A filming licence agreement with the ABC


Annabel Crabb

Annabel Crabb – Image reproduced with permission Australian Broadcasting Corporation Library Sales

You may have seen the recent ABC production of The House hosted by Annabel Crabb and screened on the ABC.

That production provided a fascinating insight into the operations of a complex building and grounds. This is the first such production with such access to personnel that work within Parliament House.

There are a number of existing rules and procedures about accessing and filming areas within Parliament House. Ultimately access to the parliamentary precinct is within the control and powers of the Presiding Officers (the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate).

AGS worked with the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS), the Department of the Senate and Department of the House of Representatives personnel to prepare an agreement for filming arrangements, and assisted with negotiations with the ABC and finalisation of the agreement.

AGS had assisted DPS with some earlier agreements for limited access for filming scenes for commercial productions, and we were able to use the previous template work we had done to prepare the agreement – however the nature and purpose of this ABC documentary required some customising of the drafting, and needed to cover the various requirements of all the 3 parliamentary departments mentioned above.

The negotiations and consequent agreement needed to cover arrangements for access to the building; protections for the heritage aspects of the building (which include some lighting limitations); clarity about the permitted scope and purpose of the documentary; a desire to ensure the dignity of the Parliament was maintained as well as minimising disruptions; clarity about ownership of the film footage and use of footage owned by DPS; concerns about security; and costs for escort and liaison arrangements.

Because of timing issues – in that the commencement of the new parliamentary term was imminent – AGS also assisted with preparation of a letter to the ABC setting out agreed arrangements about filming activities prior to the full agreement being finalised.

It was an interesting agreement to work on for all involved as it required working through a range of issues for which there was no existing precedent or guidance. And it was pleasing to see what was an entertaining and interesting look at parliamentary life.