Stock Shots

Most two-year-olds aren't too concerned with the cares of the world, but Bristol-based World Images isn't your average toddler. The archive is the alter-ego of World Television, a production company specializing in short-form news and current affairs projects for international organizations...
December 1, 1998

Most two-year-olds aren’t too concerned with the cares of the world, but Bristol-based World Images isn’t your average toddler. The archive is the alter-ego of World Television, a production company specializing in short-form news and current affairs projects for international organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the International Red Cross.

The archive is made up of about 10,000 hours of footage, shot by both World Television and the organizations themselves – sometimes in covert and dangerous circumstances. ‘Over the last couple of years,’ explains archive director Peter Sibley, ‘we’ve been encouraging our organizations to develop their archives as a commercial asset. As a result, we’ve ended up with one of the world’s largest specialized libraries.’

As might be expected, given the source of some of the material, the main focus of the collection is human rights, humanitarian, wildlife, environmental, and developmental issues. The archive also represents some exploratory and travel programming like U.K.-based Pilot Productions’ Lonely Planet. While the library is only a couple of years old, much of the footage is far older. World Television has been working with some of the organizations for almost a decade, and some of their footage dates back 25 years (the majority of it being broadcast quality). ‘Certainly for the last ten years,’ observes Sibley, ‘most of these organizations have been shooting high-quality, good production value material on Beta SP or other [higher quality formats].’

Some of the archive contains powerful and controversial images (like those of hangings and other executions), especially the footage garnered from such sources as Amnesty International. Sibley explains that such content can sometimes limit commercial viability, but for productions which require a hard-hitting, honest look at world issues, he can usually provide the footage – providing the outlet is acceptable to the organizations themselves.

‘Part of World Images’ role – which is quite a crucial element – is that we manage the archives on behalf of these organizations, to ensure that the images are not abused, and are used only the right way. The contract we have with the organizations [commits us to] check back with them on each footage request, which adds a level of security in the way that we manage their archives. It’s very different from a lot of stock companies who will simply buy a collection and will then exploit the rights where they can.’

While few requests for footage are refused, it is not unheard of. In some cases, requests for Amnesty material can be refused for security reasons – if it could potentially compromise the safety of people working in the field. Some requests will also be refused for corporate use – corporations trying to look `green’ by cutting Greenpeace images into advertising, for example. It is, however, in the organizations’ best interest to get their footage into circulation, so requests are usually granted.

Although some of the footage is unique, Sibley says licensing is not set at a premium rate, but rather adheres to the industry-standard sliding scale, depending on footage use. World Images can offer producers world rights to all their footage, save Greenpeace’s, where they only have U.K. rights. They can, however, mediate the deal with Greenpeace headquarters in Amsterdam.

World Television has recently been recognized for its work with a PR Week National Award for Best Broadcast Campaign. The award is unique in the U.K. and was earned for a series of six films under 15 minutes (distributed by satellite through Reuters), which the production company made for the World Wildlife Fund. The films concentrated on the Fund’s drive for countries around the world to dedicate ten percent of their forest to preserves. According to World Images, the films garnered an international audience in excess of 250 million viewers.

World Television produces between 80 and 100 films every year, most of which are ten to fifteen minutes in length. All that footage, as well as the outs, eventually finds its way into the World Images archive.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.