Exam date

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

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sun's FreePress defence + Akers

When teaching this year there was already an intimidatingly long list of names to grasp, to which we can now add yet another: Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers. Her testimony to Leveson on 27.2.12 quite directly dealt with a co-ordinated fightback from The S*n (followed up by stablemate The Times plus the Mail) which had cried foul: in a leading article senior political editor Trevor Kavanagh, who goes back a long way with Murdoch, claimed police tactics were excessive and undermining the free press. Specifically, he dismissed payments by S*n journos as small amounts for stories in the public interest.
Nick Davies, Guardian crime correspondent generally seen as the person whose work broke this Hackgate scandal, argues that Akers' response, and the refusal of the Met to back down (which it had done so many times, so suspiciously, in the past) this time, denotes a significant decline in the fiercesome power of the press to bully and dictate to our public services including the law.
Kavanagh and others' arguments, flawed as they are, are useful material for prepping essay arguments about free press theories - and Davies, below, is excellent on picking this apart.
Keep delving into this material, keeping a particular eye on Roy Greenslade's column.

Davies article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/27/leveson-witnesses-power-nick-davies

Leveson witnesses halt the tabloid power grab

Akers provided a riposte to the Sun's recent fist-waving, while questions about the police response to phone hacking mount
Sue Akers
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers challenged the assumption on which recent attacks on Scotland Yard were founded. Photograph: Guardian
The phone-hacking scandal never was simply a story about journalists behaving badly: it was and is about power.
On Monday, in an outbreak of peculiarly destructive evidence, Lord Justice Leveson's courtroom became a battlefield for two parts of a defining power struggle.
The first was short term. In the past few weeks, those who lost some of their power last summer, when the facts of the scandal finally erupted, have been trying to reclaim it. In 20 minutes of deftly understated evidence, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers sent them packing.
Rupert Murdoch's Sun had led the attempted coup with an outburst of the kind of tabloid fist-waving which has itself been part of the distortion of power. The paper's associate editor, Trevor Kavanagh, reacted to the arrest of 10 of his colleagues by launching a ferocious attack on Scotland Yard. It was full of the rhetorical flourish of great reporting but almost devoid of facts.
Crucially, Kavanagh's claim that the Yard was engaged in a witch-hunt against legitimate journalism was based on a bold assumption that, in the Sun's history of paying sources for stories, "there is nothing disreputable and, as far as we know at this point, nothing illegal". Never pausing to question that assumption, the Daily Mail joined in, reporting the arrests under the headline "Operation Overkill" and running a column by Richard Littlejohn which compared the police to the Stasi engaging in "a sinister assault on a free press".

Thursday, 23 February 2012

PCC: ACCURACY: Guardian breaks Code

Interesting article/PCC ruling: The Guardian broke the PCC's Editors' Code BUT as they comprehensively addressed the grievance of the complainant (the Met Police/IPCC) the complaint was NOT upheld. See full article below.

PCC rules Guardian's Mark Duggan headline was misleading

However, press complaints body finds paper's apology and correction were sufficient

Read the PCC's adjudication in full
Read the Guardian readers' editor's column
  guardian.co.uk,
Mark Duggan
The Guardian's headline on a story about Mark Duggan was misleading, the PCC has ruled. Photograph: Rex Features

The Guardian has been found to be in breach of the Press Complaints Commission code of practice over a headline and subhead on an article published by the newspaper in November regarding the circumstances of the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting by the police prompted the summer riots.
However, the PCC also ruled that the combination of steps taken by the Guardian to remedy the error met the requirement of the editors' code. The complaint was therefore not upheld because the mistake had already been corrected.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Hackgate: Computer hacking

Confirmation of what both the Despatches (C4) and Panorama (BBC1) docs on Hackgate flagged up last year: the hacking was NOT restricted to mobile phones/answer messages, but also emails and computers (including agents in Northern Ireland as well as a range of Labour government ministers.
Restrictions have just been lifted on reporting the conviction of Philip Campbell Smith; here's an extract from a Guardian report (full article here):
A man at the centre of allegations that computers were hacked for the News of the World has been convicted of conspiring to illegally access private information for profit.
Until Monday legal restrictions meant that what is known about Philip Campbell Smith's alleged involvement in computer hacking could not be reported.
Smith is alleged to have hacked the computer of a former British army intelligence officer in 2006 as part of a commission from the News of the World. In a tape recording, Smith says he was in contact with Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who went on to become David Cameron's director of communications. Smith also claimed Coulson was in his mobile phone directory.
Smith is understood to be under investigation by a Scotland Yard inquiry, Operation Kalmyk, which is examining allegations that email hacking may have been used against several dozen targets.
The allegations against Smith highlight growing concern over computer hacking. Met officers are known to have approached leading members of the Labour party as possible victims, including Gordon Brown, the former No 10 communications chief Alastair Campbell, the former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain, and Tom Watson, the backbench Labour MP who has been particularly vocal in the phone-hacking scandal. If any of the Labour figures were targets, it is not known who carried out the hacking and for whom.
The computer that Smith is suspected of hacking belonged to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst.
The computer hacking involving Smith is alleged to have been carried out in July 2006 by sending Hurst an email containing a trojan virus that copied Hurst's emails and relayed them back to the hacker. It is claimed this was commissioned by Alex Marunchak, who was a senior editor on the News of the World when it was edited by Coulson.
The material accessed by the hacker included messages concerning at least two agents who had informed on the Provisional IRA: Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife, and a second informant known as Kevin Fulton. Both men were regarded as high-risk targets for assassination. Hurst was one of the few people who knew their whereabouts and the emails contained information capable of disclosing this.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

OfCom + press flak

Whilst the PCC has had it fairly easy (at least until Hackgate blew up and their assurances that all was okay looked absurd) from their brothers in arms of the press, OfCom has been an object of bitter attack by Fleet Street's finest.
Why might this be?
While the PCC essentially let the press off with murder, with any wrist-slapping carried out with a feather, OfCom has frequently frustrated the cross-media ambitions of media magnates and conglomerates, looking for synergies, or horizontal/vertical integration, through expansion into TV, radio and web. Its OfCom that holds the power to refer proposed purchases of one media company/outlet by another for legal scrutiny, and much of the press bitterly restrict this - even though this OfCom has been hugely reduced with the deregulation/pro-free market reforms that started under Thatcher in the 80s, carried on under New Labour and threatened to be completed by the coalition government until Hackgate made the News Corp buyout of Sky (which the Tory minister has okayed) a huge scandal.
Papers like the Daily Mail take a typically hypocritical line here: constantly attacking OfCom for being too powerful and interfering in the free market whilst constantly demanding OfCom uses more power to stop sex, violence and all those bad things you never read about (with helpful pictures) in the Mail...
This highlights a real dichotomy in the debates over media regulation: issues over ownership and the debated need for regulation of a free market on the one hand, and debates over media content and freedom to/restrictions on publishing on the other.
The right-wing press (ie, most of it!) constantly bemoan the interference in a free market of media ownership ... but attack the perceived failure to interfere enough on media content (especially if, like Sachsgate, the naughty party happens to be the BBC, loathed by free marketeers who see it as diminishing their potential for profit). The left-wing press (all two of them!!!), whilst also nervous and antagonistic about any prospect of a new licensing regime, tend to report more favourably on criticisms of the concentration of ownership, and barriers to new entrants (basically, you need to be a billionaire), whilst being pro-BBC and much less likely to froth at the mouth at the latest saucy C4 drama.

THEORY TIP: Hopefully that description rang a few bells ... the way the right-wing press cover OfCom is akin to flak, one of the five filters Chomsky argues shoots down media messages which go against the interests of the most wealthy and powerful.

Here's one recent example of the Mail firing flak at OfCom - and note the typically mealy-mouthed, low-profile 'apology' (hardly a ringing endorsement of the PCC that this sort of daily propaganda is seen as acceptable in the UK; in a paper such as the New York Times this might cause a fair degree of uproar at the lapse in journalistic standards):

'A production error'

From today's corrections column in the Daily Mail:

An article on Saturday about children dialling up pornography on mobile phones suggested that Ofcom could not explain why filters to block adult material on BlackBerrys would not be available for at least six months.

We are happy to clarify that Ofcom’s response, that the ‘project is highly technical and software filters need to be developed from scratch’ was omitted from the article due to a production error.

The blog this is taken from - Tabloid Watch - is written in a very caustic manner but is nonetheless an absolute goldmine as regards your exam preparation; it has a huge archive of stories on such inaccuracies which you can use to bolster your notes on the PCC (and its failings) in particular.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

PCC director quits (Feb 9th 2012)

From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2012/feb/09/stephen-abell-pcc
(and here's Roy Greenslade's analysis of his time at the PCC, and how un/successful he was)

PCC director Stephen Abell departs

abe Stephen Abell, the outgoing PCC director. Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian Stephen Abell, director of the Press Complaints Commission for the last two years, is leaving. He will leave at the end of the month.
His departure, which has been under discussion for some time, is unsurprising given that the PCC will almost certainly be reconstituted.
Abell, who has spent more than 10 years with the commission, has been in charge during its most difficult period, culminating in the controversy over phone hacking.
He oversaw the early departure of its previous chair, Lady Buscombe, and has worked alongside her successor, Lord Hunt, since his arrival in October last year.
Hunt said he and Abell had agreed that they would work together until they "were in a position to propose a new structure for self-regulation of the press." He added:
"I have valued Stephen's assistance in this, and his professionalism in leading the PCC's staff as they continued their important work...
It is testament to him that the service to complainants, both those in the public eye and those without claim to celebrity, has improved and expanded over the last few years. I wish him success in all his future endeavours."
Abell, 31, is to become a partner with Pagefield communications consultancy, where he will assume responsibility for media relations and crisis communication.
He said: "I decided last year that it was time for a new challenge. First, I wanted to work with David Hunt in the development of positive proposals for a new structure of self-regulation... I also wanted to give a full account of the work of the PCC to Lord Justice Leveson."
He said he remained "a firm supporter of enhanced self-regulation for the press", adding:
"My greatest professional satisfaction at the PCC has been in our establishment of a bespoke 24-hour service to help complainants obtain redress, stop harassment and prevent the publication of inaccurate or intrusive material.
I leave a great team of people, who have much to offer in the changing world ahead."

It appears that Abell's PCC job, as its is currently constituted, may not be filled. Instead, the commission has appointed Michael McManus to be "director of transition."
mcm McManus, pictured left, has been a long-time associate of Hunt's. They worked together for six years at the law firm Beachcroft, where he dispensed political and legislative advice to clients.
Hunt and McManus co-wrote an article for The Guardian in September 2010 in which they praised Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg for forging a "strong" coalition with the Conservatives.
McManus spent years as a special adviser in parliament and also ran Edward Heath's Westminster private office. Most recently he has worked at the PR firm Bell Pottinger.
McManus said: "I am delighted to be joining the PCC at this crucial juncture in its existence. All my work in journalism and politics has convinced me that self-regulation of the press can and must be made to work.
"I relish the challenge of playing such a senior role in the urgent and crucially important task of creating a new, independent press regulator with real teeth."
A further senior PCC appointment is expected shortly.
Sources: PCC/Personal knowledge