Exam date

When's the 2016 exam? Wednesday 8th June, am.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Flak/PM visits Murdoch/Caplin libel case/Regulation as left v right

quick trawl of the grauniad today reveals several useful articles:
  1. The Home Secretary forced to abandon liberal sentencing reduction plans partially due to right-wing tabloid flak;
  2. The Prime Minister of the UK democracy visits Murdoch's company just before the takeover of Sky is due to be finally ok'd. As does the Leader of the Opposition. Who has the power here?
  3. Carole Caplin, ex-aide to Cherie Blair, is sueing the Mail for libel (it stated she'd tried to sell inside accounts of PM and his wife). She could win £250k - isn't this (imposing financial penalties) what the PCC needs to be doing (as OfCom does)?
  4. ConDem Energy Minister (LibDem MP) Chris Huhne sets out a nice summary of the left/right split on regulation (typically, the left want more, the right want less [except for censorship which the right tend to favour]): 'Huhne said: "Between the obsession with micro-management and target-setting displayed by the Labour party, and the fixation with deregulation and scrapping rules just because they are rules on offer from some rightwing ideologues, we Liberal Democrats have a real chance to define an evidence-based, intelligent and distinctive approach."
    A source said: "We are taking issue with this ideology that less regulation is inherently better. Regulation can be incredibly important. When the process comes to a head in the autumn, we are certainly not going to be letting regulations go. We will be fighting and we have quite a lot of ministers on our side."

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The 1988 Broadcasting Ban (targeting Sinn Fein in N.I.)

Following the refusal of ITV, or its then-regulator the IBA, to bow to gov pressure and ban the Death on the Rock doc in 1988, which exposed an illegal 'shoot-to-kill' policy by the Thatcher gov, the gov side-stepped the regulator to impose the 1988 Broadcasting Ban. This banned the voices of anyone speaking for a list of 'terrorist' organisations. The broadcast media were unhappy at this censorship, and sought to get round it by using actors' voices. C4 went a step further with this brutal satire (featuring Steve Coogan) from Chris Morris' The Day Today...

Death on the Rock case study


Death on the Rock was a British Academy Television Award-winning episode of Thames Television's current affairs series This Week, first aired by the British television network ITV on 28 April 1988. On 6 March 1988, three Irish Republican Army (IRA) members, Danny McCann, Sean Savage and Mairéad Farrell, were shot dead in Gibraltar. The programme examined the shootings and asked why there was no attempt by the Special Air Service (SAS) to arrest the IRA members.

The documentary featured witnesses who claimed that the SAS had given no warning prior to shooting. Carmen Proetta, an independent witness, told Thames Television "They [the security forces] didn't do anything. They just went and shot these people. That's all. They didn't say anything, they didn't scream, they didn't shout, they didn't do anything. These people were turning their heads back to see what was happening and when they saw these men had guns in their hands they put their hands up. It looked like the man was protecting the girl because he stood in front of her, but there was no chance. I mean they went to the floor immediately, they dropped." The researcher for Thames Television believed Ms Proetta's evidence as it coincided with another account they had received.

The then Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, attempted to prevent the broadcast of the programme in the United Kingdom, claiming it would prejudice the official inquest into the event. The Independent Broadcasting Authority refused, stating: "the issues as we see them relate to free speech and free inquiry which underpin individual liberty in a democracy". However, it was not shown in Gibraltar where the inquest was to be held.

Following transmission, the programme was heavily criticised by sections of the press, notably The Sunday Times and The Sun. The then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was said to be outraged by the documentary and was increasingly concerned about ITV's 'monopoly' in independent broadcasting. Thatcher said in an interview: "If you ever get trial by television...that day, freedom dies." David Elstein, then director of programmes at Thames Television, writes that there was a connection between Margaret Thatcher's dislike of the station in the wake of the documentary, and Thames's subsequent loss of the ITV franchise in 1991.

A 1989 inquiry into the programme headed by former television management executive and government minister Lord Windlesham largely cleared it of any impropriety, although it found some errors had been made


The most notorious case involving the IBA actually showed them to be a good, effective regulator, able to stand up to government in the face of fierce pressure, backed by the Tories’ many allies in the mostly right-wing press [Chomskian flak].

A “This Week” special, “Death on the Rock” upset the government of Margaret Thatcher, which put the IBA under pressure to pull the broadcast, the official reason being given was that it would prejudice the official inquiry yet to take place. Any unofficial reasons can only be a matter for conjecture.

“Death on the Rock” is often cited as the reason that Thames was not re-enfranchised by the ITC in 1991 as the ITV London broadcaster. [http://www.transdiffusion.org/tmc/thames/inevitable.php]

As the above quote highlights, its generally accepted that the biggest casualty of the new auction brought in with the 1990 Broadcasting Act was Thames, the longstanding ITV company for London. The new Act made the issuing of ITV licenses a blunt auction: highest bidder wins the license, unless the new ITC felt there were exceptional circumstances (it never did exercise this option to question any bids). Under the ITA/IBA a “beauty contest” was held with bidders winning on the quality of their proposed programming, NOT the size of their bid for the license!!!

YOU CAN WATCH DEATH ON THE ROCK AT http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0AYNk_vY4o


(The following is quoted from Curran and Seaton)  
There was a more immediate outcome: a furious Thatcher government rushed through the 1988 Broadcasting Ban, which made it illegal to broadcast the voice of anyone representing one of a list of proscribed groups (especially the IRA and Sinn Fein) – although this was also linked to the BBC’s broadcast of the Real Lives documentary. (p. 182)

It had odd effects. A doc on the Maze prisoners [the Maze was where most ‘terrorist’ prisoners were held in NI] could use their voices when they appeared as individuals … but when an IRA spokesman on food talked about the small size of sausage rolls his voice had to be cut! Shortly after, UTV were bluntly ordered by the NIO [the London government branch overseeing NI] to scrap a doc on Maze escapees. The doc-makers retaliated, arguing they would use voiceovers for the Chief Inspector of Prisons as he had praised the ingenuity of the escapees, and so could be interpreted as positively representing a terrorist group! The NIO said nothing more on the matter. (pp. 182-3)

As we have seen in class, Chris Morris’ Day Today satire show featured a stinging reflection on this ban, which was despised by all broadcasters as a grave restriction on their editorial freedom. The newscaster, Morris, announces “the voice of the Sinn Fein spokesman has been altered to reduce his credibility” … and we see Steve Coogan, the SF man, sucking in helium from a large canister before delivering his points in an absurd voice! The ban was lifted in 1994 following an IRA ceasefire, though by this time Thatcher was no longer PM – she was seen as personally responsible for the ban.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

PCC, PressBof's secrecy and defence of self-regulation

http://fullrunner.com/05/2011/magazines/defenders-of-self-regulation-rusbridger-v-dacre-black/ 12.6.11 Peter Kirwan

Self-regulation: Rusbridger v. Dacre/Black

The first thing you’ll notice when you read the annual report of the Press Board of Finance is that it looks like a restaurant menu, from somewhere like the Savoy Grill in pre-Gordon Ramsay days.
The second notable thing is the anachronistic language, which reads like a cross between a press statement from Buckingham Palace and a letter to shareholders written by the CEO of a British company in the 1950s.
Like the contents of a time capsule, the Press Board’s annual report is shockingly odd, alarmingly antique. It’s a reminder that the modernizing corporatism of the Blair-Brown years didn’t quite reach into every nook and cranny of public life.
Little known and even less well understood, The Press Board of Finance (or PressBof as it styles itself) is the shadowy club of newspaper and magazine executives that finances the Press Complaints Commission by levying fees on publishers.
But there’s more to PressBof than the £2m of membership fees it collects annually. This, after all, is the cabal — self-regulating and apparently self-perpetuating — that writes the rules enforced by the Press Complaints Commission.

Friday, 10 June 2011

PCC rulings: privacy, racism, history, superinjunctions

I've collated articles on certain themes/topics/cases with these; if time permits I'll add summaries and commentary (and will be updating/adding to these as I go)
PCC Recent Rulings
Giggs Superinjunctions and PCC
Green Slade Privacy and the Media
Old Pcc Rulings
PCC - Racism Cases

Thursday, 9 June 2011

PCC and OfCom to be reviewed

Jeremy Hunt and Ken Clarke set out remit for privacy committee
MPs and peers given broad remit to recommend legal changes or guidance to judges, as well as look at role of Twitter
Ryan Giggs
The Commons privacy committee was set up at the height of the furore over Ryan Giggs's alleged affair. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, have asked parliament to examine whether the law and the courts have established an appropriate balance between the rights to privacy and freedom of expression in the wake of the celebrity injunction crisis.
The two ministers have agreed on terms of reference for the committee of MPs and peers – and want parliament to see how "issues relating to determining the balance between privacy and freedom of expression" could "best be decided".
That gives the committee a broad remit to make recommendations as to whether the law could be altered or whether new guidance could be given to judges to change the way they have been interpreting the Human Rights Act which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.
David Cameron asked that the parliamentary committee be set up last month, at the height of the Ryan Giggs furore – in which the footballer tried and ultimately failed to prevent himself being publicly linked to Imogen Thomas, the former Big Brother contestant with whom he allegedly had an extra-marital relationship.
Parliament will also examine the role of Twitter – which was used widely to circulate Giggs's name in defiance of court orders – and whether it is appropriate for MPs to use parliamentary privilege to name individuals such as the Manchester United footballer to help get their names into the public domain.
The Press Complaints Commission will also come under scrutiny, as regards its role in "privacy matters", to see whether it has been at all effective in this area. Baroness Buscombe, who chairs the PCC, has claimed it would have stopped the Sun from publishing the original Giggs story without the need to go to law.
The exact membership of the committee is currently being hammered out by the whips' offices of the three main parties – and the body is expected to begin its inquiry later this month. Those expecting to become members have indicated they expect to call a wide range of witnesses including Paul Dacre and other newspaper editors, executives from Twitter and Google, as well as senior judges.

The full terms of reference

To consider the operation of the current law in relation to privacy and the use of anonymity injunctions and superinjunctions and to advise the government on any improvements that should be made.
In particular, to consider:
• How the current law, both statutory and common, has operated in practice.
• How issues relating to determining the balance between privacy and freedom of expression, including particularly determining whether there is a public interest in material concerning peoples private and family life, could best be decided.
• Issues relating to the enforcement of anonymity injunctions and superinjunctions, including in relation to publication on the internet, parliamentary privilege and the rule of law.
• The role of the press and issues relating to press complaints and self-regulation in the context of privacy matters, including the role of the Press Complaints Commission and Ofcom.

2010 PCC annual review

The 'Perspectives' booklet is interesting too - Roy Greenslade's post on this is a handy summary.

Chief Examiner's guide

from: http://petesmediablog.blogspot.com/2011/05/how-to-prepare-for-question-1b.html

Contemporary Media Regulation exam questions

As we saw on Sunday, these are the previous questions set for this topic:

How effectively can contemporary media be regulated?
To what extent is contemporary media regulation more or less effective than in previous times?
Evaluate arguments for and against stronger regulation of the media
How far do changes to the regulation of media reflect broader social changes?
Discuss the need for media regulation
To what extent can the media be regulated in the digital age?

As you can see, though there is some variation between questions, you should not have a shock when you turn up for the exam! Two of the previous questions refer to 'effectiveness' - in other words, does regulation work? A third asks something very similar- 'to what extent can it be regulated?' and two of them ask you to look at the arguments around regulation- why do people believe it is needed and 'for and against'.

One way or another, this summer's questions should be in similar territory. Even if you get something which appears to go off at a tangent- like the question of how far it 'reflects social changes', you should be able to adapt your response based on the material you have studied.

If we look at the bullet points in the Specification, which defines what should be studied, we should be able to see what kinds of question can come up:

• What is the nature of contemporary media regulation compared with previous practices? (Past v Present)
• What are the arguments for and against specific forms of contemporary media regulation? (what do people say- note this is not asking for your opinion, but for you to weigh up the arguments of others!)
• How effective are regulatory practices? (does it work?)
• What are the wider social issues relating to media regulation? (put regulation in the wider context of society)

So we can see, all those areas have come up already and will come up again! As you have a choice of two questions, there should be nothing to panic about regarding what might come up!

This part of the exam asks you to do three more specific things, whatever topic you answer on:

1. You MUST refer to at least TWO different media
2. You MUST refer to past, present and future (with the emphasis on the present- contemporary examples from the past five years)
3. refer to critical/theoretical positions

For regulation, this should be perfectly possible. For point 1 You could choose to write about:

Film censorship/classification
The regulation of advertising
Newspaper regulation
Computer / video game classification,
The regulation of online media, social networking and virtual worlds
Contemporary broadcasting (TV and/or Radio)

Any two of these compared and contrasted, with some knowledge of what the rules are, who does the regulating, how it works and what the arguments are with close reference to specific examples will give you most of what you need! It will then just be a matter of answering the specific question. BUT make sure you do refer to TWO! It doesn't need to be absolutely balanced, but if you only refer to one medium, like film, it will cost you a lot of marks. I'd say go for an answer which is between 60-40 and 50-50 balanced between reference to your two media. If you write about three media, then either one third on each or 40% each on two, 20% on the third will give you time and space to do a good job.

For point 2, the main danger is spending too much time writing about the past, which many candidates have a tendency to do; the topic is CONTEMPORARY Media regulation, which means NOW, so that is where your emphasis should be. If you write about online media or newspapers, that should be easy to do, as there are some fantastic case studies around this year! But even writing about film should be possible with recent examples. If you don't know any, go to the BBFC student site for some tips! The BBFC even has an app for your phone now...

The tricky bit to get to the top of the mark range is FUTURE media, but that need not be a big deal. Just makes sure you say something about where the evidence is pointing for the future- I'd suggest, for example, that as we become more 'digital' it is harder to control what people do online so a key thing for the future is education so that audiences understand the implications of what they may access and what they can say. I'll give an example of this later, referring to Twitter.

Finally for point 3, you need some relevant writers/critics/theorists to reference in relation to your examples and answer. Don't just write the history of media effects, hypodermic syringe theories or all that stuff, but reference people who are relevant to the argument you are making. So, for example, if you are talking about anxieties about children's media consumption in the digital era, the research by Tanya Byron and Sonia Livingstone's EU Kids online project would be particularly relevant.

Current Case study: Twitter

The row this week over the Ryan Giggs case is a perfect example of the problem of regulation in the digital age. As you may know, a number of celebrities have taken out injunctions against newspapers, preventing them from printing stories about them (usually to do with some kind of sexual indiscretions/extra-marital relationships. These injunctions have an additional clause which turns them into what is known as 'superinjunctions' in that not only can the newspapers (or broadcasters) not report about the celebrity's affair, but they can't even mention that there is an injunction at all.

Sometimes, newspapers or broadcasters in other territories might decide to report the case as the injunction does not apply overseas. In such instances, it is not that hard, via google, to find out the details, but there may still only be a limited number of people who bother to do this; social media have of course changed all this, as it is very easy for messages to spread on a site like facebook. Twitter, with its instant messaging and hashtags, has taken this considerably further.

On 8 May, a twitter user set up a false account and posted details of six alleged superinjunctions. It was covered on BBC News and it only took me a quick search on twitter via #superinjunction to find them, by which stage lots of people had been re-tweeting them. One of the six made headlines with a denial, but the other five have, as far as I am aware, remained quiet. The Sun made several attempts to get the superinjunction for one of the celebrities overturned (the footballer) as his name was being repeated across social media quite a bit yet newspapers were not allowed to print it; the footballer then took out a writ against twitter to get the name of the person who tweeted the information. Last week, this led to massive retweeting of his name and it spread so much that it was even being chanted by Man City supporters on sunday. Finally an MP took advantage of what is known as parliamentary privilege (freedom from prosecution if done inside Parliament) to name Ryan Giggs, so the newspapers could then report it.

This case shows how impossible it is to control social media in the way that mass media can be regulated; if a newspaper faces an injunction and breaks it, then the editor or owner could go to prison or the paper face a massive fine (hardly worth it for a story about a footballer and a Big Brother contestant, though maybe if it's a major state secret or political scandal). On Twitter, once one person tweets, it is possible, as in this case, that thousands more will follow. So how do you catch the first one and do you prosecute everyone? There are a lot of interesting articles around in the papers and and online about this at the moment, so I would expect to see some good answers in the exam!

here's a couple of links for now:

Good article on claims that the internet is like the Wild west

Guardian writer asking for screening of all twitter messages !
Peter Preston on the legal implications
and also an hilarious tale of a twitter spoof by Graham linehan about Bin Laden's TV viewing and how quickly people believe it

finally if you want one of your mates to appear in the media with a superinjunction, try this (it's just for fun)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Press regulation pack

Contemporary Media Regulation Compared With Previous Practices Press

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The 'toothless' regulator [from TabloidWatch]

Copied in from a great blog that pulls no punches in its excoriation of our tawdry tabloids, packed with an archive of material potentially invaluable for your exam:

The 'toothless' regulator

In 2007, the broadcast regulator Ofcom fined GMTV £2m for 'widespread and systematic deception' in the way they ran premium rate phone-in competitions.

The same year, Ofcom fined Channel 4 £1.5m for similar breaches of the Code.

And in 2009, they fined the BBC £150,000 for the infamous Sachsgate phone calls.

Along with fines, Ofcom can also revoke licences - in November 2010, they did just that for four adult channels that were ''no longer fit and proper' to remain on air, following 'serious and repeated' breaches of Ofcom's broadcasting code'.

The Mail, however, is still smarting from the fact Ofcom didn't rule the way it wanted over The X Factor final, and those performances from Christina Aguilera and Rihanna that were so scandalous, the Mail published dozens of photos and the videos to show how appalled they were.

So today, in its editorial, it dismisses Ofcom as 'pathetic' and 'toothless' and says it has 'contemptibly failed to take any meaningful action'.

Indeed, it's so 'toothless' that it once fined the Daily Mail and General Trust £225,000 for a breach of its public service broadcasting licence for Teletext.

Compare that to, say, the Press Complaints Commission. It has no power to fine newspapers. It will do absolutely nothing about the Daily Star saying Simon Cowell 'is dead' in a front page headline. It even lets the Mail get away with burying corrections, so that clarifications for British stories are hidden in the US section of the Mail's website.

So what does Mail editor Paul Dacre have to say about the PCC?

the PCC has over the years been a great success story.

But could Dacre point to all those occasions when the PCC has taken 'meaningful action' against the Mail? Or indeed against any other paper?

Is it Ofcom or the PCC that is really a 'toothless' regulator?