Exam date

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

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Villains and Heroes: Met attacks Guardian, uses Official Secrets Act

I'd thought this story had run out of potential shock value, but the Met Police, exposed by the Guardian as strangely unwilling to properly investigate Hackgate and now forced, under pressure from Parliament, to investigate why its investigation was so lax, decided in Sept 2011 to attack ... The Guardian!!!
Bit cheeky, not to say reeking of vengeance!
The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) forced them to back down, but they've exposed how obscure legislation can still play a part in muzzling a free press, and covering up stories that figures in the Establishment would rather be kept hidden from public knowledge.
The Guardian's Hackgate microsite has links to all the stories on this and more, but here's a couple of excerpts from just one, Jonathan Freedland's savage attack on the Met:

The entire British press, including the Murdoch-owned Times, joined in lambasting the stupidity of shooting the messenger in this way. As the Telegraph put it: "Are they seriously contemplating that the first prosecutions arising from the phone-hacking scandal should involve the very people who exposed it?" Or, to quote my colleague Marina Hyde, the Met showed itself to be "not tough on crime, tough on the reporting of crime".
The detail of the Met's case was even more laughable. Among stories it described as "gratuitous" – literally, without merit – and not in the public interest was the revelation that the News of the World had hacked into Milly Dowler's voicemail. The textbooks of the future will struggle to find a better example of a story in the public interest than that one: it had an enormous public impact, from the closure of the NoW and abandoning of the BSkyB bid to the departure of the Met's commissioner and one of his most senior officers. The Met called it gratuitous, but when the previous commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, appeared before MPs in July, he lavished praise on the Guardian for persisting where three inquiries by his officers had failed. Even in its statement last week, the Met paid tribute to this paper's "unwavering determination to expose the hacking scandal". So what was the Met position, that the coverage was gratuitous or praiseworthy?
But worst was the Met's abuse of the Official Secrets Act. That legislation has been used to pressure journalists to reveal their sources before, whether in the Shayler or, much earlier, Vassall episodes, but the substance of those cases related to genuine affairs of state and national defence: think Clive Ponting and the Belgrano. What was at stake substantively this time was not the safety of the realm, even cynically defined, but criminality inside a powerful corporation. Of course the Met would want to pursue a leaker in its midst, but to invoke the Official Secrets Act was to abuse the law – and for no better purpose than to try and force a Guardian reporter to reveal their confidential sources, which is barred under the act. The courts would surely have thrown out this order, realising the chilling effect it would have had on journalistic inquiry, which in the phone-hacking affair proved the only protection available when both police and politicians so signally failed. Perhaps a phone call from the attorney general or director of public prosecutions spelled that point out to the new commissioner.
More widely, the police have the enormous task of establishing whether criminal activity was not just conducted at the margins but somehow central to how the business worked. It is striking that so many of the targets of News of the World hacking were political, very many of them Labour politicians. Was this the modus operandi, gathering dirt on public figures by criminal means as a form of currency, a threat held in reserve to pressure policymakers to tilt the regulatory playing field in favour of Murdoch's multiple media interests?
One highly respected, establishment figure believes that this eventually operated in a directly partisan way, that News International was, in effect, running a shadow intelligence operation, funnelling the information it gathered on the Conservatives' political enemies to that party – in return for benign treatment of its businesses.
But it might not always have run on such party political lines. The police have before them a complaint from Gordon Brown. He believes he was targeted as early as 2000 by a "blagger" working for the Sunday Times who sought access to Brown's legal and financial records, apparently in search of damaging information. That cannot have been designed to help the Tories: at that time the Murdoch papers strongly backed Tony Blair, whose only serious rival for power was Brown.
We don't know the truth of these allegations or of the many others that still surround News International and the phenomenal power it has exerted over British public life. We need the police to help discover the truth – not to hound those determined to find it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Consolidation in music industry: BMG buys another company

'Consolidation', eventually leading to monopoly, is the inevitable path of every large industry, at least according to Marxist critiques of free market theory and capitalism. The very existence of market regulation shows that this is generally accepted up to a point, and is an acknowledgement of a need to step in and prevent 'free markets' from destroying competition.
Here's just ONE recent example of this ongoing process in the music biz, already globally dominated than even fewer conglomerates than in the film industry.

SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/sep/12/bmg-buys-bug-music

BMG buys music publisher Bug Music

Bertelsmann and private equity joint venture acquires rights to songs by artists including Johnny Cash and Kings of Leon
John Plunkett 12.9.11
BMG Rights Management has bought music publisher Bug Music in a deal reported to be worth more than $300m.
BMG, a joint venture between German media giant Bertelsmann and US private equity group Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, beat rival bidders including Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller.
Los Angeles-based Bug Music represents the estates of Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, as well as contemporary artists including Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams and The National.
BMG bought Bug Holdings and its subsidiary, Bug Music, from Spectrum Equity Investors and Crossroads Media in a deal announced on Monday. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
"With the acquisition of Bug Music and its vast collection of evergreen and contemporary compositions, BMG further establishes itself as a leading music rights management company," said the BMG Rights Management chief executive, Hartwig Masuch.
Bug Music was founded in 1975 and owns or manages copyrights to songs including Fever, What A Wonderful World, The Real Slim Shady and The Passenger.

PCC deal to remove Middleton pics from Mail +2 papers

Once more it seems the PCC can act to protect the most privileged. Even so, will it still be too little too late for the PCC, or will they still have a future once the reviews into media regulation are completed?

Article from the always-readable Roy Greenslade.

Three papers remove Middleton pictures from their websites

Press Complaints Commission brokers deal on behalf of Duchess of Cambridge's family

Pippa and Carole Middleton
Pippa and Carole Middleton
Three national newspapers have removed pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge's family (the Middletons) from their websites.
The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Daily Mirror agreed to take down the images and never to republish them as part of a deal negotiated by the Press Complaints Commission.
The pictures of the Middletons and Prince William, aboard a boat moored off the island of Ibiza, had been taken five years before the papers published them in May.
MoS Seven photographs appeared in the Mail on Sunday under the headline "Perfect Pippa – and the Prince of Belly Flops". They showed Kate and Pippa Middleton, both wearing bikinis, while swimming, diving and sun-bathing. Their mother, Carole, was also shown in a bikini.
Several shots from the same set then appeared in the Daily Mail and the Mirror.
Carole Middleton complained – through the law firm Harbottle & Lewis – to the PCC in company with her daughter, Pippa, and son, James, that the images invaded their privacy.
They argued that the pictures were taken in 2006 in a place where the family had "a reasonable expectation of privacy" (and therefore breached the editors' code of practice).
They alleged that the photos were taken after their boat had been pursued.
Pippa Middleton made a third complaint about the publication of an image by the Daily Mirror showing her sunbathing on the boat.
In all cases the complainants argued that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
As expected, the three papers defended publication by saying that the images had been published on several occasions since 2006 and had not attracted complaint.
They also denied that the boat had been followed and further argued that the Middletons didn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy "at the location in which the boat was situated".
PS: The now-defunct News of the World also carried the pictures on its front page with the headline "Oh buoy it's Pippa... and she's topless inside". Its website has, of course, been taken down in its entirety.
I will post a comment on this later.
Source: PCC

Jeremy Hunt to ask Ofcom to measure cross-media ownership in UK

In the past both Labour and the Tories have rather blatantly helped out their one-time buddy Rupert Murdoch by refusing to measure and place limits on cross-media ownership, something which even the ligh-touch regulation of the USA does. This has helped him to build up both the dominant TV network and share of the national press.
Read the following article carefully though and what comes out is a disappointing ideological attack on the BBC more than News Corp - the Tory Party has long been ideologically opposed to the BBC, seeing anything state-owned as problematic and privatised/privately owned companies as superior.
Media regulation could well be a big issue at the next general election.

SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/sep/11/jeremy-hunt-ofcom-media-ownership

Jeremy Hunt to ask Ofcom to measure cross-media ownership in UK

Culture secretary plans to use results to set limits for market share held by Rupert Murdoch and the BBC

Dan Sabbagh 11.9.11

OfCom censure Brick FM over 'panini'...

Although we focus on TV, not radio, an interesting example here of how OfCom monitor even small-scale community radio. Also a very intriguing argument put up by the proprietors of Brick FM that Scots don't find the word f**k offensive - could be used to support the argument that OfCom is too metropolitan, too London-centric.

SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/sep/12/radio-station-grilled

Radio station grilled over 'panini' swearword

Station claims Scottish listeners do not find F-word offensive – and sexual slang word in song means Italian sandwich
    Ali G
    The slang word used in the song played by Brick FM was made popular by TV character Ali G

    When is a sexual slang word not a sexual slang word? When it is an Italian cheese sandwich, according to a community radio station on the Scottish borders.
    Brick FM was hauled before media regulator Ofcom after appearing to breach broadcasting regulations by playing songs which included the word "fuck" and "punani".
    Station management defended the broadcasts, saying "fuck" was a "commonly used word in Scotland which is not considered offensive locally" and went as far to suggest that Ofcom was "unfamiliar with [the] local dialect".

Unions vote for 'conscience clause' to cover journalists

The NUJ has been campaigning for journalists to have the write to refuse to engage in behaviour which they consider unethical, something the press barons have also (successfully) opposed. How much of a typical tabloid could be considered 'ethical'?!

SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/12/unions-conscience-clause-tuc-conference

Unions vote for 'conscience clause' to cover journalists

The TUC conference has called for a law to protect those put under pressure to take part in unethical media practices

    TUC conference
    Union delegates, including Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite (centre), vote during the annual TUC conference

    Unions have unanimously voted for journalists to be covered by a legally-binding "conscience clause", following the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.
    Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), made the call for a law to protect journalists who are put under pressure to take part in unethical media practices, during a wide-ranging debate on the threat to trade union rights in the workplace, at the TUC conference in London.
    She told delegates there was a clear link between "union-busting" at News International and the "moral vacuum" that had been allowed to exist.

Monday, 5 September 2011

OfCom question future of PSB - can't sanction ITV/C5?

The following article is incredibly useful for solid info on 1 of the strands of this exam topic: the FUTURE shape and direction of media regulation. In essence the current national TV licenses (for ITV + C5) are set to expire in 2014. These media companies already argue that the financial benefits they once got from access to the analogue signal (meaning every TV could receive them, without need of subscribing to Sky, Virgin etc) are already too small these days, never mind when digital switchover is completed for the end of 2012. ITV bluntly told OfCom they'd continue to cut regional news, part of their required PSB output under the license agreement, regardless of any sanctions from OfCom - if they had to hand back their license and continue as a digital-only company, they'd do so.
The article also mentions 'the next communications bill, due before the next general election in 2015'. Given the huge public outcry over Hackgate, this should be a major shakeup of the way our media are regulated. We will discuss likely outcomes of this, something you need to be able to provide an informed opinion on for your exam.

[Read more Guardian articles on PSB here]
ARTICLE SOURCE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/sep/02/ofcom-itv-channel-5
Ofcom 'could not stop ITV and Channel 5 cutting PSB programming'
Media regulator says licence renewal is approach most likely to ensure continuing delivery of key public service objectives
  • guardian.co.uk,
  • ITV News
    Ofcom has said it does not have the power to stop commercial broadcasters cutting back public service programming, such as ITV News
    Ofcom has said that the best option to guarantee that ITV and Channel 5 continue delivering news and their other public service broadcasting commitments is to renew their licences. But the regulator also admitted that it will not have the power to stop broadcasters cutting back on PSB programming if they want to.
    The admission came on Friday as Ofcom published its government submission on options for renewing Channel 3 (ITV) and Channel 5 licences, which expire at the end of 2014.
    Ofcom said that the three options given to Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, give him the "choice between stability and disruption" by either maintaining the status quo and renewing the existing licences or tearing them up and rethinking how, and in what form, public service TV content might be delivered in future.
    Ofcom said that the first option, that of renewing the existing licences with the same broadcasters for another decade, is probably the best bet if viewers want to continue to see PSB content on TV.
    "In the medium term licence renewal is the approach most likely to ensure the continuing delivery of the key public service objectives of supporting investment in original programming and news provision," Ofcom said in its 36-page submission to Hunt.
    However Ofcom notes that there is a "high degree of uncertainty" surrounding the commercial sustainability in a volatile UK broadcasting market of a licence running for 10 years from 2014.
    Ofcom's commercial PSB licences give holders benefits which have historically been financially very valuable, primarily reserved access to broadcast on strictly limited terrestrial spectrum and more recently on digital terrestrial TV, or Freeview. Licensees are also guaranteed prominence in the digital TV electronic programme guides.
    In return broadcasters have had to guarantee delivery of a range of PSB content, such as national and regional news for ITV licensees, and investing in original UK programming.
    However, broadcasters such as ITV have vigorously lobbied, and Ofcom has concurred, that the value of the PSB licences are less than the cost of delivering PSB programming that is often expensive to make and delivers low audiences.
    The PSBs have already moved to cut back on some of their obligations – under former executive chairman Michael Grade ITV threatened to pull out of regional news altogether – despite the sanctions at Ofcom's disposal to punish licence breaches.
    "It is uncertain whether the regulatory enforcement mechanisms currently in place would be sufficient to prevent licensees from seeking to pare back delivery of public service content in the future in response to unfavourable market conditions," said Ofcom.
    The media regulator admitted that "some form of agreement" would have to be reached with broadcasters to make sure PSB content was delivered "until the mid-2020s" – meaning some reduction in obligations agreeable by both sides.
    This option might also allow parliament to amend the structure of Ofcom broadcast licences covering the UK to look at options such as the creation of a separate licences for Channel 3 in Wales and Scotland, which is covered currently by three licences (Border, owned by ITV plc, and STV and Grampian, owned by STV).
    The second option is to cancel the existing PSB licences and retender to the market for the next period from 2014.
    This would give the government a chance to rethink what obligations should be included in the new licences and may also encourage the emergence of new players beyond the traditional PSBs.
    "A decision by the secretary of state to block licence renewal would lead to an award process that could lead to the development of new and innovative forms of public service content and drive efficiency," said Ofcom.
    Analysts at Citigroup said that such a move could lead to companies including Facebook and Google investigating the potential advantages of PSB provision.
    However, Ofcom also notes that it will be difficult for government to change or modify the existing PSB obligations and that it is "unclear" what new bidders would be interested.
    Nevertheless Ofcom says that the second option "remains a credible possibility".
    The third option is to extend the existing licences to allow for public service broadcasting to be given "full consideration" in the next communications bill, due before the next general election in 2015.
    Ofcom said this would allow parliament to assess what the PSB licences should cover in light of the remits of both Channel 4 and the BBC, as well as initiatives such as Hunt's plans for a new network of local TV services.
    "For instance, developments in the provision of local TV services in the next few years may lead parliament to reassess the continuing need for English regional programming on Channel 3," Ofcom said.
    This option would also allow the government to "clarify and tighten" the regulation around prominence of PSB channels on the EPG "to create additional public service value".
    However, Ofcom admits that forcing the existing PSBs to continue delivering on licence obligations they find loss-making may lead them to "consider becoming a fully commercial UK-wide broadcaster". The media regulator admits that ITV for one is set to find the costs of PSB status outweighing the benefits before 2014.
    "In those circumstances, it may not be possible to secure a replacement licensee given both the high fixed costs of providing a fully regional service with the existing range of obligations and the short term nature of any licence that Ofcom would be able to offer," said the media regulator.