Is drone journalism ethical?

Law and the ethics of media use of drones will be the focus of two free public presentations by international media law expert Dr David Goldberg at Griffith University next week.

Dr Goldberg was co-author (with the ABC’s Mark Corcoran and Oxford’s Robert G. Picard) of the Oxford Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and Journalism’ in June 2013.

In the public symposium, Drones, Privacy and Journalism on November 4, Dr Goldberg will focus exclusively on using ‘drones’, technically remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) for newsgathering, aka ‘dronejournalism’ or, ‘dronalism’.

Increasingly RPAs have taken over from primarily military use to civilian applications. Cheap, light and portable, RPAs can easily be moved to locations where reporting needs to take place or production is most desirable and, crucially, can keep journalists safe.

“Drone journalism is simply 21st century photojournalism deploying a newish platform for aerial photography for the purpose of news gathering,’’ Dr Goldberg said.

“However, this category of use by mainstream media and citizen journalists is being frustrated by regulatory and legal restrictions as well as so-called ‘ethical’ gaps and challenges.”

Hispresentationwill defend the public’s right to receive information from journalists who use ethical sources including RPAs.

Former ABC Foreign Correspondent reporter (now with ABC News Online) Mark Corcoran and The Australian’s legal affairs editor Chris Merritt will form a panel responding to Dr Goldberg’s address.

Dr David Goldberg
Dr David Goldberg

Following his address, Dr Goldberg will officially launch Griffith’s journalism students’ coverage of the G20 summit from its Media Centre at South Bank.

Preceding the Brisbane symposium, Dr Goldberg will present the seminarFrom Glasgow to Gold Coast — the challenge of drone journalism in news and sports coverageat the Gold Coast campus on November 3.

He will discuss drone technology focusing on media usage in major events like the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Cameras on drones were visible in many shots broadcast from the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. By the time the Gold Coast hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2018 drone technology will likely be central to media coverage of such a major event – with its accompanying legal pitfalls of security, surveillance and privacy issues

Former Gold Coast Bulletin editor and Griffith University communications and marketing director Dean Gould and media law expert Professor Mark Pearson will be panellists for this Friends of the Library event at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus on November 3.

Attendance at both events is free, but registration is required at the links detailed here for the Brisbane event (Nov 4) and here for the Gold Coast event (Nov 3). Both presentations start at 6pm, with guests asked to arrive from 5.15pm for the Brisbane event and from 5.30pm for the Gold Coast presentation.