Chiron Resources Operations

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Chiron Resources Operations is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Founder Chris Cobb-Smith
Chiron ‘back-watcher’ providing
a reassuring hand at protests in
Kenosha USA 2020
Chiron Resources (Operations) Limited provides producers
of television news and documentaries with experienced
risk consultants who offer administrative, logistic and
security support for media teams working in challenging
environments. The concept was initially conceived by founder
and company director Chris Cobb-Smith while working for the
OSCE in Kosovo, witnessing media teams struggling to cope in a
conflict zone. With the company celebrating its 20th anniversary
last year, Chris explains how its services have evolved.
Initially, the company only supported war reporting, and over the last 20 years
has been present at the majority of conflicts. However, it has subsequently grown
into providing consultants to deliver a back-watch service for public order and
investigative reporting in the UK, Europe and the USA.
Our origins
As a former Royal Artillery officer and UN weapons inspector, I identified that news
teams were more than fully engaged with the editorial side of newsgathering, so would
benefit from assistance from someone with military experience to manage the security
and logistics. It was a
Sunday Times
journalist who could see that this might work and
asked me to deploy to Kosovo on assignment with them as the war escalated.
Coincidentally, the BBC was examining their duty of care obligations. Realising that,
unlike health and safety concerns, risk cannot be eliminated but only mitigated, they
saw me as a possible solution. I was soon engaged to join Jeremy BoweninKosovo.
»Founder: Chris Cobb-Smith
»Established in 2000
»Based in the UK but operates
»Services: The provision of
risk, security, logistic and
medical consultants to
the newsgathering media
»No. of employees: Four
employees plus over 5,000
freelance consultants
Chiron Resources
Highlighting best practice
After the war, I worked as a freelance
consultant but soon had too much
work, so to provide more operators,
I established Chiron. An initial task
included the investigation into the
killing of James Miller in Gaza and
supporting news crews covering the
conflict in Afghanistan. As the safety
culture at the BBC developed, I was
employed to provide safety advice
based in the White City newsroom
during the Iraq war, becoming one
of the primary news planners on the
foreign desk.
Initially, there was some reluctance
from journalists to accept the concept.
Some felt that it indicated a lack
of faith from management or that
an additional person would be a
hindrance. Thankfully, though, this
view gradually changed, especially
when consultants saved journalists
from harm or prevented damage or
theft of equipment.
Going alone
After the Iraq war, I decided to leave
the BBC to focus on Chiron. The role
I had established at the BBC had
become recognised as invaluable,
so a position was created in house
as a result. The BBC then invited
various companies to tender for their
Baghdad security contract, which
Chiron won. Knowing the media were
never going to pay major security
companies’ rates, we ensured costs
were affordable, keeping overheads
low but still paying consultants
well. This is a core principle we
Every assignment is different, and
considerable effort is made to select
the most suitable round peg for each
individual round hole. Consultants
must be personable, have the ability to
work in a small crew, be experienced
at logistics, have the capability and
judgment to assess risk, and the
knowledge and qualifications to provide
medical support, alongside the ability
to add value to the assignment. This
is borne out by a note from John
Simpson: “How grateful I am for all
Left: Syrian Civil War.
Chiron consultants
worked in Syria
throughout the conflict
2012 - 2019
Right: TV crew immersed
in CS gas while filming
demonstrations in the
West Bank, 2011
CBC News interviewing
UN workers following the
2010 Haiti earthquake
Chiron has
worked in
every warzone
the world
your advice and good observation over
the past couple of weeks or so,” he
said. “So many of your ideas made their
way into my scripts – always presented
as my own, naturally.”
Always looking to progress
A growing area of work is providing
consultants and back-watch security
advice to media crews in the UK.
Consultants enable a crew to film
without interference from members of
the public, which can take many forms.
Cameras can get targeted, especially
if an offence has been filmed. Live
broadcasts can be disrupted by either
the disgruntled, who want to get their
views aired, or just by overexuberant
sports fans. A significant change was
the introduction of the close protection
licence in 2006, now mandatory for
anyone providing back-watch to TV
crews in the UK.
Chiron’s database has grown
exponentially through word of mouth
as we have a reputation for being fair
and honest. Although today most
media organisations have created their
own in-house risk advisors or teams,
Chiron still offers a variety of alternative
options for crew safety, giving value for
money as well as adding value.
The name Chiron was selected from
Greek mythology where Chiron the
Centaur, renowned for his knowledge
and skill with medicine, was mentor
to the Gods and eventually sacrificed
his life to save others. In my eyes,
this embodies what our company is
Chiron still
offers a variety
of alternative
options for
crew safety,
giving value
for money as
well as adding
Baghdad, 2005 – The first free election
All news organisations said it was going to be too
dangerous to leave bureaus. In the early hours on
election day, Chiron consultants walked to the closest
polling station, assessed the risks, and briefed the
producer, who decided to go out and film. As the only
international media on the streets, filming the polling
and interviewing locals, they “scooped” the exclusive.
Birmingham, 2014
Late night drinking story where a back-watcher stopped
a drunk from glassing a journalist. She had given him a
frosty reception but gave him a kiss farewell.
President Trump’s state visit, 2018
A female back-watcher was escorting the TV crew
outside Parliament and witnessed an elderly lady being
struck by a motorbike. The consultant reacted straight
away, providing immediate first aid and continuing
until the police arrived, working with them to keep
the casualty alive. Without her quick thinking, there is
little doubt that the victim would not havesurvived.
Windsor royal wedding, 2018
From a major news network about Chiron consultants:
“They went well and truly beyond the call of duty and
worked tirelessly throughout the day.It was chaotic
and poorly planned, and they took the initiative and
created an order that enabled us to achieve what we
needed to. I genuinely mean it when I say we might
not have had a programme without Chiron.”
Libya, 2011
Behind a front-line position in Libya, crews were
ambushed by pro-Gaddafi forces. A bullet passed
through two rebel soldiers, killing them instantly, and
then hit the correspondent in the arm, penetrating his
chest. A Chiron consultant provided immediate first aid
and evacuation (then returned to the firefight to extract
the cameraman and driver), remaining with the casualty
until he arrived in Paris for successful keyhole surgery.

This article was sponsored by Chiron Resources Operations. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.