My experience as an undercover journalist

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My first TV Credit

My first TV Credit

The last 3 weeks have been very chaotic but also extremely rewarding and exciting. I spent 3 weeks at ITV Wales working with the Welsh current affairs team. Despite wanting to write all about it during my time there, I was sworn to secrecy as I was working on an investigative programme with the Byd Ar Bedwar team. On my first day I was asked if I wanted to go undercover to find out if a modelling agency in London were scamming people, unsurprisingly I didn’t hesitate when I said YES PLEASE!!After a long and hard 8 months on the course it was time for me to put what I’d learnt into action, but this time not in the comfort bubble of Cardiff’s journalism school but in the REAL world.

After being invited to the first ‘Hacio’ meeting to discuss ideas for the new structure of their programme I was then asked to have a meeting to discuss my role as the roving undercover reporter. I was delighted that the team trusted me enough to send me to London to try to find out if this agency were breaking the law. One boy from Swansea had complained about them saying they’d taken money from him by pressurising him to pay for a portfolio of pictures. They promised him work as an extra on programmes like Eastenders and adverts like Heineken. When he had his pictures back he was really unhappy with the quality of them, he had to go through the BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,) to get his money back and never heard from the company again.

The team had already found more case studies that had experienced the exact same thing, but now it was my turn to capture it all on camera so that something could finally be done to stop them. On my second day on work experience I was getting a taxi to Cardiff train station to meet the team to get the train to London. I’d made a phone call to the agency on the Monday to make an appointment, they were happy to see me the next day! We arrived in London, waited for our camera man to arrive then headed to Soho. Before going into the interview myself and Sian tested out the hidden camera to make sure it was all in tact and off I went.

I thought by this point I’d start feeling nervous, perhaps my heart beat would start speeding up but I was actually extremely calm and managed to persuade myself that I had to be convincing. As I waited in the reception I noticed a young boy was waiting to see the agency with what looked like an envelope with pictures in. I started chatting to him and found out he had paid 400 pound for these pictures and that the agency had assured him he’d make a lot of money with this professional portfolio.

One of my portfolio pictures!

One of my portfolio pictures!

An hour went by and then I was called up for the interview. She told me I needed a portfolio or I’d never be taken seriously, she provided me with my paperwork and took a 100 pound deposit from me. After about half hour i’d arranged my photo shoot in the same studio all the other people we’d spoken to had been sent to.

We spent the day filming on Thursday and interviewing a man who used to model for Storm to find out how a professional agency should act and he told us they never charge you for photos, only if you start making money. On Friday we headed to the Studio where I paid the rest of my money to the guy on the desk (390 pound.) In the ‘studio,’ there was already a guy having his pictures taken so myself and Ian (Byd Ar Bedwar) took the opportunity to speak to the photographer.

After finishing the pictures we did some interviews with myself and Sian and then headed back to Cardiff. I learnt so much in those few days and had a great time getting to know the team too. The following week I spent most of my time phoning all the companies that the agency said they worked for only to find they’d never even heard of them, resulting in the modelling agency removing all their advertised logos from their website. The more research we did the more proof we had that something wasn’t right. Unfortunately at this point we couldn’t prove the agency were linked to the photo studio which made things legally complicated, but Sian and Ian managed to find the company on Companies House and worked out that the director of the photo studio and the director of the modelling agency were both listed under the same company.

After 3 weeks of persistence and hard work, I then saw the programme being edited together and then voiced by Sian. I spent the evening with some friends to see all the final product. To see my first TV credit was a huge accomplishment and I’m so grateful that I was given such a great opportunity. It’s in Welsh but if you go online you can put the subtitles on- the link is http://www.s4c.co.uk/bydarbedwar/?lang=en

Me and Sian at the ITV News Awards

Me and Sian at the ITV News Awards

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