Exam date

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

Thursday, 31 May 2012

PressReg revision session

The following doesn't reflect what we covered; used this as a launching pad for more detailed discussions, including on linking/comparing TV/press regulation, and touched on several recent cases/pronouncements (all covered in recent blog posts, and/or previous packs/posts) - if you can, I recommend you borrow notes from one of those who were here.
TV reg tomorrow, tho again I'll seek to make links across the two
Press Reg

Jubilee/BJohnson: press reg better than TV

A brief post for now, with what I think could be a very useful point to help balance up the line of argument in your essays away from just 'PCC bad, OfCom good/strong'.
In a recent post (I'll add links later) I cited the case of Boris Johnson, recently re-elected Mayor of London: leaked documents appear to show his office bullying the BBC into not running material which would have harmed his reputation (and electoral chances). Could the 'free press' be bullied in this way? (okay, so they do it the other way round by bullying politicians!) The point is negated somewhat, though, by the nature of the BBC: partially self-regulated, partially regulated by OfCom.
A rather more controversial argument, but one thats been popping up all over the press in recent weeks: why are the BBC dropping their legal requirement to deliver balanced, unbiased news coverage when it comes to the Jubilee celebrations? They've screened a series of programmes which are simple celebrations of the monarch and the hereditary monarchical system (notably at a time when the coalition government has been discussing abolishing the remaining hereditary, inherited seats in the House of Lords), and could easily have been produced by the royal family's own media operations. Where's the enforcement of the BBC's constitution here? Is this being done as the BBC are vulnerable to government pressure (the BBC may self-regulate, but its the government that sets the license-fee level, and can at any time privatise the BBC or set limits on what the BBC can cover - eg, there have been discussions about banning the BBC from bidding for sports rights or overseas programmes).
Peter Wilby has repeatedly addressed this in the Guardian, but there have been a variety of articles elsewhere too - I'll add later

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Churchill to Blair: history of PMs + press owners

How Guardian's Steve Bell covered Blair's appearance
There's been a lot written in the last 24 hours about ex-PM Blair and his ties to the Murdoch press, following his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry.

The closeness of PMs to the press owners (press barons still?) has been an issue for at least a century (see Toynbee article below), but when PM Thatcher knighted/ennobled several right-wing proprietors and editors, it seemed the walls between the fourth estate and those it is meant to hold to account could not be brought any lower. We're seeing this come out every day in Leveson: our PM is close pals with various key Murdoch employees; the Culture Secretary and his special advisor swapping 100s of emails and text messages with News Corp's PR chief. Gordon Brown rather desparately brought together a motley crew:
The media mogul also recalled a time of better relations with the Browns, when Sarah Brown, the then prime minister's wife, hosted a "slumber party" attended by Brooks, Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, and his daughter Elisabeth. Smiling at the recollection of the "pyjama party", Murdoch sought to downplay the intimacy of the event, saying it was "just a bunch of women, complaining about their husbands probably".
(This was from Murdoch's 2011 evidence to Leveson) None of them, arguably, went quite as far as Blair, who become godfather to Rupert Murdoch's child with his new wife.

This extraordinary level of closeness fuels the wide belief that our most senior politicians have made deals with Murdoch to gain his papers' support:
At the end of last year Lord Mandelson said the Sun was supporting the Conservative party because News International had agreed a "contract" with David Cameron. The Tories responded by saying that, if there was a contract, Mandelson should explain what contract existed when the Sun supported Labour in 1997, 2001 and 2005.
Well, now we know what that contract was. Price explains in his book:
Blair and [Alastair] Campbell took to heart the advice of the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, on how to deal with Murdoch: "He's a big bad bastard, and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength."
Blair and his team believed they had achieved exactly that. A deal had been done, although with nothing in writing. If Murdoch were left to pursue his business interests in peace he would give Labour a fair wind.
In the footnotes Price, who worked at No 10 as Campbell's deputy, attributes that final sentence to "private information".
Of course, this makes Mandelson's claim (which the Tories deny) about a "deal" of some kind between Cameron and Murdoch all the more plausible. But we'll probably have to wait until we get the first Price-type book from a Tory insider until we learn any more detail.
This comes from an article about Lance Price's (former press spokesperson for PM Blair) book:
Where Powers Lies: Prime Ministers v the Media covers all the premiers from David Lloyd George to Gordon Brown and it shows that, in some respects, nothing much has changed since 1916. If you don't believe me, try the prime ministers v the media quiz, which shows that journalist and politicians have been saying the same things about each other for almost 100 years.
Steve Bell cartoon from back in 1998. See this Indie article from the time: "Murdoch's courtship of Blair finally pays off"
Here's an excerpt from a review of that book; this backs up what Toynbee says below about the long, long history of press owners bullying seemingly all-powerful politicians. (If you read further in the article, there's an interesting point on how, in dumbing down political communication to the tabloid level of enquiring after Susan Boyle's health (Brown) or writing in a tabloid to call for the release of a fictional soap character (Blair), politicians have fuelled the decline in respect for politcians and political discourse).
Winston Churchill threatened to close down the Daily Mirror. An utterly ­paranoid Harold Wilson punched a reporter in the stomach. Stanley Baldwin denounced the press barons as harlots. John Major drove himself demented by reading the first editions of the papers before he went to bed and once called the editor of the Sun to Number 10 in order to whinge about a story ­alleging that he was using hair dye. Tony Blair was eulogised by most of the media when he arrived in Downing Street and departed denouncing it as "a feral beast". Gordon Brown is a ­journalist who now seems to hate most members of his former profession.
The relationship between prime ministers and the media is a complex and combustible mix in which mutual fascination exists alongside reciprocated fear and loathing. It was ever thus. Bill Deedes, information minister under Harold Macmillan and later editor of the Daily Telegraph, observed: "There is a great invisible struggle going on as to who really has the most power – the government or the newspapers."
Blair responded to Price's claims at Leveson, arguing that 6 major decisions went against Murdoch's interests:
They included BSkyB's aborted attempt to buy Manchester United, the establishment of media regulator Ofcom, successive increases in the cost of the licence fee and expansion of the BBC's channels and online offering.


If we move on now to Polly Toynbee (famous left-wing Guardian columnist), she wrote an article which explicitly tackles the impact of the lack of political/ideological diverisity in our mainly right-wing press; are Labour leaders/PMs under greater pressure to strike deals with media magnates? There's a lot of very useful detail in the following excerpt from the full article (28.5.12):
The warped press is the single greatest obstacle to Labour gaining power. Once having gingerly stepped inside, the party never feels secure and fears its own shadow. Spin was in fact self-defence, using what Blair called Labour's first professional media operation. Never forget what Labour is up against: 80% of newspaper readership for a hundred years has belonged not just to conservatives, but mainly to extreme maverick press barons, using their power to control politics.
The next paragraph takes us back to the early 1940s, still in the era of the press barons such as Beaverbrook + Northcliffe; it then moves on to recent years (Conrad Black owned the Tele, now its the billionaire Barclay brothers [Gdn articles]):
Churchill had to take Beaverbrook into his wartime cabinet to keep him quiet. Northcliffe, asked for his formula, said he gave his Mail readers "a daily hate" – and Blair was dead right to decide nothing could be done about the Mail's poisonous hostility. Conrad Black, after years of hectoring Labour with his off-the-scale neocon views in the Telegraph, is only just out of jail. The Barclay brothers are scarcely more reasonable, tax-avoiding in their feudal fiefdom of Sark, while Red Hot TV owner Richard Desmond's Express is beyond parody.Now Murdoch and his empire are at last in the dock for the vile activities of his gutter press, as scrutiny turns to his cat-and-mouse intimidation and manipulation of politicians.
There's the impact of the 1992 election campaign, widely seen as being won by the Tories because of hysterical press opposition to Labour, but also the way in which the more neutral TV news covers press stories, giving their biased agenda further publicity and influence (the Italy example: see my links list; imagine Murdoch owned even more of the press/TV AND was Prime Minister...):
Historians underestimate the might of the media forces against Labour: apart from Berlusconi's Italy, Europe's media is more balanced. Blair rightly says our broadcasters' agendas are dragged along by the frenzy of sound from the press. He talked of how deeply he and his entourage were seared by the treatment of Neil Kinnock in 1992, with that "It's the Sun wot won it" gloat. "I was absolutely determined that we should not be subject to the same onslaught."
John Major marked his downfall from the day Murdoch turned against him – the day Murdoch gave Blair the thumbs up. What did it take? Blair was open: whatever it took to placate, charm and persuade him to give Labour a fair hearing. Did that include shaping policies to please Murdoch? No, he absolutely denied it. No, he never gave Murdoch what he wanted commercially either: not ITV, not sport's crown jewels or Manchester United – nor did Labour cut back the BBC. And Murdoch detested the strengthening of Ofcom.
That last point on OfCom is an important one: the 2003 Communications Act is widely seen as a stitch-up that rather suspiciously enabled Murdoch to buy C5 (he didn't, beaten to it by Desmond) BUT, even though OfCom was explicitly set up to deregulate, it still held much more power than Murdoch wanted - he'd surely love a TV regulator as weak as the PCC? Blair also makes the point we've talked about many times: any party that tried to regulate the press would face intense opposition from the press, and would struggle to win an election.
But once in power, why didn't Blair stand up to Murdoch? "Frankly, I decided as a political leader that I was going to manage that and not confront it." Since Margaret Thatcher set aside media ownership laws to let Murdoch acquire 40% of readership plus Sky, why didn't he break up overmighty empires? Impossible, Blair said, for any government: he left his "feral beasts" attack to his last days. Taking on the overmighty press would have meant an "absolute major confrontation" lasting years, while the public wanted action on health, schools and crime. "That's the political judgment you have to make."
Leading off that last point, Blair accused the Mail in particular of pursuing a personal vendetta against him and his family:
Tony Blair has accused Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers of pursuing a "personal vendetta" against his wife, revealing that their lawyers had sent more than 30 letters of complaint about the paper's coverage over a five-year period between 2006 and 2011.
Blair, who once likened the media to a "feral beast", told the Leveson inquiry that newspapers were guilty of an "abuse of power" by vigorously pursuing people it did not like or disagreed with "full on, full frontal, day in, day out".
"I think a certain amount of comment is perfectly legitimate," said Blair. "Some of the papers, in particular the Mail group, took it too far and it turned into a personal vendetta.
"You're always going to feel sensitive about your own family but I thought and do think that the attacks on her and my children were just unnecessary and wrong.
"The fact is when you fall out with the controlling element of the Daily Mail that is when you are going to be subject to a huge and sustained attack."
Blair said he had asked his office to analyse 50 Daily Mail stories about him after the 2005 general election, and 50 stories prior to his departure from Downing Street. He said all 100 were negative.
 You can read how the wider press covered his performance here.

Monday, 28 May 2012

FUTURE: Leveson previews his decisions

The following comes from the live blog the Guardian have run each day of the Leveson Inquiry; today the Home Secretary was appearing:

12.30pm: Leveson says his concern is that voluntary regulation that is not seen as effective "is not really regulation of any sort".
12.29pm: May says she would not rule out the new press regulator being based in statute, but warned that it should get the balance right between freedom of the press and providing redress for complainants.
11.11am: May says there were growing concerns about the media regulation system in place in July 2011, but she believed that self-regulation was the way to deal with the media.
11.02am: Leveson asks May whether she has formed views on a possible future framework for regulation of the press.
She says she has not, but warns against "state interference" of newspapers through a statutory body.
11.01am: A free press is essential in a functioning democracy, May tells the inquiry.
She says there has been a "growing concern" that the Press Complaints Commission does not do the job it was set up to do.
Repeatedly the Home Sec sets herself as in favour of self-regulation, but concerned about the PCC's performance nonetheless (suggesting a 4th self-regulator may be the government's preferred outcome?). Leveson's line that self reg not seen as effective simply "is not regulation of any sort" is absolute dynamite.

Leveson got rather chatty with Tony Blair, and chose the occasion of the former PM's appearance (this the same PM who became godfather to Murdoch children, went to their Bethlehem christening ... and mysteriously disappeared from photos of this event which appeared in the press, and of course the same PM who flew all the way to Australia in 1996 to address News Corp's annual meeting ... and not make any deal that might explain why Murdoch's papers then switched their support to Labour!) to reveal a lot about the likely direction of his eventual report...

Leveson: press regulator would have to be independent of industry

Judge hints at key issues he thinks his inquiry has to tackle, from prior notification of subjects to effective sanctions
Lord Justice Leveson
Lord Justice Leveson has hinted at his early thinking on press regulation
Lord Justice Leveson has set out his initial thinking on the future of press regulation, telling Tony Blair that any successor to the Press Complaints Commission would have to be independent of the industry as well of the state.
The judge, concluding Blair's four-and-a-half-hour appearance before his inquiry into press standards on Monday afternoon, rehearsed a list of what he thought the key issues he had to tackle were, ranging from the need to pre-notify subjects of news stories to "sanctions that work". He also invited the former prime minister to help him build consensus on reform.
Leveson said that the future structure of press regulation would have to be "independent of the government, independent of the state, independent of parliament, but independent of the press".
He added that a new regulator had to have journalism "expertise on it or available to it" and "must command the respect of the press but equally the respect of the public".
Shortly after, in the final minutes of Blair's testimony, Leveson went on to list what appeared to be the central issues that he believed he have would touch on in his final report on recommendations to the government on reforming press regulation, due this autumn. Outlining the tentative nature of his thinking on the topic, many of his comments were half formed.
The judge began by addressing the issue of group complaints and noted that he had heard complaints from transgender campaigners, advocates of the disabled, and representatives of immigrant organisations – all of whom had no cause for redress because the PCC "doesn't take group complaints".
Leveson moved onto the issue of prior notification – a subject of personal lobbying by Max Mosely – where he believed there had to be "some way of drawing a line" to ensure that "if you can stop anyone chopping my leg off, why would you not want stop it being chopped off rather than trying to stitch it back on".
The judge also asked whether there was a need for an ombudsman to advise editors ahead of publication, advice that if followed could be used in mitigation in any ensuing legal actions.
That was followed by reference to the need for privacy and libel law reform via "another mechanism for swift resolution of privacy and small libel-type issues" that could operate as an "inquisitorial regime, which can be done without lawyers" and that contained "some mechanism for members of the public to be able to challenge decisions" made by newspapers.
Leveson then said there was a need for "mechanism that means that sanctions work". He appeared to mean fines for errant newspapers, because he went on to add "I recognise entirely the parlous financial position of much of the press but it's important that sanctions are taken seriously."
Finally, he said that he had to "add to all that mix, the internet", because "I am struck by the fact that what the BBC does is covered by quite different rules to what the Guardian or News International does, and yet you could look at their websites and on the fact of it they're doing similar things."
Giving Blair little opportunity to respond, Leveson then said that he believed that he needed "political consensus" if he was to produce a report with recommendations that were acted upon – because otherwise it could become too easy for David Cameron or the government of the day to drop the proposals.
He worried that "in the absence of such a consensus the whole thing [press reform] will become too difficult" and added that "I am not sure that this issue is high enough the agenda" to be legislated upon.
Blair, in conclusion, responded by saying "I think you're right in recognising that this will be very tough", adding that he would send the judge further thoughts in writing.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Leveson despairs: history of failure

Lord Leveson seems to be steeling himself for failure, acknowledging he's struggling to see any new system of regulation that will properly balance the important right to free speech/a free press with the rights of the people covered in press articles.
Interesting that he specifically cites the long history of such failure (remember: 3 RCPs, Calcutt; 3 press regulators from GCP to PC to PCC to...?).
Tory National Heritage Minister (the ministry now known as DCMS, or Culture ministry) in 1995, Stephen Dorrell, related yesterday how PM John Major asked him for 3 options which would boil down to taking no action over Calcutt's 1995 report, when he said the PCC had failed to grasp the chance given and must now be replaced with a statutory regulator. Doubly useful, as you now have an ever better source to cite in your exam than DB!

Leveson inquiry no closer to solving press puzzle

As the weeks pass, his lordship's occasional giggles at the scale of his task are beginning to seem faintly hysterical
- guardian.co.uk,
Lord Justice Leveson
Lord Justice Leveson – when it comes to designing a model for the unruly press, he admits 'we have been here several times since the war'. Photograph: Getty Images

Why do I see this all coming back to hit me?" asked a plaintive Lord Justice Leveson of no one in particular. His inquiry into how to fix the media is now well into its seventh month, and with each brace of witnesses breezing into his court, each towering stack of evidence accumulating on the desks of his counsel, he seems ever more oppressed by the scale of the task facing him.
When it comes to ambitious attempts to design a model for the unruly press, as he noted, "we have been here several times since the last war". Unhappily, as a lengthening queue of witnesses cheerfully point out to him, all previous attempts have ended in worthy, laudable irrelevance. His lordship is desperate to avoid joining them, but as the weeks pass his occasional giggles at the absurd scale of his task begin to seem faintly hysterical. Does anyone have any good ideas?
First to offer an encouraging historical precedent was Stephen Dorrell (remember him?), onetime national heritage minister (remember that?) under John Major. In 1995, Dorrell found himself charged with recommending the government response to the second report by Sir David Calcutt, who had judged that the press couldn't control itself and should be regulated. Dorrell shared with the court the Yes Minister script which the government had evidently been enacting at the time, disguised as a memo he sent to Major advising the government response.
"You asked how we might present a do-nothing option," Dorrell had written. He had had three suggestions, he told the court: One, simply ignore it – "this has worked surprisingly well so far". Two: "Announce that we will do nothing." He "wasn't attracted" to that.
His third, recommended, option was to promise to look at legislation, "when parliamentary time permits". Meaning never? A smile. "We had to present our conclusion that we were going to do nothing in the least-bad way." His lordship looked pained.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Legal costs of libel means its for rich only?

Click on 'read more' and you'll find a stack of links with selected excerpts to further illustrate the analysis below. Main themes here: the 2011 libel reform proposals, now the 2012 Libel Reform Bill - a response to our laws/courts being seen to be used by corporations and the rich to bully newspapers into silence on issues that they didn't want reported. When Max Mosley won his breach of privacy case against NoTW, News International ran up £1m in costs defending itself. The social worker libelled by The Sun over the Baby P case 'won', but was left with a legal bill of £300k: do libel laws only work if you're rich? Also looks at difference between libel (written) + slander/defamation (visual/speech), and the issues raised by online material, plus 'superinjunctions', eg the Trafigura case (also John Terry, Ryan Giggs, Andrew Marr...).
Another quick eg on costs (24.5.12): Carina Trimingham sued the Mail for breaches of privacy and homophobic harassment over the 65 articles they published on her, many mockingly or irrelevantly citing her (lesbian/bisexual) sexuality. She lost, and is left with a £410k bill: thats the Mail's legal costs which she has been ordered to pay. CT had an affair with MP Chris Huhne.
I think we've well enough established how unsatisfactory the PCC is as a press regulator: it offers minimal protection from intrusion or inaccuracy, and remedies of dubious status should your complaint be upheld (although it does seem to undertake substantial work to resolve complaints by acting as a complainant/press go-between, so speeding things up).

When it comes to the alternative of using the law courts, there is a clear issue: cost.

Before looking at a case which shows how legal justice may be increasingly out of reach of all but the rich (thus a return to the way things were before the 1792 Fox's Libel Act (adding juries) and Libel Act of 1843 (creating a public interest defence?), bear in mind that this works both ways: the superinjunctions [see this blog + BBC] we've seen are an expression of the ability of the rich and powerful to silence our democratic press/media. Indeed, we even get 'libel tourism': the rich and powerful (not least corporations seeking to prevent negative coverage of their actions) from outside the UK using UK law courts to get court orders which legally restrict reporting on them not just in the UK but beyond too. Libel laws are not beyond question: yes, they theoretically offer some protection from media intrusion and distortion, BUT corporations can take out cases knowing that many papers will simply agree to their demands (often, in effect, to cease publishing the truth) to avoid the huge legal expenses of a court case. At a time when most newspapers have been savagely reducing their workforces, even a successful legal defence of a libel complaint can cost the equivalent of several full-time journalists!

Here then is a case (as reported by Roy Greenslade) of a social worker who won her libel case against The Sun - and has been left with a £300k bill, after the damages award has been factored in (added emphasis is mine).
Social worker Sylvia Henry won a libel action against The Sun, which made false allegations about her over the Baby P case, but she now faces the possibility of being almost £300,000 out of pocket.
That's the amount of shortfall in the legal costs she is able to claim from the paper's publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN).
The senior costs judge, Master Hurst, ruled that lawyers acting for Henry could not claim any more than the previous court-approved amount from NGN, a division of News International.
He made the ruling despite the fact that Henry would have a "very good case" to justify the extra costs in a detailed assessment.
In June last year, The Sun agreed to pay Henry compensation and apologised unreservedly to her for publishing false allegations about her role in the Baby P tragedy.
Henry, a social worker in the London borough of Haringey for 23 years, was accused by The Sun of being "grossly negligent" in her handling of the case.
Baby P, Peter Connelly, was a 17-month old boy who died after suffering more than 50 injuries over an eight-month period. His mother, her boyfriend and another relative were convicted of causing or allowing the death of the child.
But Haringey children's services came in for criticism for failing to protect Peter, and The Sun ran a campaign alleging that the department was partly to blame for his death.
As part of that campaign, published over four months from November 2008, Henry was accused by the paper of being "grossly negligent" in her handling of Baby P's case.
Her solicitor, Daniel Taylor, told the high court that the newspaper alleged she had shown no remorse for these failings and was "shameless and had ducked responsibility for Peter's death".
The false allegations were said to have been published in about 80 articles.
Ben Beabey, the solicitor for NGN, told the court in that hearing: "The Sun fully accepts that the claimant played no part and bears no responsibility for the circumstances surrounding the death of Peter Connelly and that she did her best for him. The Sun apologises to Ms Henry."
Following that hearing, the London legal firm that acted for Henry, Taylor Hampton, have been seeking costs from NGN.
It exceeded the previous agreed amounts, it said, because of the way the defence was conducted.
Master Hurst said NGN has "mounted a vigorous and lengthy defence which was amended four times. They served 10 lists of documents.
"I do not suggest that the defendant was not entitled to act as it did, but it cannot now try to pass off this constantly changing scenario as being no more than a minor inconvenience to the claimant."
But the costs judge said that Henry's lawyers had "largely ignored the provisions of the practice direction" in relation to the budgeting of costs.
He suggested that Henry's lawyers should have raised the matter of the extra costs earlier in the litigation and he therefore ruled in NGN's favour.
Daniel Taylor said they were "naturally disappointed with the decision" but thought it "very significant" that the judge gave permission for an appeal without any request for one.
The case will be seen as significant because Master Hurst's judgment is the first such ruling in relation to a defamation costs budgeting pilot following reforms proposed by Lord Justice Jackson.
Sources: Legal Futures (1) and (2)
Notice there's no mention of the PCC here. Just as importantly, if you were on a typical social worker wage of <£20k a year, and read this, what would YOU do if YOUR name was attacked in this way? How could you get any justice if you cannot afford such a bill? (Again, do note that this logic also works in reverse: newspapers, especially local/regional, frequently cave in to frankly cheeky complaints from corporations rather than face the crippling costs of defending the principle of freedom of speech; of freedom to publish in a democracy.)

Lets define a couple of terms here:
In common law jurisdictions, slander refers to a malicious, false,[2][not specific enough to verify] and defamatory spoken statement or report, while libel refers to any other form of communication such as written words or images.[3] Most jurisdictions allow legal actions, civil and/or criminal, to deter various kinds of defamation and retaliate against groundless criticism. Related to defamation is public disclosure of private facts, which arises where one person reveals information that is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. "Unlike [with] libel, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy."[4][not verified in body]
The common law origins of defamation lie in the torts of "slander" (harmful statement in a transitory form, especially speech), each of which gives a common law right of action.
"Defamation" is the general term used internationally, and is used in this article where it is not necessary to distinguish between "slander" and "libel". Libel and slander both require publication.[8] The fundamental distinction between libel and slander lies solely in the form in which the defamatory matter is published. If the offending material is published in some fleeting form, as by spoken words or sounds, sign language, gestures and the like, then this is slander.
Libel is defined as defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.[9] The law of libel originated in the 17th century in England. With the growth of publication came the growth of libel and development of the tort of libel.

I've left all the Wiki-notes in to highlight the curious lack of precision in such a major concept, but basically:
SLANDER/DEFAMATION = malicious or false SPOKEN statements
LIBEL = malicious or false WRITTEN statements (or still images)

In the case of Max Mosley [see this article + Gdn section], whose S&M/bondage practices were splashed across newspapers by NoTW, he has successfully sued for breach of privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights BUT lost his libel case. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosley_v_News_Group_Newspapers. Mosley's victory was hollow - he was awarded only £60k damages!!! - but then again the legal costs of News International topped £1m.
The Mosley case (the story ran in 2008, his law suits were swift with early judgements in 2009 but more cases potentially to be launched; Mosley continues to campaign for much tighter restrictions on the media) is a key one for 'wider social issues', not least the conflicting right to privacy and right to free expression. Mosley had asked that the courts enforce a right for anyone subject of a newspaper article to be informed prior to publication - but, having been given the rather small £60k damages for breach of his right to privacy under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the judge dismissed this idea as in conflict with another ECHR article, 10, on freedom of expression:
"The government's judgment is that the imposition of such a positive duty would be likely to have - and would undoubtedly risk - a serious chilling effect on the freedom of the media and the freedom of the public to express themselves," Eadie told the court.
... For the Guardian, Lord Lester QC argued that the legal duty sought by Mosley was not required by article 8 of the human rights convention - the right to privacy - and was inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression in article 10. The availability of injunctions and the right to sue for damages after the event amounted to an effective domestic remedy, he claimed.
"In practice," said Lester, "injunctive relief is usually available and will in itself be an effective remedy." These arguments have found favour with the court today.
What seems to have tipped the balance in favour of the media was the court's conclusion that any requirement to pre-notify an individual would have been subject to a public interest exception. A newspaper could opt not to notify the person concerned if it believed it could defend its decision subsequently on the basis of the public interest, the court said.
A reasonable belief in a public-interest defence would have to be sufficient to justify non-notification, the court said, even if it was found later that no such public interest arose. Otherwise, there would be a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
This was on the European Court of Human Rights' May 2011 ruling (written by legal expert Joshua Rozenberg).
See all Roy Greenslade articles linked to the Mosley case: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade+mosley
Michael White: 'This case exemplified the fact that - with some honourable exceptions - serious investigative journalism is in retreat':
Newspapers are entitled to make mistakes in a free society - and make amends when they do, which many find harder. But this one, like the McCann and Robert Murat settlements in recent weeks, is hard to justify on the media side. So our side may have been weakened for no good reason.
But things will be OK as long as a robust public interest defence remains effective, the so-called Reynolds defence mounted by the Sunday Times against a libel suit from the former Irish Taoiseach, a case where the paper was able to show it had given Reynolds time to reply before publication.
What the NoW's dirty tale of S&M sex sessions failed to show was legitimate public interest as opposed to lots of the public being interested in the Formula 1's chief's strange private obsession.
The sad truth is that serious investigative journalism - tabloid, broadsheet and radio/TV kinds - are all in retreat with honourable exceptions, including those which Guardian readers read from time to time.
Why? Because they're difficult and expensive, they run up against powerful interests with hot-shot legal teams. Much easier and cheaper to print more rubbish about celebrities.
A pity poorer people than Max Mosley who get defamed can't get redress as he did.

Some more brief points/resources:
Several excerpts below on the March 2011 announcement of proposals to reform libel law; this led to a Libel Reform Bill being included in the May 2012 Queen's Speech (when proposed new laws to be voted on by Parliament are announced). There also sections on superinjunctions and Tweed's 2012 book.

Monday, 21 May 2012

2003 Commns Act: Blair-Murdoch deal?

For now, just this:

Leveson inquiry: Tessa Jowell quizzed Tony Blair over Murdoch deal

Former culture secretary sought assurances from then prime minister that there had been no backdoor deal with Rupert Murdoch on cross-media ownership rules
Leveson inquiry: Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell gives evidence to the Leveson inquiry

Tessa Jowell, the former culture secretary, has told the Leveson inquiry that she sought assurances from then prime minister Tony Blair that there had been no backdoor deal with Rupert Murdoch when she was given the job in 2001.
The former Labour cabinet minister had the task of reviewing cross-media ownership law as part of the Communications Act that was due to go before parliament at that time – and wanted to be assured she had a free hand in rewriting the rules.
Giving evidence before the judicial inquiry into press standards on Monday morning, Jowell said she saw Blair "within a couple of days of my appointment".
She asked the prime minister about whether his relationship with the media mogul would colour her thinking.
"I asked him whether or not any deal had been done with Rupert Murdoch on … the cross-media ownership rules. He gave me an absolute assurance which I completely accepted that there had been no prior agreement," she said.
Given that, Jowell said that she told Blair that it was best "if you don't see the parties", by which she meant any interested media owners, and that it was her job to "take this and come back to you with proposals". She told Lord Justice Leveson that Blair was content with this approach.
Jowell steered through the Communications Act, which eventually saw a partial relaxation of cross media ownership rules – allowing US groups such as Disney and Murdoch's News Corporation to buy British free to air broadcasters. That could have allowed News Corp to buy Channel 5.
The former culture secretary also told the inquiry that Blair asked her to see if cross-media ownership rules could be relaxed to the point where News Corp could have bought ITV or Channel 5.
Jowell had presented proposals that would have prevented News Corp, or any UK newspaper owner with a market share of more than 20%, from taking over ITV or Channel 5.
However, at a private meeting in March 2002, Blair asked for "further discussion of the merits and effects of the different approaches we could take to the rule preventing anyone owning 20% of both the national newspaper market and a Channel 3 [ITV] or Channel 5 service", according to a note prepared by officials at Jowell's Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Jowell told the inquiry that said she had no detailed recollection of the conversation at the meeting. But she acknowledged that when it came to cross media ownership rules Blair's "instinct in relation to this were, I think, more deregulatory than mine".
Shortly after, a second meeting between Jowell and Blair concluded that it was appropriate to allow News Corp to buy Channel 5 – but not ITV. An official note from April 2002 confirms this final, agreed position.
Jowell said the change in thinking was an example of the normal policy development process and that the proposed change in rules as regarding Channel 5 was not a big development.
The Channel 5 proposal went forward and became part of the Communications Act which was passed by Parliament, while the ITV restriction remains today.

More to follow

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Press + Children

I'll bring all previous posts on this topic into post later, but for now: 13 useful articles to date at http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/children
Several of these are on the Mail's hypocrisy: we're shocked/appalled at this ... look at these pics and share the feeling; the sharp-tongued blog writer also flags up the paper's determination to represent youths as feral. Several examples from The Sun too: this one, on the reporting about a 13 year-old falsely (on the front page) stated as being a father, details how the PCC claimed legal restrictions prevented it from investigating further so it refused to sanction the Sun:

The Sun did nothing wrong in the Alfie Patten case, says PCC

The PCC has decided it will do absolutely nothing about the Sun's 'Dad at 13' Alfie Patten front page.

To recap - the Sun spashes on its front page a completely untrue story, without apparently doing any research and background checks, and the body that regulates the press says it can't censure the paper.

The PCC is hiding behind the court restrictions that were imposed because of the intrusive and potentially damaging nature of the story, which they claim 'effectively precluded both further approaches to the families and the publication of any new information'.

But since the Sun has itself printed a story saying Alfie was not the father, surely this statement by the PCC is mealy-mouthed bullshit.

The story was false - the paper has admitted it. The PCC can give them a (feeble) slap on the wrists on that basis alone. But it won't.

What a great system.
I've copied/pasted in all 13 below:

Sun + inaccuracy + its corrections

A grand claim in an article as big as the price
The following eg comes from http://the-sun-lies.blogspot.co.uk/
You can find many more relevant articles there, and also at http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/sun (200 articles at time of writing).

This one is about the contrast between The Sun's large feature on NHS waste ... and its tiny correction, 2 months later (while the original story remains unaltered on its website, according to this blogger) - you may need to zoom into the 2nd pic to actually see the correction!
Correction: a tad smaller. Like the actual price.

Express + inaccuracy

The Express titles are famed for their continuing obsession with the late Princess Diana, managing to publish stories about her every few weeks - she cannot, of course, sue, and fabricated or exaggerated stories are less likely to be challenged.

Fascination with Diana is alive + kicking
Their coverage of Europe, immigrants, 'public sector' workers, to name but 3 issues, has been highlighted as often inaccurate on a number of blogs, and articles by the likes of Roy Greenslade. Here's a classic example, from May 2012:
It hardly needs analysis, but you can find this at http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/express-front-page-headline-on.html.

You can find nearly 300 more such examples of such curious claims (imagine of the BBC did this; is the difference down to tighter regulation of TV than the press?) at: http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/express

100s more can be viewed at http://expresswatch.co.uk/ - or on its Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/expresswatch

Mail + inaccuracy

There are so many possible examples you can use of inaccuracy by this paper especially (I'll also post on Star egs too), which hardly helps the PCC argue that its Editors' Code is well-enforced.
In a post at http://tabloid-watch.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/editor-of-glamour-criticises-mails-liz.html we get one from May 2012 - interestingly, as with John Prescott, the victim of the inaccurate story sought some form of justice (retraction) not via the PCC but via Twitter
Jo Elvin, the editor of Glamour, took to Twitter on 9 May 2012 to dispute a claim made by Liz Jones in a Mail article several days before:

(via Media Monkey)
A second May 2012 post from the same blog - on which you'll find many useful stories about issues across the entire press - this time on made-up, distorted claims about cancer drugs being delayed:
On 15 May, the Daily Mail published this story:

The next day, Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of the 'rationing body' NICE sent a letter of correction to the Mail:

NICE has never taken 9 years to make a recommendation to the NHS on the use of a new drug (New cancer drugs held up by the NHS for nine years, 16 May).

The gap between a new drug becoming available to prescribe and NICE guidance being published is around 5 months. The study, on which your article was based, included drugs that were licensed for use, in some cases, more than 5 years before NICE was established. Its conclusions are both misleading and unhelpful for those who rely on our advice.

Making sure that we provide advice on the best use of all important new drugs quickly remains our priority and we have the resources and the commitment to do it.

There are endless examples of this cavalier disregard for accuracy - well, 619 as of today!!!

You can also read about the Mail demanding another blogger removed references to a story it had removed from its website following a complaint, claiming this was backed by the PCC - who denied they backed the demand: http://dailyquail.blogspot.co.uk/.

Then there's http://www.mailwatch.co.uk/ to consider too!

and of course

BuffTheBanana.co.uk skewer Mail's hypocrisy

USEFUL TERM: CLICKBAIT - the practice of using celebrity names in article, or tags or images, to attract online hits. Provocative opinion pieces can also achieve this by attracting large numbers of (angry!) comments.

The language is a little crude, but the point is simple enough: the site seeks to explore what it sees as the hypocrisy of the socially conservative, pro-censorship, routinely morally outraged Mail and its extensive use of pornographic-style paparazzi shots. Here's the site's own description:
Buff the Banana with Paul Dacre is here to help you locate the most titillating content from the Daily Mail, without the fear of coming across something offensive.
Buff exists to show how Paul Dacre has exploited pornography to draw in readers. As Olivia Lichtenstein, the tabloid’s de facto erotica correspondent explains, ‘pornography today permeates society… [and] it’s addictive as cocaine’.
If you’re looking for good quality photos of celebrities frolicking in their bikinis or stripped down to the latest designer lingerie, Buff the Banana with Paul Dacre is for you. Many of the shots are candid, often taken ‘Peeping Tom style’ with a long lens.
Probably the most effective newspaper editor of his generation (read the biography), Paul Dacre is best known for creating a populist tabloid, famed for its right wing views and staunch social conservatism. But this is well documented elsewhere.
Under Paul Dacre’s leadership, the Daily Mail has worked hard to bring you the results of the ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ that so often cause celebrities to reveal a little more than intended – like a nipple. Visitors looking for something a little harder, should check out the upskirts. A little girl-on-girl action never goes amiss and there is often something for the ladies.
Clicking through to one of these, there was a particularly example of this willingness to use sexually titillating material, and even headlines, to drive traffic/hits in one of the sidebar stories: see the screenshot picture below, taken 20.5.12.
The 'story' is simply that this celeb (I'm assuming she's 'famous') has a large chest and wore a tight jumper.

Leveson musicVid parodies incl Friday

Rather neat overlap between our 2 major A2 topics, with these popular web parodies raising points about the Leveson inquiry and those involved/implicated...
First up, Leveson The Musical:

Next, a spoof movie trailer:

Not forgetting this sharp-edged remake of Friday (as by Rebekah Brooks instead of Black...)

Hackgate: timeline of police investigations

See http://brown-moses.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/hackgate-for-beginners-past-police.html for a detailed timeline with plentiful embedded links.

UK government control of web: YouTube

The supposed free-for-all, uncontrollable nature of the web is used by media owners to argue for looser regulation: why should their business be stymied by regulations which web operations can ignore? This line of argument was made frequently when the super-injunctions, especially that over Ryan Giggs, were leading the headlines in 2011: Twitter users galore were naming Giggs but papers and TV were legally prevented from doing so. (Since then, of course, there have been a number of cases of Twitter users being jailed, one example being for racial abuse of footballers)

The idea that the web is free from government control is something of a myth however; you can click through either of the following for examples of stories about how our current government has managed to get YouTube to delete a range of videos that would be politically embarassing - I wonder what John Prescott (who just this week argued that the likes of Twitter have ushered in a golden age of citizen freedom, of freedom of expression) would make of this?
If the bloggers below are correct, is this any better than China, where the 'great firewall of China' sees web use strictly censored by a huge bureaucracy?
[source for below: http://themurdochempireanditsnestofvipers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/leveson-pressreform-tory-demand-u-tube.html]

In a frightening example of how the state is tightening its grip around the free Internet, it has emerged that You Tube is complying with thousands of requests from governments to censor and remove videos that show protests and other examples of citizens simply asserting their rights, while also deleting search terms by government mandate.....read more

Cameron told GOOGLE to block search items on the Internet
Cameron ordered armed police to threaten nurses and doctors during a NHS demonstration so he could pass the bill. Cameron censored the entire evenings events.