back to article Telly production biz films maternity clinic, doesn't tell patients, gets fined £120,000

A TV production company has been fined £120,000 after it set up cameras in a maternity clinic for a documentary on stillbirths, but tragically didn't get patients' advance permission for filming. True Visions Productions (TVP) was working on a Channel 4 documentary at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, where positioned …

  1. John G Imrie

    Who in the hospital ...

    thought that this would be a good idea, and how much did the Hospital get paid?

    1. Mark 85

      Re: Who in the hospital ...

      Not just the hospital but who at TVP? I can accept that perhaps this might (with a very large grain of sand) be something worth doing but it really does smell like a "shock reality" thing searching for ratings and viewers than an informational documentary. But profit and competition for ratings rule in TVland. The fine is a pittance and not enough.

      1. paulf

        Re: Who in the hospital ...

        Not just TVP but also the broadcaster involved. FTA: "True Visions Productions (TVP) was working on a Channel 4 documentary..." If Channel 4 were involved then TVP would have had some contractual relationship with the broadcaster. That may have been TVP approaching C4 with their own idea and C4 committing to pay for and broadcast the finished prog, and/or Channel 4 came up with their own idea and commissioned TVP to make it for them (Channel 4 being a commissioning only broadcaster, with no in house production facilities). You may argue TVP was at "the coal face" and made their own decisions about how to capture the footage they wanted to inform the documentary, but there ought to have been some oversight by the broadcaster, and thus some joint responsibility for how the production company conducted themselves on the broadcaster's behalf.

        An aside, the whole Sachsgate thing happened in part because BBC Radio 2 had wholly inadequate controls/oversight over the independent production house making Russell Brand's show. It didn't help that Brand owned the production company which meant that when a producer told him no, he fired them and hired a new producer that would say yes, and this should have encouraged greater external oversight from the Beeb due to the likely absent internal controls.

    2. }{amis}{

      Re: Hospital get paid

      More to the point who trousered the bund as NHS rules on donations mean that officially its pretty much impossible for a given unit to receive a donation.

      My Mother just retired as a dialysis nurse given that this is mostly a end of life support service, they frequently got added to wills ect but the money all goes into a central pot and then usually got spent on art to deteriorate the directors office main hospital in the catchment area.

      Her advice is if you want to say thank you to a unit that has helped you or your loved ones is to send things like tins of biscuits that wont be nicked by the central office directly to the address of the ward.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who in the hospital ...

      The intentions were obviously good but someone(s) in the hospital seems to think that hospitals are run for the benefit of the staff,not the patients - an observation not mine but made by a consultant called in to look at how the NHS was managed. (Since then, as an end user, things have got better.)

    4. tmTM

      Re: Who in the hospital ...

      and just as importantly, has this colossal idiot been fired already??

  2. Aladdin Sane

    Fine is £60/patient. Not enough. Not nearly enough.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Martin Summers


        The hospital didn't get fined. Its even in the subheading who got fined. Trot the argument out when the ICO fine a hospital or police force and then you'll be on point.

    2. Nonymous Crowd Nerd

      This really is a major infringement of the rules - and the spirit of the rules. In my view, a fine ten times greater still would not be enough.

  3. MJB7

    Still pre-GDPR

    So that's actually quite a substantial fine. If it was post-GDPR, I think sticking an extra couple of zeros on the end would be about right. (TV production companies don't have turnovers over 500 M€ so the max fine would be 20 M€; it *could* have been worse - so don't make the fine actually maximum.)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Still pre-GDPR

      Post GDPR you would fine the production company that was created for just this show, which has no money but rents all the equipment from another production company which happens to be at the same address.

      We rented outside our office to a major Holywood movie company once - you need some fast accounting footwork to get the bill in while the 'production company' still exists.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Still pre-GDPR

        nope. GDPR can hop foodchains as each link to the end product needs to be compliant. Thats why a parent organisation (nhs) can be culpable for a sub contracted sub contractor who isn't compliant.

  4. Filippo Silver badge

    "You know, people may get upset if we ask them to film them while they're having a stillbirth delivery."

    "Really? Okay, then don't ask."

    Are these guys stupid? I mean, if they thought this would be OK, they are psychopaths. If they thought this wasn't OK, but they could get away with it, then they are evil AND stupid - because this is stuff that's meant to go on bloody TV, how are you supposed not to get found out?

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      If this sort of intrusion into clinical spaces was to be done for research purposes, the team would have to go through rigorous procedures, including getting approval from a properly constituted Research Ethics Committee. To get approval, things like the information given to potential participants, and what would happen if there was a refusal would be scrutinised closely. It disgusts me that, because it is a media operation, rather than a research one, no-one thought about the ethics implications - but then, that seems to be the default for doctors and hospital managers these days.

  5. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Naturally, I blamed The Register?

    On reading, I thought that "tie a carrier bag over it" was a coarse remark about unsatisfactory improvised contraception. So maybe it actually was, at first, then they decided there was no other way to provide "privacy"??? (presumably the camera can still hear you though)

  6. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Patients compensation ?

    For all the fines dished out, it's hard to avoid the impression that the reality it no one gives a shit about the victims here. Or indeed any data breach.

    I look forward to a slew of stories proving me wrong.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I look forward to a slew of stories proving me wrong.

      Looks like you're gonna be disappointed

  7. disgruntled yank

    No way to stop the cameras?

    Hammers are not sold in the UK? I am not an advocate for vandalism, but in a case like this I'd be inclined, whether as clinician or as patient's friend or relative, to remove the camera by any means necessary.

  8. Old Used Programmer

    No way to shut off the camera?

    I can think of a few--besides the hammer suggestion already posted. Is it mains powered? Unplug it. Is it battery powered? Remove the battery. Is it on a standard camera mount? Unmount the camera and remove it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: No way to shut off the camera?

      >Unmount the camera and remove it.

      And then insert it in the commissioning editor that thought this was a good idea

    2. Paul Kinsler

      Re: I can think of a few--

      I suppose that the carrier-bag option has the advantage that you can leave the camera itself almost entirely alone, so you have a good defense against any claims of "you damaged the camera when you..."

      However, it does nothing much to hinder any audio recording if the cameras also have active microphones.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: No way to shut off the camera?


      Small can of expanding foam filler. It's a hospital - so fire retardant version.

      Gas braising torch.

      Automatic centre punch (to the lense). My preferred option.

      Of course, you could nuke it from orbit.

  9. Korev Silver badge


    In ancient history I worked on that site; they used to have a Burger King in the hospital which wasn’t an obvious way of improving patients’ diets....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BK

      SWMBO was in the local maternity unit a few years back, when exposure to nuts was considered verboten for expectant mothers and young babies.

      Every morning the only breakfast option available was -

      Kellogs Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

  10. DWRandolph

    Something about "footage would not be used"? As if anything once recorded can be completely deleted anymore!

  11. FozzyBear

    Seriously, making a documentary on Stillbirths and not getting permission or even speaking with the patients beforehand on what they were doing and why. Talk about a bunch of uncaring pricks

    The fine doesn't go far enough.My first thought that everyone in that production company should made to do a "Cersei walk of shame".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Filmed for posterity, of course.

      1. BebopWeBop

        With the appropriate permissions of course.....

    2. Teiwaz

      should made to do a "Cersei walk of shame".


      But then, TV these days, dress it up a bit, overpay some valium pumped grinning 4th rate female celeb whose chief skill is the ability to talk brainlessly between ad-breaks and it'll probably get good enough ratings.

      1. FozzyBear

        Oh you accidentally switched channels to "married at first sight" too.

        I wondered what brainless drivel I had switched to. I lasted 5-10 seconds before I turned the TV off.

  12. adam payne

    Despite knowing it would be processing sensitive personal data on these patients – indeed, that was TVP's whole reason for being there – the firm failed to offer sufficient information or gain the proper permissions in advance.

    *Shakes head*

  13. PacketPusher
    Paris Hilton

    Am I an Insensitive Arse?

    "... tragically didn't get patients' advance permission..."

    I do think the producers and the hospital should be punished for violating the patients' privacy without permission, but is it really a tragedy?

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Am I an Insensitive Arse?

      Yes, it is. The tragedy is that the people paid to care about patients going through a traumatic experience did nothing (as far as can be seen) to prevent the unscrupulous bastards from the media doing this.

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