UK: New Mediator Group Announced
Last Updated: 3 November 2004

Sean McTernan, of mcternans, has set up a group for mediators working within the media, MEDia.dr .

"Having published a number of articles supporting my view that ADR can save time and money in the industry I know best, I thought it would be a good idea to try and make contact with other mediators interested in the media and sport industries."

"I decided to combine it with my existing programme of lectures and seminars, as the lure of CPD points may attract relevant lawyers. I am also very interested in meeting executives within film, television, music, the press and publishing, who have a role in dispute resolution and may have not worked through the logic of where mediation will help (and of course, where it very definitely will not).

A solicitor with over 20 years legal experience of television, radio, press and publishing, he has for the last three years devoted much energy to ADR. He is now a Registered Mediator with the Centre for Effective Dispute resolution and also undertakes pro bono mediation through the community Charity SEAMS in East Anglia.

He was once an entrenched litigator, "in the early 1990s, I could not see the point of mediation. If my clients investigated a rogue company and broadcast or published, why would we want to have a cosy meeting with them later?" Says McTernan.

"My view changed when I returned to practice and was instructed by an increasing number of producers who believed their formats had been stolen. It was quite clear that they had to continue to work for the "thieves" and that they could not afford to litigate. Further, was obvious that the legal grounds on which formats can be protected were inadequate. Negotiating from the traditional adversarial point of view seemed rather pointless. A well structured meeting with the managing director of the thieving company was a much better idea. I found it worked and then decided to train as a mediator."

Accepting that he has become something of a zealot, he took his views to several international television Festivals in 2003 and also hosted seminars in London. Having published his views in the press, on this web site and in the Entertainment Law Review, he now says,

"I have written up my views from the point of view of an experienced media lawyer. While I continue to develop my mediation experience, there seems to me to be room for at least a "talking shop" of both mediators and executives, who manage or are responsible for disputes within television and film production companies and broadcasters, to meet to discuss the issues. The objective is not to sell mediation, but to understand. From an industry point of view, the objective is to waste less time and money -- both in terms of lawyers’ fees and management energy -- on fighting over matters where the delay caused by the dispute diminishes the value of the product, by which I mean television format or other intellectual property."

There has always been a debate in mediation as to whether expertise either of the law or media industry is an advantage.

"I can see the arguments for the entirely neutral mediator, but in my particular experience it has been clear that knowing something about television and film has enabled me to be of more use to mediating parties that I might have been if I was a nonlawyer or specialist in other legal areas. Having said that, I have mediated in landlord and tenant cases and found that I was not lost. I should add that I have not done any property law since I qualified some 25 years ago!"

Is media a special case? "Not really -- but I have sensed that, particularly executives, do not always react well to mediators from an entirely different industry. There is a cultural divide between insurance and banking, say, and the television or film world."

First meeting of MEDia.dr is on the 23rd of November.

" hi…. my name is Sean and I am a mediator…."

A Court-aholic describes his personal journey.

It is to be held in the boardroom of the Cinema and Television Benevolent Society building.

That is, 22 Golden Square, London W.1

There are a few places left and interested parties should contact the practice.

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