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Friday, May 14, 2010

Making your Media Matter Conference 2010: Ethical dilemmas in making media

Pat Aufdeheide speaking on the Center’s new publication Honest Truths. For this publication, the Center for Social Media interviewed many documentarians on ethical dilemmas that they have encountered in their work. Though there was no common vocabulary and lots of insistence on the particularities of their situation, 3 common views emerged.

- do no harm (to vulnerable subjects)
- give viewers an honest (but not necessarily accurate picture)
- be responsible to your project/contract/vision

These 3 ethical concerns frequently come into conflict with each other.

The center’s study found that the filmmakers didn’t have a good vocabulary to describe these ethical dilemmas. Reactions to this report from the documentary community have been: “I see in this report what is wrong with my field.”

Failure to resolve these issues leads to a ducking of responsibility:
e.g. – “Discovery made me do it”

In the publication, call is made for discussions, code of ethics, standards and practices, and in view of this, the Center has been looking at where such best practice exists. One that has been v. inspiring to the Center is ‘Safeguarding Trust BBC website’ – Do check this out – it’s fascinating.

The site is an interactive guide for independent filmmakers who contract with the BBC – site gives common situations, and the ethical expectation that the BBC has of you. On the site, various scenarios are give for different types of programming, reality, nature etc and potential BBC hires record their decision – the site tells you if your decision accords with what the BBC does and why. At the conference we used clickers to record votes in real time.

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