Exam date

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

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Tumult over Tweeting Twits Terror

...an alliterative means of raising the issue of arrests, prosecutions and jail terms for tweets and other social network postings!
As many have flagged up, it is arguable that Leveson's lengthy report is rendered farcical and pointless as it essentially pretends the press remains a print medium, ignoring the wider, wilder web. Some incredible cases have been nrought to court offering up a more chilling restriction on the freedom of speech that any of the mild press regulation reforms mooted and hysterically condemned in much of the press, but with comparatively little comment.
Today saw a key announcement by a judge fed up at spurious cases reaching the courts thanks to over-zealous police and CPS. It seeks to tighten up definitions of what is/isn't criminal on Twitter etc - though could still be seen as a frightening restriction on freedoms within a supposedly democratic society. Judge for yourself: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/dec/19/twitter-facebook-jokers-prosecution.

Monday, 19 November 2012

STATUTORY PRESS REG pros + cons

This central debate is reflected in many posts on this blog + links lists; I'll look to bring those together here at a later date. For now, this useful argument between a victim of phone hacking and a crime writer opposed to statutory regulation of the press:

Are legal curbs the answer for Britain's errant newspapers?

Lord Justice Leveson is set to deliver his verdict on phone hacking. As politicians and journalists prepare for a battle over possible state regulation of the press, Jacqui Hames, the former Crimewatch presenter and hacking victim, debates the issues with Observer writer Nick Cohen
Jacqui Hames and Nick Cohen
Jacqui Hames, former police officer and Crimewatch presenter, and the Observer's Nick Cohen. Photographs: Antonio Olmos and Graham Turner
Dear Nick
I'll start with a bit of background. I'm best known for my stint on Crimewatch, between 1990 and 2006, but my police career started in 1977. I joined the Met at 18 and worked my way up through the ranks, serving as a detective constable until I took early retirement in 2008.
I gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry because in 2002 I was placed under surveillance by the News of the World. Up to that point my experience of the press was generally positive. On Crimewatch I experienced first hand the enormous benefits of working with the media to solve crime. That's not to say there weren't times when the different agendas conflicted, but that has to be expected.
That was all about to change. My then husband, a detective chief superintendent, appeared on Crimewatch to appeal for information in an unsolved murder. It was a gruesome case: a man killed with an axe outside a south London pub.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Press anti-Leveson FLAK (Chomsky concept)

There are many articles you could find which will demonstrate the typically partisan, subjective approach of the bulk of the UK press to Leveson, in the key period between the end of the public hearings and his report, which will recommend how the regulation of UK media should be reformed.
I've copied in just one below, an unusually belicose missive from Grauniad media blogger Roy Greenslade, but it provides specific detail of the flak strategy with specific examples, plus further links.
Flak is one of Chomsky + Herman's five filters within their propaganda model of how the media operate, and to what end (not to inform a citizenry but to reinforce support for elites). You'll find multiple links to Chomsky here and on the prodeval blog.

Laughable Daily Mail 'investigation' smears Leveson inquiry assessor

I have been worried about the Daily Mail's editor, Paul Dacre, for some time. After seeing today's issue of his paper, I really think it's time for the men in white coats to visit its Kensington offices as soon as possible.
The Mail devotes 11 full pages, including the whole of the front page, to a "special investigation" into one of the Leveson inquiry assessors, Sir David Bell.
maiIt seeks to present Bell, the former Financial Times chairman, as the spider at the centre of a web of intrigue. In a classic example of conspiracist innuendo, it implies that the "elitist liberal" Bell is covertly exercising influence that somehow threatens the freedom of the press.
He is presented across many thousands of words as some kind of shadowy figure who, through his chairmanships and trusteeships of various charitable bodies, is exerting undue and unaccountable power.
Through a series of leaps of logic and phoney "revelations" of Bell's publicly acknowledged positions, the articles persistently insinuate that he has been up to no good.
He is even accused of being somehow responsible for the Newsnight report which falsely suggested that Lord McAlpine had been guilty of child abuse and, by extension, that he is also part of the reason for the BBC's current crisis, including the resignation of its director-general.
In a leading article, the Mail says its "investigation paints a picture of how a small, intertwined nexus of Left-of-centre individuals – some with links to Ofcom, the media regulator, and virtually all with links to Bell – have sought to exert huge influence on the inquiry."
Clearly, this is a sensitive time to attack a member of Lord Justice Leveson's team, as the editorial admits:
"The Mail is acutely aware of the seriousness of publishing this investigation. We know all too well that our enemies will accuse us of being aggressively defensive in a bid to pre-empt the outcome of the Leveson report, which is due any week now.
But in the light of the scandal engulfing the BBC, we passionately believe in the public's right to know about a senior Leveson assessor's role in it."
So, in order to lend some sensible perspective to this astonishing accusation about Bell's supposed complicity in the BBC's "scandal", let me try to disentangle what amounts to a farrago of distortion with added vilification.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

BBC: editor-in-chief function examined

I'll maybe add notes to this later, but for now here's a short but very useful analysis of the role thats been much cited in news stories over the Newsnight/Lord MacAlpine scandal: whilst usually referred to the Director General, the BBC's top man on the operating side (and it is a very male-skewed team) is also editor-in-chief. The article below sets out clear arguments why this is important; is typical of large media organisations; looks at the devolved responsibility involved - spot on for exam prep + simply for general understanding!

BBC director general should not be stripped of editor-in-chief role

George Entwistle was not the first BBC chief to fall on his sword for mistakes he had nothing to do with. But the royal charter should not be rewritten in haste during a crisis
BBC headquaters
A TV crew set up outside BBC headquarters in London following the resignation of George Entwistle as director general. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP
It is one of the curiosities of the BBC that its director general is also its editor-in-chief. The secondary job title, only ever remembered in moments of crisis, does foster the unhelpful image of the DG spending half their time wandering around the newsroom wearing a green eyeshade, as well as being chief executive of one of the world's biggest broadcasters.
On that basis, it would be an impossible task. The BBC last week said it produced 425,320 hours of TV and radio output last year – or 1,165 hours a day. And then there's the BBC's considerable online output. No director general, however adept or floundering, can manage to watch more than a tiny fraction; Greg Dyke never heard Andrew Gilligan's report at a few minutes past 6am on the Today programme that sparked the "sexed-up" dossier row with Tony Blair's government in 2003. And apparently George Entwistle paid little attention to last Friday's Newsnight.
The BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten, told Andrew Marr on Sunday morning there might be a case for looking at the editor-in-chief role and the "relationship between director general [and] editorial and creative". But as the dual job title is written into the BBC's royal charter – not due for renewal until 2017 – it is hard to see how it can be changed. Nor should it be.
The corporation's constitution is not to be rewritten by politicians in haste in the aftermath of a crisis; that would amount to interference. Those who want to argue that the BBC is ungovernable may say shedding the job title is only the beginning of a debate on cutting the size of the national broadcaster.
Those familiar with Patten's thinking are saying he does not want to strip out the secondary job title – his BBC Trust has already looked at that – but perhaps move the BBC closer to the model used at ITV, where there is a chief executive, former Royal Mail Group boss Adam Crozier, and a senior editorial figure, director of television, Peter Fincham.
Anyway, editorial responsibility at the BBC is devolved, not least to Helen Boaden, the BBC News director, and then to the editors of individual news programmes, the Six and Ten O'Clock News, Newsnight and Panorama.
It is those editors who have to take day-to-day responsibility for errors as well as running orders – although, as Dyke and Entwistle have found, when a piece of BBC journalism is as flawed as the Newsnight report, it then does become a problem for the person at the top. The devolution is realistic and necessary; no media organisation would function without it.
Rupert Murdoch likes to read and influence the newspapers at the company he part owns and runs. Some describe him, informally, as the editor-in-chief of newspapers such as the Sun. No doubt he too should have known what was going on at the News of the World. Yet even Murdoch would not describe himself as chief executive and editor-in-chief on his business cards, even though his day-to-day input is far greater than a BBC chief's.
But although the editor-in-chief title for the BBC's leader is flawed, it should not be tossed aside because of editorial failings across BBC News. Newsnight's mistakes were not the product of a job title; in the case of the McAlpine misidentification at least, they were the product of basic errors of journalism. Training and common sense are needed to deal with that.

More links?
Odds on who's going to succeed Entwistle - my money is on Ed Richards (if the Tory gov can stomach an ex-Labour man that is)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

+/- Press Reg: gr8 summary:Michael White

His opinion pieces are often ill-fitting these days for Guardian readers, but this is a fantastic resource for the student of media regulation: a summary, packed with further hyperlinked articles, of the press case against strengthened press regulation, and some of the counter-arguments. What he also does here is unpick the extremely anti-democratic nature of billionaire owners who don't even pay UK tax seeking to shape public opinion through 'their' newspapers. I highly recommend reading the full article.

A free press is all very well, but free for whom?

The press lords are lashing out against external regulation, but they ignore several obvious problems
Lord Justice Leveson
Lord Justice Leveson, who is poised to issue his report on regulatory reform of the press. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
In today's moment of election excitement from the United States, words like freedom and liberty get thrown around like confetti at a wedding, often by people who seem to think it only applies to those like themselves. The Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn is furious that the Obama victory was achieved by "fear and loathing", not tactics he would ever use himself.
But away from wall-to-wall election coverage, the Daily Telegraph's "Keep the press free" editorial – it appeared on Tuesday – illustrates the narrow view of liberty too.
What was it about? Lord Justice Leveson is poised to issue his report on regulatory reform of the press in the wake of the disturbing disclosures arising from the phone-hacking affair which led to the closure by Rupert Murdoch – an action cynical and disturbing in itself — of the News of the World in a doomed attempt to save the Dirty Digger's bid for BSkyB.
What provoked the Telegraph's disdain were statements made by the National Union of Journalists in defence of a statutory underpinning – here's a recent exposition of the union's case – for whatever revised form of press regulation emerges from the haggling which will follow Leveson's report, due out later this month. Speaking only for a few working journalists, the NUJ threatens "to sacrifice hard-won freedoms on the altar of leftwing orthodoxy", so the Telegraph assures its readers before urging the union's members to stop sending in their subs.
Well, I stoutly defend the Telegraph's right to write rubbish. But this is poor stuff and would be even if it did not flow from a union-bashing newspaper (does it recognise the NUJ for negotiating purposes? I think not) owned by a pair of elderly property moguls, not locally resident for tax purposes, who have laid waste to the paper's formerly sturdy character.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

WIDER LAW: LIBEL Frankie Boyle wins £50k damages off Mirror's racist libel

Article URL.

Frankie Boyle wins more than £50,000 libel damages from Daily Mirror

Jury decides comedian was libelled by claims he is a 'racist' and that he was 'forced to quit' BBC show Mock the Week
Frankie Boyle
Frankie Boyle. Photograph: Ian West/PA
The comedian Frankie Boyle has been awarded £54,650 in damages after a high court jury found he had been libelled by the Daily Mirror.
Boyle won £50,400 after the jury's verdict on an article that described him as a "racist comedian". Jurors awarded the comedian a further £4,250 over the claim in the article that he was "forced to quit" the BBC2 show Mock the Week.
The publisher of the Daily Mirror, Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), must also pay an undisclosed amount of costs.
During the five-day trial before Mr Justice Eady, jurors were shown a string of Boyle's jokes from Mock the Week and his Channel 4 show Tramadol Nights. The Scottish comedian told jurors he used racial language in jokes to ostracise other people's racist attitudes and make a point about society.
Several witnesses, including Boyle's manager and the former production editor of Mock the Week, appeared as witnesses in the case in support of the comedian.
The jury took just under three hours to find in Boyle's favour.
Boyle said on Twitter: "I'm very happy with the jury's decision and their unanimous rejection of the Mirror's allegation that I am a racist. Racism is still a very serious problem in society which is why I've made a point of always being anti-racist in my life and work and that's why I brought this action."
Boyle spent hours in the witness box to explain the frequent use of racial references in his sketches. He denied accusations of using offensive words "gratuitously", telling jurors at one point: "There is no way they are an endorsement of racist terminology. It is the absolute opposite of that. If I dressed up as Godzilla, people would not accuse me of wanting to crush Tokyo myself."
David Sherborne, for Boyle, said it would be "political correctness gone mad" if the comedian was labelled as racist for using racial language in his jokes.
MGN argued the "racist comedian" description in its article, published on 19 July 2011, was either true or honest comment. A barrister representing MGN said if jurors thought that Boyle had been libelled they should show their "contempt" by awarding damages of 45p – the price of a copy of the Daily Mirror.
Boyle said he would donate the damages money to charity.
The trial was one of the only libel cases to be heard before a jury in the past decade. Lawyers have increasingly opted for judge-only trials because of financial and time restrictions.

WIDER LAW: CONTEMPT Mail/Mirror fined (Milly Dowler case))

A good example of how wider law acts as a regulator: both the Mail + Mirror were fined (something the PCC didn't have the power to do, but its successor likely will) £10k each for their reporting on the now-convicted killer of Milly Dowler. Press reportage can be seen to influence jury decisions, so the media are not meant to report on live cases in such a way as to make a fair trial problematic.
As the article notes, there were other recent examples of this: 'In July last year, the Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 and the Sun £18,000 for articles on the arrest of Christopher Jefferies, who was later released without charge, in the Joanna Yates murder case. Vincent Tabak was found guilty of her murder in October 2011.'
This comes in the same month as Frankie Boyle won his libel case against the Mirror (called him a racist), being awarded £50k damages.

Daily Mail and Daily Mirror fined for contempt of court

Newspapers fined £10,000 each over coverage of Levi Bellfield's conviction for the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler
Royal Courts of Justice
The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror have been fined £10,000 each for breaching contempt of court laws. Photograph: Alamy
The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror have been fined £10,000 each, and ordered to pay £25,000 apiece in costs, for breaching contempt of court laws with their coverage of Levi Bellfield's conviction for the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler.
The two newspapers were found guilty of contempt of court in July after two senior judges said their coverage risked serious prejudice to Bellfield's trial.
Sir John Thomas and Mr Justice Tugendhat last week ordered the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror to pay £10,000 each, plus £25,000 apiece in costs.
However, reporting restrictions meant the fines could not be made public until after the verdict in comedian Frankie Boyle's libel trial against the Daily Mirror had been delivered on Monday. Boyle won his case against the Daily Mirror and was awarded more than £50,000 in damages.
The Bellfield articles were published by the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail on the day after his conviction for the murder and abduction of Milly Dowler, while the jury was considering another charge on the attempted kidnapping of Rachel Cowles.
The articles contained background information about Bellfield, which the high court said went far beyond what the jury had been told in court.
The Daily Mirror reported allegations of Bellfield's violent treatment and sexual abuse of his ex-wife and a former partner, and an allegation that he had once boasted of raping a disabled girl.
Sir John Thomas, high court judge and president of the Queen's Bench division, said: "Bearing in mind the amount of costs paid, we can take the course in this case of fining each newspaper at the very bottom end of the scale, namely £10,000 each.
"But for the future the message is clear and the court's observations, we hope, will ensure others exercise the most scrupulous care at the critical time in a case where only some verdicts have been returned and others remain outstanding."
Both the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail expressed surprise and disappointment at the contempt verdict in July.
They questioned whether their coverage had an adverse impact on a jury which had already found Bellfield guilty of two murders.
In July last year, the Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 and the Sun £18,000 for articles on the arrest of Christopher Jefferies, who was later released without charge, in the Joanna Yates murder case. Vincent Tabak was found guilty of her murder in October 2011.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Ken Clarke's pro-statutory reg arguments

We're not far away now from Lord Leveson's initial findings, but no matter what the outcomes of the Leveson Inquiry you need to be able to outline and critically discuss arguments for and against each form of regulation (statutory, quango, mixed [BBC], industry self-regulation, wider laws, laissez faire non/de-regulation [Desmond/Northern Shell]). Former Justic Sec Ken Clarke's arguments, presented to the Inquiry, are very useful as an example of well-reasoned pro statutory regulation arguments. It seems likely his Conservative government colleagues will oppose any such change, as this clashes with their free market ideology (and political opponents accuse them of being too close to Murdoch still), with PM Cameron and Michael Gove making prominent speeches on this line.

I've copied in below the full article, which has stats from a YouGov poll for Hacked Off which outlines the extremely high level of public distrust of the media and support for statutory regulation (as with any poll its worth asking how well informed the public are in making such judgements), and outlines Clarke's main points and proposals for a much beefed-up PCC-successor with powers to fine and force apologies on any page they wish.

Ken Clarke tells Leveson he supports statutory press regulation

Clarke's remarks come as poll shows overwhelming public support for greater controls despite other ministers' opposition
Ken Clarke
Ken Clarke backs a fully independent body capable of imposing fines in a letter to Lord Leveson. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA
Ken Clarke, the minister without portfolio, has written to Lord Leveson saying he is not opposed to a form of statutory regulation for the press, pointing out that a similar statutory underpinning of the judiciary has not undermined its independence.
Clarke also dismissed those who claim that regulation would amount to Armageddon and backed a fully independent body capable of imposing fines.
His intervention follows sharp warnings by other ministers, including Francis Maude and Michael Gove, opposing any intervention to inhibit press freedom in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
Clarke's remarks come as a poll showed overwhelming support for greater controls over the media and widespread distrust over the closeness of politicians to those in the media.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Press/Children - anonymity protecting kids or culprits?

A provocative post from Roy Greenslade in which he takes Education Secretary Michael Gove to task for seeming to contradict his stated opposition to statutory regulation and his passing of new rules which prevent reporting on cases such as this which has been leading the news this past week (about 15 year old Megan and her Maths teacher absconding to France).

A PCC replacement may well revise the PCC Editors Code guidance over reportage of children, but if anything they're likely to make it stricter still. The PCC made much of the changes they made to tighten up the Editors Code on this.

Either way this makes for a useful example: it clearly shows that media regulation extends far beyond the formal regulators themselves - in this case it is the Education Secretary, not the Culture, Media, Sport Secretary enacting this change on press and media regulations.

You can read the full article below, or here on Greenslade's Guardian blog.

Surely freedom loving Gove cannot defend press restrictions?

Here's education secretary Michael Gove speaking to the Leveson inquiry in May this year about regulation of the press:
"I have a prior belief that we should use the existing laws of the land and individuals and institutions should be judged fairly, on the basis of the existing laws of the land… And that the case for regulation needs to be made very strongly before we further curtail liberty."
Gove went on to express what he described as a strong "bias, a prejudice, a predisposition to favour free expression" and spoke out against current libel laws.
It would not be far-fetched to say he was passionate about the cause of press freedom.
From today, however, Gove's department will be seeking to enforce a law that most editors, probably all, believe to be inimical to press freedom.
Under section 13 of the Education Act 2011,

Tele's arguments against statutory press reg

The arguments for statutory press regulation are easy to master and widely expressed. Even if you disagree, you need to present both sides of any argument in this exam (and within academic work generally!) before reasoning which you favour and why.

So, whilst the source (the right-wing broadsheet D.Telegraph) is clearly biased, their arguments cannot be dismissed. You can read the full article (with Roy Greenslade's commentary) here, or click read more below.

Telegraph to Leveson and Cameron: don't undermine press freedom

Today's lengthy Daily Telegraph editorial, The threat to our free press is grave and foolish, appears to betray an increasing nervousness about the coming Leveson inquiry report.
Its strapline, "The growing clamour for press regulation backed by statute threatens a priceless British freedom", either implies some kind of inside knowledge of Lord Justice Leveson's intentions or amounts to a shot across the judge's bows.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Kate/Duchess nude pics: banned in UK

This is clearly going to be a useful case study, with lots of interesting articles already published, and much more yet to come.

Tory Party Chairman Grant Shapps has praised the restraint of the UK press (which refused to carry the pictures published by French and Italian mags/papers and widely circulating online), and has gone so far as to say this will be taken into account when the gov't responds to Leveson in a few months time. That is being interpreted as the strongest signal yet that self-regulation, amazingly, will be given yet another 'final' chance, albeit beefed up with the power to levy fines very likely to be added.

Politically, that poses a problem for Labour - if they condemn this as a cynical ploy to win press support for the Conservatives, or seek to characterise it as the Tories cosying up to their big business/millionaire donors and supporters, then they risk being opposed by the entire press in the next election, and the run-up to it. As we've seen several times before, both major parties have backed off introducing fundamental reform of press regulation due to electoral calculations.

Richard Desmond is seeking to position himself as an unlikely gentleman press proprietor: he part-owns the Irish Daily Star which did publish the pics ... and has threatened to close the paper as a result.

You can follow the developing story on this through several Guardian portals:



(plus Leveson, press regulation etc)

Here's one which might escape attention: an opinion piece by columnist Catherine Bennett, who argues that the royal role is defined by invasion of privacy, and considers the Duchess a grossly objectified woman. She argues that the Uk press' condemnation of the French/Italian publication of the photos is hypocritical when the same grandstanding UK papers are forensically examining Kate's body for signs of pregnancy.

Here's another one flagging up the hypocrisy of the likes of Desmond: fulminating over these pics whilst continuing the page 3 tradition and publishing red-carpet 'wardrobe malfunctions'...

Topless Kate photos enrage UK papers, but don't change their behaviour

The same titles that bemoan a French magazine for publishing long-lens photos of the Duchess of Cambridge continue to print page 3 girls, 'babes' and red-carpet wardrobe malfunctions
Duchess of Cambridge
The Duchess of Cambridge: UK newspapers vocally support her right to privacy. Photograph: Tim Rooke/Rex Features
The British public is up in arms at a young woman's breasts being used to sell magazines. The Duchess of Cambridge's boobs should not be gawped at, commentators point out. Her privacy has been invaded in a shocking manner, everyone agrees. Even Richard Desmond – the former publisher of Asian Babes – says he is so furious the Irish Daily Star dared to use the photos he may shut his whole paper down.

So does this mean breasts will no longer take centre stage in a certain sort of newspaper, magazine or website? Well, not exactly. The UK Daily Star today has a poignant headline about the royal scandal – "Kate's smile hides the pain" – but still fills up page 3 with a picture of a topless 22-year-old. Online it has a whole section devoted to boobs or, at it calls it, babes.

The Sun, too, sees no hypocrisy in supporting the duke and duchess's bid to sue the photographer responsible for snapping Kate's chest in a Sun Says editorial – just a couple of pages after printing a picture of Kelly, 22, from Daventry with her own breasts exposed. Online the newspaper has a host of scantily clad women for readers to pore over, such as Georgia Salpa in a bikini, Maria Fowler "flashing her cleavage", and Kelly Brook posing for a new calender.
The People may not be printing pictures of Kate but they see no reason not to use photos of Helen Mirren, snapped by paparazzi on the beach in a bikini, to illustrate a story about the actor getting a facelift. Their centre spread feature is made up of images of former teenage sex worker Zahia Dehar in see-through lingerie.
The Mirror's website implies it is bored with printing pictures of Emma Watson's "sideboob" but does anyway – just as they published images last week showing part of her nipple, when her dress slipped. While on the front of their site they have a naked Jenny Thompson (who once slept with Wayne Rooney) covering her breasts and genitals with her hands.
The Daily Mail may be shocked at the treatment of Kate but its notorious website sidebar is crammed full of pictures drawing attention to celebrities' breasts – from Nicole Richie in a cleavage-exposing dress, to Halle Berry in a bikini and Amanda Bynes in a low cut top.
The message it seems, is clear – it's fine to print pictures of half naked women, as long as they are not heading for the throne.
...

Friday, 14 September 2012

Chris Moyles' BBCR1 controversies

Marking the end of his reign as breakfast DJ, the Guardian compiled a useful top 10 of his most controversial incidents, several of which involved OfCom - they're also useful for highlighting the grey area that exists over the regulation of the BBC. Is it self-regulated or externally regulated by the quango OfCom? The answer remains a bit of both, though there is strong desire amongst those who see the BBC as ideologically wrong (as a state-owned media group potentially distorting the free market for commercial media groups) to hand OfCom complete responsibility.
See http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jul/11/chris-moyles-top-10-controversial-moments.

Crown Prosection Service as regulator: journalists' public interest defence

I'm writing in Sept 2012 when its widely assumed PM Cameron will afford the press yet another extension to 'drinking in the last chance saloon' (David Mellor's famous phrase from the time of Calcutt's Report). However, a review by the CPS establishes its credentials as a regulator of last resort above and beyond the PCC or any successor body. Details of a review of criteria for prosecuting journalists have just been published, which, amongst other things, begin to set out a firmer legal definition of the public interest defense that many of the PCC's code of conduct clauses had as an asterisked exception, or get-out; it also clarifies issues around privacy:

CPS publishes advice on prosecuting journalists over illicit newsgathering

Changes following five-month consultation on draft guidelines include closer scrutiny for so-called 'fishing expeditions'
Keir Starmer
Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

The Crown Prosecution Service has published its final guidelines on the prosecution of journalists over illicit newsgathering methods, with so-called "fishing expeditions" to face closer scrutiny.
Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said on Thursday that the guidance underlines the need for prosecutors to consider public interest factors before deciding whether to bring criminal charges against journalists.
"The purpose of the guidelines is to strike the right balance between the important public interest in a free press and the need to prosecute serious wrongdoing," said Starmer.
Changes following a five-month consultation on the draft guidelines include fresh guidance on prosecutions in cases involving fishing expeditions, and examples of stories that could be described as raising important matters of public debate.
The guidance advises prosecutors to consider what information was available to a journalist at the start of their investigation into the target of a story. This means that fishing expeditions – where the journalist does not have prima facie evidence of wrongdoing before using illicit newsgathering methods – will face closer scrutiny by prosecutors when deciding whether to launch criminal proceedings.
Another section gives examples for the first time about what prosecutors should consider "important matters of public debate". The guidance says that serious impropriety, significant unethical conduct and significant incompetence should all fall under this category.
The revised guidelines contain more detail about invasions of privacy by journalists. Prosecutors are advised to examine the particular impact of the invasion of privacy – which could include voicemail interception or email hacking – on the victim.
"When considering invasions of privacy, regard must be given to the level of seriousness of the invasion, whether on the facts there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, and whether the conduct in question was proportionate to the public interest claimed to have been served," the CPS guidelines state.
The guidelines come into force immediately and represent the first formal CPS policy involving the prosecution of journalists. They follow an unprecedented spate of arrests of journalists in Scotland Yard's investigation into alleged phone hacking, computer hacking, other breaches of privacy, and payments to police and public officials.
The CPS said it had examined ongoing prosecutions in this area – including the high-profile charges brought against former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson – and decided they are in line with the formal guidance published on Thursday.
Prosecutors are advised to consider whether the public interest served by journalistic conduct outweighs the overall criminality before bringing criminal proceedings.
The acting chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Hunt, welcomed the guidance and said he hoped it would "generate a greater understanding and appreciation of the public interest, and also of the need to take it into account in editorial decision-making".

The role of the press is...

Not a source I'll often quote, but in its mea culpa editorial on its publication of lies under the stark front page headline THE TRUTH back in 1989, here's a useful snippet:
The role of a newspaper is to uncover injustice. To forensically examine the claims made by those who are in positions of power.
You can read Roy Greenslade's analysis of the press coverage of the report into the lies and police cover-up of the events around the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool football supporters died, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2012/sep/13/hillsborough-disaster-sun

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Press-ad revenue-digitisation

The central role played by advertiser revenue in the nature and shape of our press is a key point to grasp - as C&S argue, the ad industry (and the corporate giants they represent) form an informal licensing system: without ad revenues a paper will be forced to close.

In the digital age every newspaper faces the issue of losing ad revenue as advertisers switch to online platforms such as Facebook and Google. Newspapers' own online revenues are a poor substitute for what they're losing: a report quoted below (highlighted) in Greenslade's column puts it starkly - for every £25 of print ad revenue lost by papers in 2012 £1 is gained on latest figures from their web publication.

  • Tuesday 11 September 2012
  • We are familiar with the contention that digital pennies cannot compensate for the loss of print pounds. In other words, online advertising revenue will never provide enough to fund traditional newspaper journalism.
    A new survey by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has produced new evidence to illustrate that fact. It shows that the US industry suffered $798m (£500m) in print ad losses for the first half of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago.
    That was offset by a $32m (£20m) gain in digital. So the ratio of losses to gains was 25 to 1.
    Rick Edmonds, a writer for the Poynter Institute, sees this as "ominous" and believes it casts a cloud over hopes for journalism funded by digital advertising. Well, he doesn't quite say that merely observing that it "raise(s) the question again of whether the base is so small and progress so slow in dollars that digital first may fail to support much of a news operation."
    He has in mind US companies like Journal Register and Advance. The former is pursuing a digital first strategy but has just filed for bankruptcy (see Michael Wolff here and Jeff Jarvis here for very different views on that).
    Advance is restricting most of its daily papers to three days in newsprint as it seeks to rely eventually on digital advertising.
    But Edmonds quotes Jim Moroney, NAA chairman and publisher of the Dallas Morning News, as confirming the truth of the discouraging digital ad results.
    Faced with that reality, Moroney said most newspapers' strategies have shifted to a broader view of building replacement revenues, meaning the erection of paywalls.
    According to Edmonds, publishers are also "having some success with non-advertising initiatives like offering web design and social media services to businesses." Meanwhile, the biggest companies, such as Gannett and McClatchy, have taken profitable stakes in major classified platforms.
    He goes on to consider the specific problems of attracting digital ad revenue, including low rates - due to the array of choices for advertisers on the net - and the perceived ineffectiveness of banner ads.
    He cites recent studies by the Interactive Advertising Bureau which indicate that one third to a half of web display ads are not even seen because of their placement on a page or because users move off before they load.
    Then there is the competition from the big beasts - Google, Yahoo and Facebook - that continue to grow their advertising.
    So Edmonds believes that cash-strapped newspaper companies will continue to do what they've been doing for the last five years - cutting costs by reducing staffs.
    And he also shows that with fewer people buying papers, the roughly stable circulation revenues have been achieved by raising cover prices - a tactic that stimulates further desertion by readers.
    Cost-cutting and cover price hikes are being pursued here in Britain because the problems we face are similar to those in the United States. But this situation doesn't negate digital missionaries who are trying to build a future without print advertising revenue.
    Surely none of us thought that the disruption caused by the digital revolution was going to be easy. We have to think, to innovate and to experiment in order to discover the journalistic light at the end of the tunnel. To do otherwise is to give up hope altogether.
    Source: Poynter
    Post your comment

Leveson hasnt changed press: Greenslade + privacy cases

Roy Greenslade rather caustically points to the papping of 2 TV journalists as indicating that the red-top press has very swiftly forgotten about Leveson and returned to type, pointing to the printing of the naked Prince Harry pictures as another example of this.

I usually agree with RG, but I'm not completely sure on these examples, Marr/Murnahgan/Harry - what do you think? Have the press once more ignored the PCC code or is there a genuine public interest defence?

  • Monday 10 September 2012
  • I often quote Tom Stoppard's line about the "casual cruelty" of newspapers. Sometimes though, it is far from casual as Dermot Murnaghan and Andrew Marr will testify today.
    They have suffered the embarrassment of being pictured - in the Sunday Mirror and The People - kissing women who are not their wives. And the Daily Mail's website has followed up by publishing both sets of pictures too. (No, I'm not going to link to any of it).
    Why have the pair been papped? Here's the public interest defence. These men, by virtue of appearing on television, are role models. They are married. According to the editors' code of practice, the public interest is served by "preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation."
    So Murnaghan and Marr - both of them journalists, incidentally - are "guilty" of misleading the public. Case proved. As for the invasion of their privacy by snatching sneak pictures, that's fine too because the men were snapped while in a public place where all the world could see them.
    The public has a right to know and all that. Editors may say they do it more in sorrow than in anger. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Bah, humbug!
    There are all sorts of questions to be asked about the nature of the tip-offs that led to the photographers stalking their prey. But I guess we can be sure it didn't involve phone hacking this time.
    But what's the point of my bellyaching about these gross invasions of privacy? The tabloids are reverting to type, so my complaints are not going to change anything.
    With the Prince Harry pictures and these two new examples, it is abundantly clear that the so-called Leveson effect is history. Celebrities are fair game again.
    Duck for cover, Hugh Grant. Watch out, Charlotte Church. Stay home, Steve Coogan. The paparazzi are back in play. The tabs are on your tails. And you can't all flee to Afghanistan.
    11 comments

Govs pressure BBC: Iannucci

Iannucci gave a speech in which he criticised successive UK governments (both Labour and Tory/coalition) for constantly seeking to control the way broadcasters operate. This is a useful point to make on how informal regulation takes place beyond the actual, formal regulators. Note the article contains strong language. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/sep/10/armando-iannucci-bbc-fight-critics

Armando Iannucci calls on BBC to fight back against critics

Thick Of It creator said British television suffered from 'consistent cack-handed interference by politicians goaded by the press
Armando Iannucci
Armando Iannucci said 'supine' television executives had failed to fight back – not just at the BBC but across broadcasting. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Guardian

The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci has called on the BBC to fight back against its critics in parliament and the press.
Iannucci, whose acclaimed Westminster satire returned to BBC2 last Saturday night, said British television felt "disarmed and confused" because of "consistent cack-handed interference by politicians goaded by the press".
He said "supine" television executives had failed to fight back – not just at the BBC but across broadcasting – and said "now is the time to fight back".
Delivering the annual Bafta Lecture in London's Piccadilly, entitled "Fight, fight, fight", Iannucci railed against politicians and press barons trying to influence what we see on the small screen.
"Governments whether right or left have become commissioners in chief, nudging and cajoling networks into preferred business models without the slightest sensitivity or awareness of what the public wants or the TV industry is capable of," said Iannucci.
He said politicians saw television as something to be "badgered or bullied" and the BBC as an easy target.
But he said the Leveson inquiry into press ethics had highlighted public misgivings about the way the press and politicians operated and said viewers would "never forgive anyone who meddles with British television for their own advantage".
With George Entwistle, the new director general of the BBC due to take up his post on Monday next week, Iannucci said there "could not be a better time to reset the board".
He said he wanted all UK broadcasters but especially the BBC to be more gung-ho about promoting themselves overseas.
"I want to encourage us to be more aggressive in promoting what makes British TV so good. Be ambitious, arrogant even, in how we sell it to the world.
"The BBC brand is up there with Apple and Google, I want it to go abroad and prostitute itself to blue buggery in how it sells and makes money from its content."
He added: "It goes back to the old amateur spirit of the Olympics, that it's wrong to make money. There is still an element of the BBC that feels it is somehow wrong, or it will be open to criticism if it makes more money."
In a question and answer session after his lecture, Iannucci said the BBC had to stop being scared of negative headlines in the Daily Mail.
"The great unspoken support of the BBC is the viewing public and the BBC seems to forget that but is continually aware of bad headlines in the Daily Mail. It's a strange dynamic. What's wrong with having criticism in the press?"
Iannucci, who once said the BBC should tell James Murdoch to "fuck off", said the Murdochs were "just not as frightening anymore" in the wake of the Leveson inquiry into press ethics and the phone-hacking scandal.
He criticised the BBC's licence fee settlement two years ago which saw the level of the fee frozen but the corporation take on extra funding responsibilities including the BBC World Service.
"That was a back of the envelope last minute decision which had nothing to do with public spending. It was a loaded gun," he said.
Iannucci said David Cameron's description of the six-year funding freeze as "delicious" showed that the Conservatives still had a BBC agenda. He said the traditional Conservative party still saw the corporation as a radical hotbed which was "determined to bring anarchy to the UK when in fact it put on the Olympics brilliantly".
But Iannucci warned that the changing way in which we watch television meant it was going to be very difficult to justify the licence fee in 10 years' time.
He said British television was once the "most adored, copied and influential in the world" but it had lost that crown over the last five or 10 years to the US and shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire and Breaking Bad.
He used his lecture to call on commissioning executives to give creatives more freedom, and for Sky, which has pledged to double the amount it invests in UK comedy and drama, to invest some of that money in new talent.
He said the Olympics opening ceremony was an example of what can happen when creatives are given the freedom to express themselves. When decisions were taken by committee, he said, you end up with the Millennium Dome.
Iannucci admitted the title of his lecture was "rather aggressive" and joked he had originally thought of calling it "make good programmes".
"Never underestimate the intelligence of the audience, make good programmes and they will come," he added.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Chomsky: Magna Carter & Bewildered Herd

This gets fairly complex at points, and might be easier digested by students of politics, econmics or philosophy and ethics. Nonetheless, its a useful restatement of his theory of the propaganda model; of how (and why) major corporations and political forces seek to control and mould public opinion, to encourage individualisation and focus on trivia rather than meaningful matters of public policy - in short, to manufacture consent. The following excerpt comes from part one of a two-part Guardian article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/24/magna-carta-minor-carta-noam-chomsky Controlling the Desire for Democracy That was 150 years ago – in England earlier. Huge efforts have been devoted since to inculcating the New Spirit of the Age. Major industries are devoted to the task: public relations, advertising, marketing generally, all of which add up to a very large component of the Gross Domestic Product. They are dedicated to what the great political economist Thorstein Veblen called "fabricating wants." In the words of business leaders themselves, the task is to direct people to "the superficial things" of life, like "fashionable consumption." That way people can be atomised, separated from one another, seeking personal gain alone, diverted from dangerous efforts to think for themselves and challenge authority. The process of shaping opinion, attitudes, and perceptions was termed the "engineering of consent" by one of the founders of the modern public relations industry, Edward Bernays. He was a respected Wilson-Roosevelt-Kennedy progressive, much like his contemporary, journalist Walter Lippmann, the most prominent public intellectual of 20th-century America, who praised "the manufacture of consent" as a "new art" in the practice of democracy. Both recognised that the public must be "put in its place," marginalised and controlled – for their own interests of course. They were too "stupid and ignorant" to be allowed to run their own affairs. That task was to be left to the "intelligent minority," who must be protected from "the trampling and the roar of [the] bewildered herd," the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" – the "rascal multitude" as they were termed by their 17th century predecessors. The role of the general population was to be "spectators," not "participants in action," in a properly functioning democratic society. And the spectators must not be allowed to see too much. President Obama has set new standards in safeguarding this principle. He has, in fact, punished more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined, a real achievement for an administration that came to office promising transparency. WikiLeaks is only the most famous case, with British cooperation. Among the many topics that are not the business of the bewildered herd is foreign affairs. Anyone who has studied declassified secret documents will have discovered that, to a large extent, their classification was meant to protect public officials from public scrutiny. Domestically, the rabble should not hear the advice given by the courts to major corporations: that they should devote some highly visible efforts to good works, so that an "aroused public" will not discover the enormous benefits provided to them by the nanny state. More generally the US public should not learn that "state policies are overwhelmingly regressive, thus reinforcing and expanding social inequality," though designed in ways that lead "people to think that the government helps only the undeserving poor, allowing politicians to mobilise and exploit anti-government rhetoric and values even as they continue to funnel support to their better-off constituents" – I'm quoting from the main establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, not from some radical rag. Over time, as societies became freer and the resort to state violence more constrained, the urge to devise sophisticated methods of control of attitudes and opinion has only grown. It is natural that the immense PR industry should have been created in the most free of societies, the United States and Great Britain. The first modern propaganda agency was the British Ministry of Information a century ago, which secretly defined its task as "to direct the thought of most of the world" -- primarily progressive American intellectuals, who had to be mobilized to come to the aid of Britain during the first world war. Its US counterpart, the Committee on Public Information, was formed by Woodrow Wilson to drive a pacifist population to violent hatred of all things German – with remarkable success. American commercial advertising deeply impressed others. Goebbels admired it and adapted it to Nazi propaganda, all too successfully. The Bolshevik leaders tried as well, but their efforts were clumsy and ineffective. A primary domestic task has always been "to keep [the public] from our throats," as essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson described the concerns of political leaders when the threat of democracy was becoming harder to suppress in the mid-19th century. More recently, the activism of the 1960s elicited elite concerns about "excessive democracy," and calls for measures to impose "more moderation" in democracy. One particular concern was to introduce better controls over the institutions "responsible for the indoctrination of the young": the schools, the universities, the churches, which were seen as failing that essential task. I'm quoting reactions from the left-liberal end of the mainstream spectrum, the liberal internationalists who later staffed the Carter administration, and their counterparts in other industrial societies. The right wing was much harsher. One of many manifestations of this urge has been the sharp rise in college tuition, not on economic grounds, as is easily shown. The device does, however, trap and control young people by debt, often for the rest of their lives, thus contributing to more effective indoctrination.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Free press impedes freedom? Venezuela

The points raised by Curran and Seaton about the way in which right-wing bias was designed as a central feature of our press - by reforms which most historians today simplistically portray as creating freedom and a true democracy - can seem hard to grasp or apply to our seemingly sophisticated, advanced democracy. So, what about a Latin American nation previously dominated by business elites tied to the sort of low tax, free market, anti-union and pro-USA policies that define right-wing piticians and media barons in the UK? Read the article below for a useful argument that press freedom can be bad for democracy, a seeming contradiction in terms.

  Chávez's power hungry style could further radical change in Venezuela | Jonathan Glennie  Criticisms of human rights abuses under Hugo Chávez's regime in Venezuela may be valid, but complete press freedom can, sometimes, mitigate against social progress Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its latest damning assessment of the human rights situation in Venezuela . According to HRW "the accumulation of power in the executive and the erosion of human rights protections have allowed the Chávez government to intimidate, censor and prosecute critics and perceived opponents in a wide range of cases involving the judiciary, the media and civil society". Since its last report in 2008, "the human rights situation in the country has become even more precarious". I don't doubt the facts presented by HRW. Particularly alarming is the way the regime of President Hugo Chávez threw a judge in jail for making a decision it didn't like, and the chilling effect such arbitrary abuse of power has on the rest of the judiciary. HRW plays a vital role in bringing attention to such activities. However, it is important not to mistake a negative report of this nature with an overall analysis of the progress in, and challenges facing, Venezuela, for two main reasons: first, because the state of political freedom is more complex than the report implies, and second because restricting the actions of some can sometimes be necessary to further change in highly unequal and politically polarised contexts. The first of those reasons is probably less provocative than the second. The opening of political space in Venezuela to many parts of the citizenry who were previously excluded from what was supposedly a democracy is well-documented, particularly by Pablo Navarrete in Inside the Revolution: A Journey into the Heart of Venezuela . The flowering of local political groups in poor communities is not an excuse for the abuses of power of the Chávez regime, nor is the fact that those abuses are minor compared with the vile murderers who used to run most of Latin America with strong support from the US and sometimes the UK, but it should be included in a balanced analysis of the state of democracy in Venezuela. It implies that real democracy requires not just a top-down legal covenant but also a bottom-up process of citizen engagement that itself may require political and economic support from the state, which in this case Chávez has offered. Second, and somewhat more awkwardly for liberals in established democracies, the complete freedom of the press is not always a sign of a functioning democracy – in some contexts it can actually mitigate against progress for the majority poor. The relationship between formal democratic freedoms and progress on poverty eradication and inequality is not an easy one. There are some who argue that democracy is important for poverty reduction, and others who suggest that democracy can actually throw up barriers to progress on social and economic rights. In reality it is unhelpful to generalise, in part because defining democracy proves very hard, and partly because country contexts are so incredibly different. There are many examples where more freedoms are indeed crucial to progress for the poorest, but there are also certainly examples where clamping down on media and other freedoms can be justified for development purposes. This is anathema to most westerners who don't understand the political complexities in countries very different from their own, but it was summarised well by Mark Weisbrot , of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research , in a recent article about the alleged crackdown on the freedom of the press in Rafael Correa's Ecuador. Rather than "a heroic battle for freedom of expression", argued Weisbrot, the situation would be better described as "a struggle between two political actors". Take the Murdoch empire, multiply it by about a thousand and you are somewhere close to how powerful the rightwing media is in Latin America. In Weisbrot's words the "unelected owners [of major media outlets] and their allies use their control of information to advance the interests of the wealth and power that used to rule the country". It is proven beyond doubt that the rightwing media was an active and key player in the 2002 coup that briefly removed Chávez from power (see the brilliant documentary The revolution will not be televised ). In such a context, reducing the rightwing media's room for manoeuvre may be a crucial element in any plan to radically transform a country. (In the run-up to elections in October, Chavez has accused Venezuela's privately owned media companies of bias towards the opposition and of ignoring his government's achievements.) "Where single-issue civil rights organisations see media crackdowns, what may be happening is an elected and popular government trying to implement the will of the people in the face of powerful business interests prepared to undermine democracy if need be. Perhaps it is not appropriate to expect HRW to discuss these complex issues in each report it publishes, although one might have thought that the political freedoms being experienced by poor communities for the first time under Chávez would merit a mention. But that just reinforces the importance of treating this valuable report as a crucial piece of evidence in analysing the pros and cons of the Chávez regime, just as we do any government, rather than wielding it as proof of Chávez's generalised infamy. Unfortunately there is little doubt that many important constituencies will wield it in precisely that way, preferring simplistic condemnations to a mature analysis of the complexities of political change after centuries of inequality and repression.