre
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TP, UK

Website: www.bbc.co.uk/foi
Email: [BBC request email]

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

FOI Enquiries, Y Gorfforaeth Ddarlledu Brydeinig

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Willmore,

Thank you for your recent request for information. Please find the response attached.

Yours sincerely,

The Information Policy and Compliance Team

BBC Information Policy and Compliance
BC2A4, Broadcast Centre
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TP, UK

Website: www.bbc.co.uk/foi
Email: [BBC request email]

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear FOI Enquiries,

Errrr... no. My request for information is nothing to do with "journalism, art or literature" and I am appalled that you have invoked this derogation to avoid a meaningful response.

My request for information concerned the low-flying of a helicopter branded "BBC News" and the DANGER TO PUBLIC SAFETY and the safety of the helicopter crew that such flying behaviour may or may not have posed, and the authorisations needed to allow flying of the type seen in the YouTube video.

My request had was absolutely NOT concerned with any filming or recording it was involved with or any programme in which any recordings were subsequently used.

Would you like to try again or shall I refer this one to the ICO without delay?

Yours sincerely,

Mr A Willmore

FOI Enquiries, Y Gorfforaeth Ddarlledu Brydeinig

Dear Mr Willmore,

We note you are unhappy with the response you received. As explained in our original reply, the BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the Act.  Therefore, if you disagree with our decision you can appeal to the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely,

The Information Policy and Compliance Team

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

Passed to the ICO for their attention.

Gadawodd Julian Vein anodiad ()

I suggest you refer this matter to the Health & Safety Executive or the Civil Aviation Authority.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

Thanks Julian, I thought much the same thing and I have been in contact with the CAA. Your suggestion for contacting HSE is a good one but I'll see what the CAA have to say first.

Gadawodd Mr Williams anodiad ()

I imagine that the helicopter was being used for journalism, and the practices used by the journalists in there work are outside of the scooe of FOI (quite explicitly).

Had you also considered making a complaint to the BBC using their complaints process? At least they will then have to give some sort of response, which you could re-post here.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

Good idea, thanks, I've done that.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

The ICO did their best...

"The Commissioner appreciates that you have concerns about a BBC helicopter flight but the Commissioner can only consider concerns within the scope of the FOIA. The Commissioner is unable to compel the public authority to provide information outside its obligations under FOIA."

"Your request is directly linked to the BBC’s output as the purpose of the helicopter flight would have been to gather material for publication and as a result I am satisfied that in this case the Commissioner has no jurisdiction in this matter and therefore no statutory power to order disclosure."

Gadawodd Steve Smith anodiad ()

I have asked some questions on this topic on the Biased BBC web forum (http://biasedbbc.org/blog/2016/03/04/wee...), and there have been some interesting responses including some from aviation professionals. A link to another video (https://youtu.be/WPeyMuSg5ek) was also posted.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

Oooh, that's interesting - thank you. I'm still awaiting responses from H&SE, BBC Complaints and the CAA.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

Reply received from HSE, the important bit of which is this: "Your enquiry does not fall within HSE’s enforcement remit so we are unable to comment on the matters you raise" followed by advice to contact the CAA.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

Response from BBC Complaints follows. I've asked for copies of the CAA permission and notifications to train operator and Police.

*********************
Thank you for contacting the BBC with reference to your concerns about the helicopter flying in relation to coverage of the Flying Scotsman.

The BBC News Helicopter is operated on behalf of BBC News by a specialist aerial filming company with extensive experience in this area. It is worth noting the company in question were handpicked (not by the BBC) to carry out the low level helicopter filming for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony which required extensive cooperation from government agencies and the CAA.

On the YouTube video the helicopter looks very close to the train and part of the reason for this is the amount of zoom being used by the camera which appears to bring focussed subjects closer together, the distance to the side of the train is within the limits of their flight authorisation as they hold the relevant permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority. The footage from the helicopter for this portion of the flight shows that there is considerable distance between the train and the helicopter and I understand the CAA have also been shown the footage which demonstrates this. To carry out filming of this nature a number of things need to be adhered to and put in place beforehand including notifying the train operator who in turn notifies drivers on the route in addition to notifying the relevant Police Authorities along the route. I can confirm that both of these requirements were met beforehand and are documented.

I understand the Civil Aviation Authority have been looking into a complaint relating to this footage and will no doubt provide a response in due course.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

I have just spoken to the CAA. My report is still being investigated, along with a number of other reports arising from the use of helicopters around Flying Scotsman that day. The CAA will respond to me once their investigations are complete.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

Response received from CAA today. All the BBC had to do was to say "this is how we did it"...:

Thank you for using the online form and for your patience in receiving this information.

Following complaints regarding the alleged dangerous low flying of a helicopter in the vicinity of the Flying Scotsman on the 25 February 2016 the Flight Operations (Helicopter) (FOI(H) department interviewed the helicopter Operator on the 3 March 2016 . They established that the company had used a twin engined helicopter capable of single engined flight in the event of an engine failure. The company had also had carried out the required risk assessments prior to the filming; this included contacting the train operators and the Police who were both content with their filming plan. Such coordinated filming tasks are permitted to take place with appropriate safety measures and considerations in accordance with agreed written procedures.

The FO(H) department consider the flight to have been conducted safely in accordance with normal flight practice for commercial filming operators.

Please be assured that we take your complaint seriously and I will ensure that your report is logged onto our complaints and enquiries database for future reference.

Gadawodd A Willmore anodiad ()

And finally, the response from BBC Complaints...

We have spoken to the helicopter operator and understand that the CAA have seen all relevant angles including the footage actually taken from the helicopter and were satisfied the flying didn’t at any time breach the flight permission held by the helicopter operator. As a matter of course the helicopter operator demonstrated to the CAA that the relevant notifications to the Police and train operator had also taken place (these were done in writing in this particular case although often the Police notification is done by telephone). The helicopter operator will not release the notifications into the public domain as they have personal details (names and email addresses) on them, we can confirm that the helicopter operator has offered the BBC sight of all relevant notifications but cannot authorise the distribution of them.

We hope this helps and we thank you for your time in contacting us about this.

We are sorry to tell you that we have nothing to add to our previous reply. We do not believe your complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation. We will not therefore correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions, made about this issue or our responses to it.