Exam date

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

Monday, 17 June 2013

'Shock' as J-Lo posterior causes BGT 'outrage'

BGT and its ilk rely on heavy tabloid/mid-market coverage to maintain buzz, with social media coverage also important. On either side, it came as no surprise that the ritual shock at [insert female pop star name]'s
J-Lo forgot her skirt shocker [pic source]
revealing costume and sexual dance routine
was duly sparked by the 2013 BGT final. J-Lo, like a certain Middleton sister, may have talents in other areas, but a large chunk of her fame is accounted for by her derriere, which the media have been unironically salivating over for many years now. BGT judge Amanda Holden remarked she'd like to "bite" this lucrative posterior.
J-Lo, as she usually does (just like Rihanna and Xtina, subject of previous shock and outrage narratives from X Factor/BGT appearances), appeared scantily clad, maximising the famed appeal of her rear. Her dance routine, as it (and the vast majority of pop dance routines) usually does, featured sexually imitative gyrations. Standards really have slipped in today's media, they weren't like that in the good ol' days ... which is true so long as you completely ignore the inconvenient fact that such outrages go back to the early beginnings of pop on TV: hip shakes got Elvis into trouble back in the 50s, and Jim Morrison's groin thrusts got The Doors banned from The Ed Sullivan Show in the 60s.
Back to today though.
Here's an excerpt from The Evening Standard, a London daily now owned by Lebvedev (Russian Indie):
It wouldn't have happened in the good ol' days...
owner of the
Wearing thigh-high black boots and a tiny black leotard that struggled to cover her famous posterior, her performance finished with her thrusting her crotch at the judges.
Viewers took to Twitter to express their disgust at her raunchy routine, which took place as schools across the country were on half term holiday.
Jim Morrison's groin thrust got The Doors into trouble too
Note the standard press tactic of weaving together two unrelated facts to make the story appear more sensational: J-Lo' appearance/dance took place whilst children were on hols!!!!! OMG and so forth. First of all, the bulk of moral panics either involve children misbehaving (often a technophobic kneejerk from those being left bewildered by technological advancements) or being corrupted. The real story here might have been about the exploitation of child performers, vulnerable to media exposure and every episode of which goes out on weekends, when kids are always off school, was being watched by kids ... on holiday ... just as they would if they weren't on holiday. Wow!
ridicule, by the Simon Cowell juggernaut for profit. But, no, BGT,
This isn't to say that there isn't a case to answer, and OfCom has previously warned broadcasters to respect the watershed following similar cases, but we can see here how the press manipulate their discourse to try and whip up outrage, and ideally manufacture a moral panic.

If you're not convinced that such whipped up press hysteria isn't anything new, try this NME list of 44 controversial moments in pop history.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Greek state TV closure: do we need PSB?

Greece was rather stunned to have their equivalent of the BBC, ERT, abruptly switched off this week. The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) has stepped in, seeing this as an unacceptable state of affairs, and is broadcasting the network's programming over satellite. The Greek government, rather curiously, is issuing threats to anyone involved with this, despite having to pay nothing towards the operation.
Can you imagine a UK landscape either without a BBC or with a privatised, ad-funded BBC? By 2013 (and indeed, a decade+ ago), that has become the norm across the western world. Take Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi utterly dominates the media (print and broadcast) to a degree even Murdoch can (for now!) only dream of, and the under-funded state broadcaster, RAI, has been seen as very vulnerable to interference from Berlusconi - who has been Italian PM on and off for most of the past decade and more, despite constant scandals (often involving teenage prostitutes). Scandals which much of the Italian media won't report. His government coalition has always included a Fascist party, the Northern League (imagine Murdoch as PM, with the BNP - who consistently reject any attempt to put the label fascist onto them it should be fairly pointed out - in government as coalition partners).
Perhaps this helps to see why state PSBs are still important?

See guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jun/13/ert-greek-tv-switched-on. More Media Guardian articles on this here.

Regional press: breakaway regulator?

Speculation growing that the regional press, very unhappy with the shape of the Leveson proposals (especially the cost elements which they see as potentially causing widespread bankruptcies among the local press), are looking at setting up their own regulator - see Greenslade:

Why the regional publishers cannot accept arbitration

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Troubles with Northern Ireland

No, the post title wasn't an example of poor writing ...  its a reference to the so-called 'Troubles' (a nice ideological, successfully hegemonic sleight of hand to diminish the status of the combat that took place in NI) and the issues that have been raised over the years whenever the terrestrial broadcasters tried to cover this in a fair-handed fashion.

Great article on this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2013/may/14/the-fall-northern-ireland-troubles.

Sample paragraph:
Until the Scottish question, though, it was in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, that the tension between UK remit and viewers in a constituent nation was at its greatest. The word behind the BBC's first initial was explosive to many nationalist viewers and yet the loyalist audience was often appalled by what it perceived as republican sympathies in some programmes. These irresolvable pressures led to such crises as the events in the summer of 1985, when a documentary in the Real Lives series, which featured Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, was postponed for four months by the BBC governors under pressure from the Conservative government. Three years later, the Thatcher government failed in its attempt to prevent transmission of the Thames TV documentary Death on the Rock, which investigated the killing by the SAS of three IRA members in Gibraltar, but, probably not coincidentally, Thames later lost its ITV franchise through a new Thatcherite bidding process.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Does DMI fiasco point to new BBC regulation?

With a hostile Tory govenment in place and the febrile atmosphere created by Leveson and the Saville scandal (unfair as it might be that the same media gleefully attacking the Beeb were guilty of lauding Saville themselves), the latest BBC crisis may just see the current shared BBC/OfCom regulatory system overhauled. Steve Hewlett argues that the DMI (Digital Media Initiative), which was axed as a failure after a £98.4m spend, and the misleading of Parliament on this, is squarely the fault of the BBC Trust.
(From another article:)
MPs on the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) said the BBC and its former director general, Mark Thompson, gave evidence to parliament in 2011 that "just wasn't true".
Here's an excerpt from Hewlett's piece:
The loss by the BBC of close to £100m of licence payers' cash on account of its ill-fated "Digital Media Initiative" (DMI) has so far been somewhat under-reported – as BBC scandals go, that is. But the loss of what roughly amounts to Radio 4's annual budget or 100 hours of top-end TV drama or 700,000 licence fees has implications that could extend well beyond the current embarrassment of the Trust and the Executive occasioned by the abandonment of the flagship project.
Of course the BBC is not the only big organisation to have lost a fortune – not to mention a decent topping of public credibility -because of a big failed IT project. But when you look back at the course of events surrounding DMI, lots of very serious – and, in the runup to a new Royal Charter, politically significant – questions arise.
The BBC has been in a long-running battle with the National Audit Office (NAO) fearing, rightly, a potential threat to the BBC's independence bordering on direct political interference via the back door. It's all very well for the NAO to scrutinise the BBC's books to ensure efficiency and good stewardship. But when financial and editorial matters become entwined – which in the BBC's case they do most of the time – the NAO's view of good public value, and more troubling still those of the body to which the NAO reports, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Commons, brings that threat of political interference to life.
The problem with the collapse of DMI is that it looks for all the world like plain bad management compounded by a failure of oversight by the BBC Trust, and as such opens a flank to attack by some on the PAC who want nothing more than to muscle in on the BBC's decision-making processes.
Read the full article here.

Friday, 7 June 2013

So much for 'wild wild web': US gov spies on big sites

If you use YouTube, Apple, Google, Facebook (and more) - can there many who doesn't use one of these? - be aware that the US secret services directly copy every bit of data they generate/receive.
So much for the 'wild, wild web', out of control, anarchic and above regulation.

The Guardian splashed on this and other stories in a major series of features on 7.6.13. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data, part of this series.

Monday, 3 June 2013

BBC controversies: Real Lives 1985

There's a useful Wiki on BBC controversies.
You can see a 4min BBC News report from the time here.
The BBC bowed to gov pressure and banned it; BBC staff then walked out on a one-day strike; the BBC announced it would be screened some time later, with several cuts made.
Poor contrast with the IBA, who stood up to very similar pressure over the DoTR doc and broadcast it uncut.
Archive material has been released under the FoI Act, after a Guardian application, in this blog.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Lord McAlpine's tweet libel case

This is maybe the most famous of all the Twitter libel cases, arguably because one of the many defendants, Sally Bercow, is so loathed by the right-wing press (flak aplenty!). She's the wife of the Commons Speaker, a Tory MP seen as too liberal by most of his own party.
Sally Bercow ended 6 months of denying a libel charge by settling the court case brought against her by Lord McAlpine for this tweet:

Monday, 20 May 2013

Sun in Clause 1 Accuracy PCC complaint

Hardly shocking to hear the words inaccurate and The Sun combined, but this is a good example for what it highlights about the serious deficiences of the PCC, but also (as the press wish to retain power over 'corrections') potentially its successor too.
The Sun admitted to making up a story about Huhne (or at least, that it couldn't produce ANY evidence to backing up the 'story'). It didn't apologise, and its 'correction' ... well, here's Roy Greenslade on that:
In other words, the main page one page story breached the first, and arguably most important, clause of the editors' code of practice, about accuracy.
Happy to set the record straight? You bet. Happy because the commission did not feel it necessary to censure the paper for publishing claims that it obviously could not prove. 
Happy because it published the mealy-mouthed correction seven weeks later at the foot of page 2. Happy because it had got away with a flier. And it didn't even have the grace to apologise.
And note a further irony. The story at the top of page 2 was a piece of "press freedom" propaganda against parliament's royal charter on press regulation, headlined "MPs told: hands off our press".
In the ongoing argument about the provisions of that charter, one of the key points of at issue is over the powers the regulator should have to determine where corrections should be placed. Editors do not want to be ordered where to place corrections. They prefer that they should have due prominence - the current situation.
Does anyone really think this correction on page 2 was adequate compensation for that page 1 splash?

Greenslade goes on to note that other papers had reprinted the 'story' - has Huhne really had a satisfactory outcome from the PCC????


See below for the original article.
sun Page 1 splash, 13 March - a story that The Sun could not substantiate The Sun published the front page shown above on 13 March. Under one of its trademark headlines, the "exclusive" article stated that Lib-Dem MP Chris Huhne had been ridiculed on his first day in Wandsworth jail.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Council papers exempt from press regulation

Minor detail, but still one that undermines the principle of press regulation: it has been noted this week that papers published by councils have managed to slip under the radar of the press regulation system, with no mention of them either in the Leveson recommendations or subsequent discussions. Here's Roy Greenslade once more:

Why are council papers exempted from press regulation?On a related subject, it appears odd that the government is prepared to allow council-owned papers to be exempt from a new system of press regulation.
And it's no wonder that Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for the east London area of Poplar and Limehouse, should be in the forefront of attacking the exemption.
He serves part of a borough, Tower Hamlets, where the council publishes a weekly paper, East End Life, that has spent years strangling the life out of the commercial local paper, the East London Advertiser (also owned by Archant).
Fitzpatrick said: "East End Life has become too big and too biased. Hand-delivered to nearly every household in the borough it enjoys a privileged position without any real oversight."
Sources: Newspaper Society/Barking & Dagenham Council/East London Advertiser

You have the right to remain...anonymous? Police censorship

This topic overlaps with the broader issue of privacy and the tensions between the right to privacy enshrined under European law (augmented by further laws in most European states too) and the freedom to report, especially with regards to the powerful, and hold the actions of state agents/the powerful up to public scrutiny...

The UK police are actively campaigning (that statement itself suggests the role of the UK police has shifted over the past decade or so, as they are traditionally a strictly neutral agency, in theory at least) for the right of the media to name arrested suspects to be withdrawn.

See Roy Greenslade's blog post on this, where he quotes from press editorials and conflicting demands from the police over this (police on the Stuart Hall case were clear that it was the publicity that brought most victims forward - after his arrest), but fundamentally seeks to highlight the dangers of this in a democracy. [That's Stuart Hall the disgraced former BBC presenter, not the great academic who died in 2014]

Here's an excerpt:
The Mail devotes today's leading article, "Charging headlong towards a secret state", to the lessons of both the Warwickshire and Hall cases. It says:
"Make no mistake: the risks to justice and liberty of arresting and charging suspects in secret could not be more serious.
If the public are not allowed to know an innocent man or woman has been seized, how are they supposed to come forward with any information which could clear the accused, such as a cast-iron alibi?
Where a guilty suspect is concerned, there's a danger that witnesses' or, indeed, victims' evidence will never be heard."
And there is also an op-ed piece by John Kampfner in which he argues that "police secrecy insults democracy". He writes:
"The worst form of abuse of power is when the forces of law and order see their job as not just dispensing the law, but as making it and interpreting it in whatever way they see fit.
By deciding that individuals facing charges should not be named, the police appear to be doing just that."

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Parliament v press over post-PCC regulator

Daily Mail splash on the battle over press regulation
See Media Guardian's press regulation micro-site for lots more news and analysis on this.
So... we initially had the Tories seeking to minimally apply Leveson, backed by most of the press (The Guardian and Indie took a separate line broadly favouring tougher regulation), seeing Cameron, otherwise criticised by the right-wing press for being insufficiently right-wing(!), hailed as a hero defending ancient freedoms.

Belatedly, the 3 big parties came to an agreement, and a beefed-up self-regulator, backed by Royal Charter (and with the threat of 'exemplary damages' hanging over any publications who refused to sign up), with no press industry right of veto over the members of the new organisation, was agreed. Notoriously, this was agreed at a meeting that ran into the early hours and included Hacked Off representatives.

Guardian led on the story
The press were not happy. Are not happy. So ... they've now come up with their own proposals! They reinstate the press' right to veto appointments. They keep a potentially stiff fines system (up to £1m - half of what the parties agreed upon?). They removed the right of parliament to reform this body with a 2/3 majority in the Commons. They argue such a measure would overturn '3 centuries of press freedom', a phrase you'll see used frequently in press coverage (referring to the 1694 abolition of licensing - that sounds better than 150 years (the abolition of stamp duty) which is more commonly seen as the moment when a free press was established, though Curran and Seaton would of course disagree!).

They also think they've managed to blocked the politicians' hopes of setting up a royal chartered organisation: according to their legal advice, if any royal charter is rivalled or seen as controversial it must be rejected.

The government, and major parties, say they're determined to press ahead.
The press are adamant they won't co-operate.

There is some divide amongst MPs: the influential Tory Chair of the Culture Select Committee, John Whittingdale, has written in the Sun stating he loves their proposal and would back it over the government's.
Its a year and a half since the PCC announced it was scrapping itself. It continues, with its successor still to be settled on.
Who will win this battle of wills and public opinion?
Sun was blunt in its threat to parliament

(article created after reading Roy Greenslade's typically sharp analysis, and Lisa O'Carroll's analysis of the likely political response to the press plan: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2013/apr/26/press-regulation-national-newspapers and http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/29/newspaper-industry-royal-charter-david-cameron)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

EU Article 8 Right to Privacy + online issues

Its not just the press that raises issues around the right to privacy, enshrined in European law:
Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. [source: Wiki]
ISPs and sites such as Google face huge pressures to store and pass on user data to governments and law enforcement agencies, and the UK is no exception, notwithstanding our supposedly high standards of democratic freedoms. Our governments, politicians and media routinely condemn 'authoritarian' regimes for snooping on their citizens and restricting freedom of expression, but how well does the UK's reputation stand up when scrutinised?

There are many examples of powers given to police and politicians to access our individual online footprints, including on social media and email, and no likelihood of anything but ongoing pressure (not least from the right-wing press, outraged as they are by any attempt to regulate the press as an attack on democratic values) to increase this. We're seeing this in April 2013 with the Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May attempting to pass new legislation granting government and police the right to access any part of 'suspects' online history, requiring the creation of a database of simply colossal scale:
May has fought hard for the legislation, designed to fill a growing gap in the ability of the police and security services to access records of the web and social media activity of serious criminals and terrorists.
The deputy prime minister sent the original legislation – the draft communications data bill – back to the drawing board after insisting it was first scrutinised by a committee MPs and peers.
The committee's withering verdict described it as "overkill", complained it "trampled on the privacy of British citizens" and said its cost estimates were "fanciful and misleading". They did however agree that new legislation was needed to plug the gap caused by rapid changes in technology.
The revised proposals tabled by May offered significant concessions but did not include movement on access to blogs or everyone's history of their use of websites or social media, or on requiring British phone and internet companies to intercept data from overseas providers. They proved insufficient to persuade Clegg to sign up to them.
Both parties campaigned on general election promises to roll back the surveillance state ... [source: Guardian]
I'll add links to previous posts on SOPA etc later.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

1989 Calcutt Committee: parallels with Leveson today

To understand Leveson you really need to grasp the lessons of history - and there are striking parallels between Leveson, which is set to lead to a new self-regulator under some threat of statutory regulation if the press doesn't clean up its act, and Calcutt, which was ... basically the same in this regard. Both were set up after public outrage over tabloid excesses, with privacy issues to the fore. Both were set up with the existing press self-regulator, then the Press Council, now the PCC (although its chairman Lord Hunt announced its intention to replace itself back in December 2011), widely seen as having failed.

Indeed, both could/should have been replaced earlier if there was political will: the 3rd Royal Commission was scathing of the PC, whilst Calcutt's 1993 review strongly recommended statutory regulation be brought in. A weak Labour government in 1977 was no more willing than a weak Conservative government in 1993 to attract the damaging hostility of most of the press (although Labour could arguably have taken the chance as most of the right-wing press was very hostile anyway).

If we roll on to 2013, we once more see a weak government, at least the majority Conservative part of it, resisting pressure from the other parties to carry out the recommendations on press regulation, calculating that this will lose them vital press support needed for the 2015 general election. Indeed, since PM Cameron came out against many of Leveson's recommendations, carried in his initial November 2012 report, he has seen negative right-wing press coverage flip, with Cameron hailed as a hero safeguarding democratic values.

Its worth noting here that you shouldn't judge an argument's merits purely by its source! There is an important principle at stake, though it is arguable that freedom of the press is only meaningful if the nature (therefore the regulations around (concentration of) ownership and proprietorial interference) of the press is fundamentally altered.

Here's some links for further reading:
Not a link: Curran and Seaton cover this!!!!
Indie article from 1993 by Maggie Brown and Michael Leapman - possibly the best of its kind, you get both the history plus searing analysis of the backdrop and relationship between press and politicians.
Guardian obit on David Calcutt.
Incisive 1990 article from Index on Censorship.
PCC Wiki, incorporates the history.

The Leveson Inquiry

I'll gradually add resources, including links to past posts, here...

BASICS
Wiki.

CAMPAIGN GROUPS
Demotix covers Cameron/Murdoch protests.
Guardian articles on Hacked Off.

CRITIQUES
Andrew Gilligan is hardly a go-to guy for impartial views, but interesting argument here comparing the post-Leveson regulation to Denmark's system (DTele).
LeftFootForward: a leftist blog's articles on media.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Select Committee role: the 2011 Murdoch hearing

As well as the formal media regulators we have to consider the role of Parliament in overseeing media regulation. Governments can set up one-off investigations at times of scandal over media (usually press) behaviour, as happened with the 1970 Younger Committee, 1989 Calcutt Committee, and the Leveson Inquiry (July 2011, reported November 2012, with a 2nd part to come following the end of criminal trials). The 1985 Peacock Committee was set up with the aim of getting support for privatising the BBC or at least applying free market principles to the TV sector rather than any scandal.

When issues are seen as too sensitive for one party/government to deal with, the major parties can agree to set up a Royal Commission, as has happened three times on the press.

Its easy to overlook the important role of backbench MPs here.

Through the Culture, Media, Sport Select Committee they can investigate any area of the media, and have been holding regular hearings into press standards, privacy and libel, with some particularly famous hearings including appearances by the Murdochs. You can watch the entire July 2011 hearing at which Rupert Murdoch, having declared this was the "most humble day in my life", was attacked with a shaving foam pie and rescued by his much younger wife (who would divorce him in 2014). James Murdoch also took considerable umbrage at Labour MP Tom Watson's description of News Corp as a "mafia-like organisation".

Some useful links:
Wiki: DCMS
2010 guide to junior Culture ministers
Wiki: Culture Secretary
Shadow Culture Secretary (2013: Harriet Harman)
Mail report on the July 2011 hearing
NY Times on the same

Monday, 22 April 2013

BBC investigated by OfCom for effin boat race

Good example of the overlap between the self-regulatory BBC and the statutory (strictly speaking, quango) regulator OfCom, which polices the BBC's content too: complaints over the audible swearing of a cox during the annual boat race coverage. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/22/ofcom-investigate-bbc-boat-race-swearing.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

2013 Defamation law reform

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/libel-reform
Another topic to come back to, as its still working its way through Parliament. As I write, on 17th April, the Conservatives are being criticised for overturning a LibDem amendment which would force large companies to prove actual harm before being allowed to sue for libel, seen as vital to prevent the likes of Tesco (the example given in the article cited below) from preventing public criticism.
See http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/apr/16/conservatives-block-key-libel-reform, and check http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/libel-reform for more updates on this.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Thatcher death + media reg



Typical anti-BBC flak from the Mail elides public and the Mail (read more)
Its become a cliche - in most media, just not the right-wing press - that Thatcher's death and funeral has proven as divisive as her political career. We're also seeing both the press and broadcast TV engage in some informal self-regulation, with flak flying from a particularly gung-ho right-wing press (ie, every national daily bar the Indie/i, Guardian and Mirror) over any attempt to do other than celebrate and glorify the former PM and her contribution to national life.
I'll probably add more to this over time, but, writing before her controversial £10m funeral on Wednesday coming, here's a few pertinent points on this...

CLEAR BLUE LINES: HOW THE PRESS REPORTED HER DEATH
More below on the anti-BBC flak that featured in this, but you can see a very clear example of how the right-left binary functions in our national press through their coverage of her death.
You can view every front page here; analysis here.
The Mail and Mirror fronts sum it up rather neatly: grim-faced, divisive figure v bright, effervescent saviour (apt, as Maggie is held up as a divinity by the likes of the Mail)
Dissenting voices were rounded on by the Mail et al - indeed, the Telegraph took the highly unusual step of banning all reader comments on Thatcher's death/funeral, after they discovered many of these were highly critical of her. Of course, Leveson didn't mention online press content, so had nothing to say on this topic.


RIGHT-WING PRESS v (INdependent???) BBC
IN BRIEF: The BBC was roundly attacked for featuring any anti-Thatcher views, its presenters not wearing black ties from the moment Thatcher's death was announced, and not banning the Ding Dong the Witch is Dead track

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Leveson summary at March 2013

JUNE 2014: This is great to look back at and get a clear sense of what was proposed, and how very, very tame (yet again!) the new self-regulator IPSO appears - where's the power to fine up to £1m that was mooted for example?!

See the post below for a great table on the responses of the 3 big parties; victims and the press to the emerging proposals for a new regulator.
Here, I've copied in a point-by-point FAQ from The Guardian summing up many of the points you need to know to really grasp this thorny issue
Its also necessary to put this into wider historical context, something we'll look at in more detail

The press regulation deal – Q&A

Is it statutory regulation, how would the new watchdog deal with phone hacking and what do victims of media intrusion think of it?

Newspapers on display in a shop
The new press regulations will affect the newspaper industry – including regional newspapers and news-related websites, and magazine publishers. Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters
How will press regulation be different now from before?
Culture secretary Maria Miller has claimed the prospect of investigations, fines of up to £1m for the worst or serial offenders will make it one of the toughest regulators in the world. While the predecessor Press Complaints Commission had no powers to impose fines, it was its lack of independence from newspapers that caused its demise. Its inaction over allegations of widespread phone hacking at the News of the World led it to being branded a "toothless poodle". The new watchdog should be completely independent. The press will have no veto over who sits on the board and serving editors will not be members of any committee advising on complaints, unlike the old system in which editors adjudicated on each other.
Is it statutory regulation or not? (And what is statutory underpinning anyway?)
The new regulator will be established by royal charter, not law. The charter will be entrenched in statute so it cannot be changed by ministers. It could only be amended if there is a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of parliament. The wording, d

Leveson responses by parties press victims (Guardian table)

Handy resource from the Guardian here - click here to go to their site and download it

Friday, 15 March 2013

Press unites against Labour-LibDem Leveson proposals

David Cameron has been the subject of much hostile coverage from a right-wing press apparently unhappy with the PM for not being right-wing enough. Today he is represented as an heroic figure, a true titan, single-handledly safeguarding British democracy from the terrors of state regulation of the press, whilst Miliband/Clegg (Labour/Lib Dems) are castigated as opportunistic anti-democratic hooligans with no sense of British history or traditions, taken in by the brazen buffoons of Hacked Off.

Which is one way to paraphrase today's extraordinary coverage of the ongoing parliamentary splits over how to implement Leveson's recommendations.
Roy Greenslade, as ever, provides a sharp summary of all this - you can see here a good example of what Chomsky's propoganda model referred to as "flak" (one of the five filters keeping radical or counter-hegemonic content out of mainstream discourse).
Political columnist Michael White also weighs in with a discussion of whether the PM is effectively in league with the Murdochs, fearing their wrath.

Cameron, the editors' press freedom hero, versus 'draconian' Miliband

Friday 15 March 2013
The majority of nationals lauded the prime minister for his opposition to statutory underpinning for a new press regulator


Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror’s headline on Friday.

Prime minister David Cameron might have enjoyed his national newspaper coverage this morning. It was predictable that his opposition to statutory underpinning for a new press regulator would be greeted by headlines in his favour.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Statutory Underpinning, the Leveson compromise

JUNE 2014: The consensus seemed to be that a new press self-regulator would be established, like the BBC, through a royal charter, NOT legisltaion (statutory), BUT that Parliament could intervene to change the terms of the regulator, its rules, if 2/3 of MPs and Lords voted in favour of this. Its that possible 2/3 vote that provided the 'underpinning'.

When reading about Leveson's recommendations you'll encounter the term STATUTORY UNDERPINNING frequently. So, what does this mean?

There's no precise answer as Leveson left the precise form of this open to debate among politicians. The principle, though, is clear enough: its a compromise between continuing self-regulation and introducing statutory regulation. It may mean that the press regulator is created through an Act of Parliament (so, has a legal status) rather than being created by voluntary agreement amongst newspaper owners. It may also mean that a review body is set up by Act of Parliament to regularly (probably annually) check that the press regulator is functioning as it should.

The idea also carries the possible threat of calling time in the last chance saloon: some politicians favour using statutory underpinning to give (essentially) self-regulation one final chance, BUT with the explicit reserve power passed at the same time which will see a more statutory body launched if this regulator fails as its predecessors have.

Statutory underpinning may also see a legally enforceable fining system introduced (also discussed is the idea of tax breaks for any companies to sign up to the new regulator, withdrawn from any companies - like Northern + Shell currently - who refuse to).

A few useful links:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/leveson-inquiry/9711769/Lord-Justice-Leveson-insists-statutory-underpinning-does-not-amount-to-state-control.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-fenton/leveson-statutory-underpi_b_2237834.html;
http://hackinginquiry.org/debunking/six-degrees-of-regulation/;
http://www.mediareform.org.uk/featured/labour-promises-to-vote-on-statutory-underpinning;
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/polislevesonblog/2012/11/26/arguments-for-statutory-underpinning-of-regulation/;
BBC report on different ways to regulate press;

Cynicism of press reaction to Leveson

I'll maybe use this post to gather together various resources on this point at a later stage, but for now some comments by Harold Evans (editor of the Sunday Times as Murdoch took it over, and author of some classic books on the press) caught my eye (and Roy Greenslade's). If you haven't already, note the key term thats emerging from Leveson: STATUTORY UNDERPINNING
 
Here's a couple of snippets:
"As depressing as exposure of the dark arts has been, it is deepened by the cynicism and arrogance of much of the reaction to Leveson, coming from figures in the press who did nothing to penetrate – indeed whose inertia assisted – the cover-up conducted into oblivion by News International, a cover-up which would have continued, but for the skill of [Guardian journalist] Nick Davies and the courage of his editor [Alan Rusbridger]," Evans said, delivering the Cudlipp lecture at the London College of Communications.
He added: "A certain rowdiness [in the press] is a given, but the misrepresentation of Leveson's main proposal is staggering. To portray his careful construct for statutory underpinning as state control is a gross distortion."
...
He concluded: "I regard the Leveson plan, with the exceptions mentioned, as I regard the proposals on statutory underpinning – as an opportunity, not as a threat. What further might the British press do if it were free of internal and external restraints inimical to excellence? If the intellectual analysis of the heavies' tremendous flair in tabloid journalism were bent to more positive outcomes – such as Hugh Cudlipp dreamt in his youth and achieved so well in his prime?"
Cudlipp edited the Daily Mirror in the 1950s and 1960s and is regarded as one of the greatest British newspaper executives of the 20th century.
[Source]

Friday, 18 January 2013

Burchill trans column: PCC + 3rd party complaints

Burchill's column attracted 1000s of comments + complaints. Pic source.
NB: The Observer was bought by The Guardian Media Group in 1993, and so is what you'd term its Sunday sister paper.
[Scroll to the bottom for an update, March 26th]

The PCC may have announced it was disbanding itself ... but it continues until such times as a post-Leveson successor body is set up. They've stepped into the row about Julie Burchill's Observer column, now removed from its website (a highly unusual step), which was seen to widely insult transgendered people.

Some key details:
  • Dealing with clause 12 (discrimination) + 1 (accuracy); the issue of 3rd party complaints; the right to offend; the difference between columns and editorial: there are some links with the Iain Dale case (2010); Jan Moir's Gately column (2009), AA Gill's column on Clare Balding (2010) etc
  • Read all of Roy Greenslade's columns on this here
  • Burchill wrote a column for The Observer, sister paper to The Guardian;
  • She and it were known for featuring controversial views;
  • A January 2013 column set out to attack transsexual 'trolls' of her colleague Suzanne Moore, another columnist;
  • the column featured strong derogatory terms for describing transsexuals ("screaming mimis", "bed-wetters in bad wigs" and "dicks in chicks' clothing")
  • the paper received 1,000s of complaints; there were over 2,000 comments below the article
  • the PCC received 800 complaints
  • the topic trended on Twitter
  • they don't usual respond to 3rd party complaints but did in this case because of the public interest
  • PCC Editors' Code clause 12 states:
12 Discrimination

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
  • The Guardian, exceptionally, removed the article from their website (Greenslade argues this was wrong)
  • A (Lib Dem) government minister (Featherstone) called for both her and the editor to be sacked
  • An Independent readers poll saw 90% deem the article offensive
  • It attracted a protest outside the Guardian offices:
An internal Observer inquiry, conducted by the readers' editor, Stephen Pritchard, accepted that the column had broken the paper's own code, which states that it "should not casually use words that are likely to offend". He said that it was published due to "a collective failure of editing".
Days later, a peaceful protest about the publication was staged outside the offices of The Observer and The Guardian.
The editors of both papers, along with other journalists (including me), have since been invited by a transgender group, On Road, to meet young trans people in order to understand the problems they face. [source]
Clearly, the PCC decided that Burchill's column, despite her colourful choice of language, could not be deemed to be prejudicial. In other words, she had a right to be offensive.
Reading between the lines, I imagine the commission took the view that it was a matter of taste and therefore lay within the editor's prerogative.

(SOME OF) ROY GREENSLADE'S COLUMNS ON THIS
Here's Roy Greenslade covering the PCC's intercession:
Columnist Julie Burchill attracted 1,000s of online comments
The Press Complaints Commission is to launch an inquiry into the publication of Julie Burchill's controversial column in The Observer that caused outrage among transgender people. The commission decided to act after receiving 800 complaints.
Though the PCC does not generally take up what are called third-party complaints, it has done so on occasions when it feels there is sufficient public interest in doing so.
Similarly, although the commission has been reluctant to investigate stories that involve groups of people in which no individual is identified, it has done so in the past.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Times/Murdoch + (non-)Freedom of Press

When Murdoch took over The Times newspaper in 1981 he was forced to guarantee editorial freedom from proprietorial interference (ie, from him). Independent directors were added to the board, and its written into the company's constitution that, for example, an editor can neither be appointed nor fired without their agreement. I'm about half way through the 1,000+ page official history of The Times (the volume covering the 80s; there are 5 or 6 more equally long books covering the earlier history!) in which the takeover features extensively - it has in any case been heavily featured in every book written about the press since the 1980s, as Murdoch's ability to control the editorial line of 'his' papers is seen as the exemplar of owner interference.
This came to mind from reading Roy Greenslade's column (Jan 2013), in which he urges the current independent directors to resign en masse as The Times editor has just resigned, stating Murdoch made it clear he wanted someone else in, but the board weren't consulted. This is a great, contemporary, example that helps evidence the argument that proprietors (owners) do have editorial influence over their papers.
Full article copied in below.

When James Harding "resigned" as editor of The Times a month ago he told the paper's journalists:
"It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of the Times. I have, therefore, agreed to stand down."
His decision evidently surprised Rupert Murdoch. And it certainly shocked the independent national directors (INDs) of Times Newspapers Holdings. One of them was so upset he told friends he was planning to resign.
Given their remit, as set out in their witness statement to the Leveson inquiry in October 2011, I believe all should have resigned en masse. But there's no dishonour in doing it now.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

OfCom 2012 complaints overview

Reality shows, news and docs dominated the top 10 most complained about TV shows of 2012 (see here for a Guardian countdown of the 2011 top 100, here for 2010 (Mail) here for 2009 top 10 (Guardian)). OfCom has some support to take on the PCC as part of its portfolio in 2013, though the Tories are opposed to this so its unlikely to happen, but here's an outline of some major case studies involving OfCom in 2012.

X FACTOR STILL A COMPLAINTS HIT
Life is Bliss for Lorna, but not ITV
C5's Big Brother may have topped the OfCom list, but the X Factor (2nd on the 2012 list), which generally manages to feature high up on this annual list, remained high on the radar. It was widely accused of a fix, a complaint rejected by OfCom in November 2012 (remember, there was a huge 2008 scandal over TV phone-in competitions being fixed, leading to large OfCom fines and the BBC banning all competitions with prizes after being hit with a £400k fine [see also]). There was also the by now traditional complaints over saucy pre-watershed performances (this one, about a Britney impersonator Lorna Bliss, sparked 35 complaints - rejected as OfCom deemed it obviously comical). As I'll note below, the X Factor was also drawn into the major controversy that emerged late in 2012 over child protection issues.
Back in March it was guilty of pre-watershed swearing (Frankie Corcozza), and January saw controversy over Tulisa's on-arm advertising.

CHILD PROTECTION ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED
Child protection issues, which make for a great exam case study as this is such a pertinent issue for TV and press alike, with plentiful historical and contemporary cases (touching on the Royals too), were highlighted by OfCom as an issue requiring meetings with broadcasters to remind them of their responsibilities.
Broadcasters have been summoned to a meeting with media regulator Ofcom over concerns about the exploitation of children in programmes including I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!.
All of the major broadcasters, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and BSkyB, have been called to a meeting in the new year to discuss their duty of care to under-18s as part of the rules under which they all broadcast.
The regulator will also carry out a programme of "spot check monitoring" of broadcasters' output to monitor that they are complying by the rules, it said. [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/dec/17/ofcom-summons-broadcasters-child-exploitation]
BBC CENSURED FOR 13-YEAR-OLD IN LINE OF DUTY ... and DICK + DOM!
The BBC was censured for featuring a 13-year-old actor in violent, distressing scenes in its (excellent!) drama Line of Duty:
The BBC was guilty of a "serious lapse" in its duty of care for a 13-year-old actor who appeared in violent scenes in BBC2 drama Line of Duty, media regulator Ofcom has ruled.
Ofcom said programme-makers did not do enough to protect the child actor, who appeared in scenes in which he was headbutted and attempted to sever a policeman's fingers with pair of bolt-cutters.
The BBC said it was in "constant dialogue" with the teenager's parents who were content that he could cope with the emotional demands of the drama despite it being his first acting role.
But Ofcom, acting on a single complaint from a viewer, said the programme had breached broadcasting rules requiring that "due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare and the dignity of people under 18".
The regulator said 13-year-old Gregory Piper, who played character Ryan Pilkington, a child-runner for a violent criminal gang, had appeared in scenes which were "of a particularly violent nature and included sexually explicit language". [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/dec/17/bbc-line-of-duty-child-actor]
There was hoopla over Dick + Dom
The BBC were also investigated over an eating contest in kids' TV show Dick and Dom, in which a young participant retched, which came close on the heels of 35 complaints over an X Factor audition which featured footage of two teens clearly mortified at the terrible audition by their mother:
Ofcom is also investigating the show to see whether the competition may have broken rules relating to generally accepted content standards.
Under this rule Ofcom will investigate whether the show may have caused offence on grounds such as distress, humiliation and violation of human dignity.
In September Ofcom launched an investigation on similar grounds into The X Factor performance of Alison Brunton, who delivered an embarassingly bad rendition of Lady Gaga's hit The Edge of Glory.
Brunton's children – a 14-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy – were repeatedly shown looking horrified and humiliated by their mother's appearance on the show. Guest judge Mel B described the audition as "horrific". [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/dec/04/ofcom-investigate-bbc-child-eating]
You could usefully contrast this stance with the OfCom ruling over Sky News' notorious Kay Burley, previously accused of explicit political bias in her reporting, cleared of causing distress in a report over a missing person

WILL SAVILLEGATE SEE OfCom TAKE ON BBC IN 2013?
Once revered now reviled
Lets not forget either that this was the year in which the BBC was severely rocked (to the joy of its right-wing foes, who managed to overlook their own failure on this very issue) by the appearance of blocking a Newsnight report into accusations that Jimmy Saville was a serial paedophile to safeguard a celebratory show already completed (the £2m [13,000 license fees!] Pollard Report found this wasn't the case). Here's a timeline. Roy Greenslade links to many of the press articles on this - even the cenre-left press weren't impressed with the BBC, the Mirror slamming it as a shambles. The Guardian was also scathing. Public opinion was little different: a poll reported that 49% of the public trusted the BBC less as a result of the scandal. This could be a major story still in 2013 as the poor handling of it by the BBC has reinforced calls for OfCom or some other regulator to take over complete responsibility for regulation of the BBC (OfCom currently oversees issues of taste and decency).

 OfCom REMIND BROADCASTERS ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY TO U-18s
Note the stark contrast with the PCC here: not only had the actor's parents not complained, they'd actually made clear they had no issue with this - as did the actor - yet OfCom still acted after a single third-party complaint. OfCom's December 2012 bulletin carries the detailed ruling, plus a section headed Note to Broadcasters: The involvement of people under eighteen in proigrammes. As they reminded broadcasters:
Section one of the Ofcom broadcasting code states that "due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare of people under 18 ... irrespective of any consent given by the participant or by a parent, guardian or other person".
It goes on to state that people under 18 "must not be caused unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes".
The regulator said in a statement on Monday: "Ofcom reminds all broadcasters very strongly that, not only must they have robust procedures in place to ensure their compliance with rules 1.28 and 1.29 of the code, but they must also ensure that those procedures are adherred to at all times." [quoted from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/dec/17/ofcom-summons-broadcasters-child-exploitation]

OTHER PRE-WATERSHED OfCom RULINGS/FINES: E! ENTERTAINMENT + PORN AGAIN
It wasn't just the major terrestrial broadcasters under fire for their lax policies on protecting children in 2012, other digital channels also came under fire, such as this NBC-Universal subsidiary:
Ofcom has fined NBC Universal-owned channel E! Entertainment £40,000 for broadcasting episodes of Girls of the Playboy Mansion when children were likely to be watching TV.
The media regulator has decided to fine the channel in part because it has previously broken the UK broadcasting code for airing two other programmes during the day that were unsuitable for showing before the 9pm watershed.
In the latest case E! Entertainment aired consecutive episodes of Girls of the Playboy Mansion during the day on 27 December, the festive season when children and families are on holiday and frequently watch daytime TV.
Ofcom said the Christmas holiday period is also a time when a lot of children watch TV alone, making the scheduling of the episodes a breach of rule 1.3 of the broadcasting code, which aims to protect children from inappropriate content.
The media regulator took a dim view of the breach, given that it follows a previous sanction over two shows that used "the most offensive language" being broadcast before the watershed. [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/nov/16/ofcom-fines-e-entertainment]
Love Shaft: judged unsuited for T4's youth audience
C4 was also censured for repeating Love Shaft during its morning T4 youth strand in November.
Porn was raised as an issue - again (4 channels were closed in 2010 for making material accessible to children). What is also noteworthy here is the international aspect: the stations in question in 2012 were Dutch-owned and operated, and so OfCom turned to the Dutch regulators for help on content viewed by UK children:
Ofcom has complained to the Dutch media regulator about the content of adult chat channels Babestation and Smile TV, which are licensed in the Netherlands but broadcast to millions of Freeview households in the UK overnight and can be easily accessed by children in their bedrooms.
The UK media regulator said that " this is an important issue, and active discussions are under way" with Commissariaat voor de Media (Dutch media authority), the country's content licensing body, to see how British audiences can be protected from scenes of near naked women massaging each other's breasts, masturbating and faking orgasms.
Babestation and Smile TV broadcast free to air on digital terrestrial TV service Freeview between 10pm and 6am. Adult channels feature in two blocks on the Freeview electronic programme guide, 93-98 and 190-198.
Ofcom has previously revoked the broadcast licences of adult pay-TV channels including Tease Me for repeatedly airing material that was too sexually explicit for pre-watershed hours. [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/mar/07/freeview-porn-ofcom-action]


2012 OFCOM COMPLAINTS TOP 10
Here's the 2012 top 10 (from the Mail):

TOP TEN MOST COMPLAINED ABOUT TV SHOWS IN 2012

1. Big Brother (2,088)
2. The X Factor Results (1,488)
3. This Morning (811)
4. True Stories: Gypsy Blood (509)
5. Live: The Silent Ascent (378)
6. Sky News (364)
7. The X Factor (305)
8. Islam: The Untold Story (293)
9. Citizen Khan (256)
10. Keith Lemon's LemonAid (246)
Total complaints throughout the year: 16,666

SCHOFIELD'S RED LETTER DAY + LORD McALPINE SUES THE WORLD
Does regulation ignoring social media make sense anymore?
One of the more remarkable stories of the year came from that hotbed of political news ... This Morning, in which presenter Phillip Schofield handed PM Cameron live on air a letter with the name of the supposed Tory paedophile widely circulated on Twitter. This quickly turned out to be a case of mistaken identity at best, and Lord McAlpine, the senior Tory named, has since launched legal proceedings against not just press and broadcasters but also individual Twitter users - including the Speaker's wife, Sally Bercow, one of many 1,000s to name McAlpine online. Here's Roy Greenslade on why he agrees with McAlpine's legal action. The BBC swiftly agreed to pay him £185k in compensation after he was named in a Newsnight broadcast.
This is a great story for showing how regulators face the complexity of ruling on TV stories which are being developed online. Its similar in some regards to the whole issue of superinjunctions (useful Wiki), which have meant that press/broadcasters were initially unable to identify Ryan Giggs, Jeremy Clarkson or BBC political presenter Andrew Marr as having had affairs, even while millions read/shared the names/details online through social network sites. Read more Guardian articles about superinjunctions here.

'SCREEN VIOLENCE WAS WORSE 10 YEARS AGO'
Guardian writer Ben Dowell argued that despite the hype (often generated by the right-wing press, for whom moral panics are a central component of their daily output and the ideology they express), there is less 'horrific' violence on UK TV now than 10 years ago:
What are we to make of August's Ofcom research, gleefully reported in the Mail, that a third of TV viewers believe our screens have too much violence and swearing? Is British TV drama really getting more brutal and vicious? Or has it been ever thus? I believe the latter – and here's why.
Imports are one thing, but in terms of homegrown drama, I'd argue that perhaps the most horrific moment occurred a full 10 years ago when a new BBC1 spy drama exploded into life with the dunking of a woman's head in a fryer full of sizzling chip fat. That tasty scene from the first series of Spooks (it was Lisa Faulkner's administrative officer Helen Flynn, if you recall, who met this unpleasant end) has gone down in legend. Despite thousands of complaints and regulatory intervention, it announced a show that went on to be one of the most successful drama series in BBC history.
...
Other broadcasters do their bit too – C4's The Fear had its near-the-knuckle moments but ITV's bloodiest heyday has long gone. For my money it has never really served up stronger meat than Wire in the Blood, which finished more than five years ago or Taggart, which started in 1983. Home-produced TV from the 1980s and 1990s was if anything, more violent than what we have now.
The BBC's controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson, says that he has not been "shocked in a bad way" by anything he has seen on TV. ... He says that the BBC never discusses how violent a drama should be. "It is always about the integrity of the storytelling and whether what is in the script underscores the emotion."
...
None of the top 10 most complained about programmes to Ofcom in 2012 were dramas (Big Brother was No 1). And when people do complain about dramatic violence it is quite often not when humans are on the receiving end. The most complained about moment in BBC2 thriller The Shadow Line (which had its moments) was the submersion of a cat in a barrel of water. In South Riding, the 2011 period drama, the CGI recreation of a horse falling off a cliff also drew one of the biggest complaint logs of the year.
For my money, perhaps the most shocking thing about our TV drama is what actually seems to shock people. [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2012/dec/31/violence-tv-drama-ripper-street]

WRIGHT'S WRONGS, BOYLE BOILS OVER, PRIVACY CASES, CLARKSON, BFGW + EQUALLY BFQuizOfYear...
The Mail polices broadcasters/provides outraged readers with such 'stories'
2012 also saw Matthew Wright investigated for anti-handicapped discrimination (he was cleared), Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights on C4 raising complaints of racism (Boyle won £54,650 libel damages from the Mirror which had labelled him racist - he/C4 was censured by OfCom in 2011 for jokes broadcast in December 2010 about Katie Price's handicapped son - although as a frothing Mail reported, Price was unhappy and labelled OfCom toothless) [here's Mencap's report] and Big Fat Gypsy Wedding once again accused of racism. It ended not just with the press-hyped Graham Norton 'controversy'/moral panic, but also a press-hyped/manufactured 'outcry' over C4's Big Fat Quiz of the Year, specifically a joke about the queen. This drew a whole 10 complaints 24 hours after it broadcast, swelling to 160 after the Mail made it a front-page splash: Channel 4 and the sick show they call comedy. If you care to follow the link to the Mail's own website, you'll find in no way hypocritical 'stories' on its notorious (but hugely successful in attracting visitors) right-hand column such as Pictured: The moment Sofia Vergera accidentally exposes her breast. C4 is seen as a broadcaster with a liberal or lefty bias, making it another common target of right-wing press 'outrage'.
C4 News turned the tables on MacKenzie
In an amusing case, C4 was cleared by OfCom of breaching one-time Sun editor and still tabloid-cheerleader Kelvin MacKenzie's privacy, treating him to the doorstepping treatment he always declared fine as a tabloid man.  C4's website has a good report on the controversy this stirred up.
Julian Assange lost his complaint against a More4 doc about the Wikileaks founder (as he had with 45 PCC complaints over press articles).
Like Frankie Boyle, Jeremy Clarkson is no stranger to complaints, and he was censured over a joke based on facial disfigurements - note that this was by the BBC Trust, NOT OfCom, making it a useful case.
The BBC Trust has ruled that Jeremy Clarkson's joke comparing a Japanese car to the Elephant Man was offensive to people with facial disfigurements, and criticised Top Gear's production team for a "regrettable lapse of editorial judgment".
Clarkson's comparison of a Prius car/camper van hybrid to "people with growths on their faces", in an edition of BBC2's Top Gear broadcast in February, prompted 137 complaints to the BBC.
Its nice to know that OfCom consider this a worse offence than 'joking' about shooting dead striking teachers in front of their children, in a peak-time pre-watershed family show - back in February Clarkson was cleared by OfCom after 30,000 complaints about his rather vile rant on the One Show.

CLOSING TIME FOR PRAISE TV + PRESS TV: LICENSES REVOKED
October saw religious channel Praise TV lose its license for providing false info about who actually controlled the channel. In the Guardian's comment is free section (ie, not reflecting the paper's editorial line), Geoffrey Alderman argued this was deplorable - and OfCom directly responded in turn. Guardian veteran Peter Preston also argued the case against closure. Back in January Press TV, with its Iranian links, lost its license (OfCom summary). If you scroll down to 2004, when 3 shopping channels were closed, you can find other examples of TV stations whose licenses were revoked by OfCom in this useful Wiki of defunct UK TV stations.
Roy Greenslade called for hyper-local TV stations to be made exempt from OfCom regulation in August, an interesting case that blurs the line between the web and TV. The plans for these new licenses have been mired in confusion, and remain so. The BBC's Freeview broadcast license was extended to 2026, though the main commercial PSB licenses (ITV, C4, C5) which run out in 2014 are still subject to debate over the terms of their 10-year extension.
As mentioned above, there have been previous closures over the issue of children able to access Freeview pay-TV porn stations (4 closed in 2010).

LACKING KLASS: BLURRING EDITORIAL + ADVERTISING CONTENT
C5 was censured in July for breaching the editorial code: The Myleene Klass Show effectively promoted a cereal brand in an advertorial style. C4 had likewise been censured for blurring the lines between editorial and advertising content in May, with its exclusive airing of the Promotheus trailer during an ad-break - but with the C4 logo and with a C4 announcer urging the audience to buy tickets. In a novel ruling, which may become more common, the Twitter tie-in for this was also criticised by OfCom:
Ofcom received a complaint that the promotion totally confused the viewer about whether they were watching an impartial continuity announcement or a paid advertisement.
The regulator agreed, telling Channel 4 it had concerns that the distinct voice of the announcer, the broadcaster's logo and language used in the advert suggested the channel's ownership and endorsement of the material.
"In Ofcom's view, such viewer interaction is more commonly associated with television programmes than with advertising," the regulator said. "We consider that the presentation style of the Prometheus material risked confusing viewers in respect of it status."
With regard to the Twitter element of the campaign, Ofcom concluded that it might have been unclear to viewers whether they were watching a selection of tweets selected for editorial reasons by Channel 4 or for advertising purposes.
Channel 4 defended the promotion, arguing that there was a clear contrast between the channel identification and the start of a commercial break.
However, Ofcom responded that: "Simply because material appears in a break between programmes is not sufficient to identify it as advertising."
Channel 4 said that the campaign had received approval by Clearcast, which pre-vets TV ads to give advice on whether there are likely to be any issues with the advertising code.
The broadcaster added that changes to the broadcast code of advertising practice – the rules which govern TV ads – could lead to possible confusion over what broadcasters needed to do to adequately distinguish between editorial programming and advertising airtime. [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/oct/22/channel-4-criticised-ofcom-prometheus-promotion; emphasis added]
Back in January the X Factor's Tulisa was found to have also blurred that line (one charge cleared, one found guilty).

LEVESON, HUNT'S MURDOCH LINKS AND JAMES MURDOCH'S FIT + PROPER PERSON TEST
It was of course the year of Leveson, with some commentators wondering why on earth we continued to separate press and broadcast regulation, as Dan Sabbagh does here:

Richard Desmond must be rather bored with everybody else talking about the "Desmond problem", which may be why he is so unimpressed by the topless lese-majesty adopted by his half-owned Irish Daily Star. But as the Leveson debate enters its increasingly testy final phase, what would happen if the pornographer turned media mogul wanted to merge the Daily Express and Star newsrooms with Channel 5's news offerings? Who then would be the regulator – Ofcom or the Leveson-approved Press Complaints Commission (PCC)? Maybe the increasingly efficient journalists would have to remember two sets of rules at once. (No one should be deluded, by the way, that broadcasting is invariably more bureaucratic: anyone who thinks that hasn't been handed an application form for permission to use subterfuge under clause 10 of the editors' code).
Anyway, so much for private grief, the essential point is that in Britain, as Leveson draws to a close and a communications white paper looms, we persist in the belief that newspapers and broadcast news must be regulated separately. And online-only news providers probably ought not to be regulated at all. But what's curious is that in Australia, where they are well ahead of us, they are no longer prepared to accept the traditional distinction. [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/sep/23/leveson-single-regulator-news]
Even the pro-Tory Telegraph saw Hunt as a Murdoch stooge
In June James Murdoch was declared a fit and proper person to run a TV network - but only just, and OfCom were scathingly critical of him. OfCom also called for regular reviews of media plurality as part of their response to the controversy over Murdoch's attempt to take over the remaining 60% of BSkyB shares - but said Parliament should set a specific limit to cross-media ownership, not OfCom.
I have to say that pre-2010 (election and Tories coming to power committed to scrapping OfCom) I'm certain OfCom would have been much more proactive and confident in how they handled this, a clear sign (I think!) of how OfCom has stepped back from its once highly energetic, proactive stance as a regulator. Back in January 2012 it called for regulators to include all media in their rulings, though took care to avoid the logical conclusion that this means a beefed-up OfCom taking on the PCC's job:

"For the avoidance of doubt, we do not think that Ofcom should regulate the press," Richards added. "Over time, and quite quickly in some cases, the difference between 'video on demand' content and that of increasingly video-rich digital 'newspapers' may well diminish. We might be able to offer some assistance from what we have found to be necessary for regulation to be effective."
He argued that there is a "degree of commonality" between different forms of media that could provide the basis for an over-arching regulatory system in areas such as accuracy, privacy, protecting vulnerable people and crime.
"A set of core principles could be established between the regulators that emerge from the current debate," he said. "They might aim to articulate the minimum standards which we would like to see in the UK." [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jan/25/ofcom-regulatory-regime]
Right-wing Guido Fawkes blog's take on Richards
OfCom chief executive Ed Richards was in the running (he was amongst bookies favourite to get the job before Entwistle) to replace the hapless Entwistle as BBC director general, but, as Dan Sabbagh argued, he never stood a chance as (despite, I think, being clearly the best qualified) he has historic links to Labour. OfCom infuriated Sky by arguing its monopoly over films on TV needed challenging. Months before that speculation arose, Jeremy Hunt somehow held on to his job as Culture Secretary despite seemingly damning revelations of his close links with News Corp and the Murdochs, attracting widespread incredulity and criticism. Other broadcasters also cried foul over his department's lack of even-handedness (a legal requirement). There was political division over the issue, with the backbench Culture Select Committee split between Tories voting to block criticisms of the Murdochs, and Labour/Lib Dem MPs voting to include them.
Peter Preston has written a useful article attacking the nature of appointments to regulators, arguing they're consistently linked to political parties and taken from a very, very narrow sphere (the 'great and the good').

FROM LEMONAID PUPPIES TO HATE SPEECH 
Forget politics and ideology ... as ever, animal welfare was behind many complaints, as in May with the prize of a dog on ITV's Lemonaid.
Back to politics and ideology, and an unusual case which touches on wider laws around 'hate speech' - I can find no reference at this stage on whether DM Digital has yet been closed (though see its legally challenged previous OfCom censures):
A British TV channel that aired a lecture saying it is acceptable to murder someone who has shown disrespect to the prophet Muhammad is facing a significant fine or potentially even closure by Ofcom.
Ofcom has taken the unprecedented step of ruling that DM Digital, which targets the Asian market with programming in languages including English, Punjabi, Urdu, Kashmiri and Hindi, is the first UK broadcaster to break the broadcasting code for airing material "likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime or lead to disorder".
Because of the serious nature of the breach of the code Ofcom said that it is now considering imposing a statutory sanction, and the media regulator's sanctions committee will now consider options including fining DM Digital or even revoking the company's broadcast licence. [from http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/may/09/ofcom-close-tv-station-condoning-murder-blasphemy]
Worth mentioning too the slackness of the ITV doc that presented game footage as documentary footage of the IRA (Exposure, broadcast Sept 2011, ruling Jan 2012).
  
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