A new app will use Uber drivers as drive-by camera operators for breaking news footage to feed the 24/7 media beast.
Veteran journalist Adam Walters is founding director of NewsCar, which he told Crikey would fill demand for fresh content as networks try to retain viewers and their relevance.
“It’s not disruptive. It’s taking into account the dramatic transformation of news gathering,” he said. “This is giving the news brands a chance to smooth out the playing field in this new world.”
The app will allow newsrooms to see which drivers are near news events and send them a job request. Drivers will then use the app to film the event in wide-screen, and footage can be recorded or broadcast live. Drivers be paid directly through the app, and NewsCar will take a cut.
But Walters says he’s not out to put camera operators out of a job.
“Without those pictures, sometimes you won’t have a story. In the case of a house fire [for example], without shots of the flames, newsrooms might not be inclined to cover it. It creates a life for that story,” he said.
Walters says the app is different to other citizen journalist apps because drivers would always be responding to specific requests, and the app would be set up for news requirements with wide-screen, high-quality footage.
“There will be guidance for the drivers in terms of tips on shooting with lighting and the more technical aspects, but the biggest complaint about amateur vision is the aspect ratio,” he said.
Networks will buy access to the footage, but NewsCar will own the footage, which it will maintain in an archive.
Networks will also have responsibility for the drivers’ behaviour while they are shooting, ensuring they are not breaking any laws.
Walters was responsible for the controversial Seven news story that brought down then-NSW transport minister David Campbell, who was filmed leaving a gay club in Sydney in 2010.
The story was found by the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) to have breached Campbell’s privacy, but it was in the public interest because Campbell had resigned before the story aired — after he was approached by Seven with the footage.
The app will launch in Sydney later this month. Walters says the the company is already in talks to set up in the United States with ride-sharing apps there. — Emily Watkins