Exam date

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

Friday, 25 December 2015

FILM Ukraine bans Xmas classic as Russian nationalism

Ukrainian holiday tradition under threat as popular Soviet film faces ban.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Murdoch power continues, so much for Leveson

Write off ol' Rupe at your peril. His power and influence over UK government policy would seem as strong as ever, and this article hints that he may be behind the savage attack on BBC funding, and therefore its very future, by the Tory government.

He continues to meet with the PM, Chancellor and Culture Secretary despite being disgraced by revelations from the Leveson Inquiry. A renewed bid to fully takeover Sky seems likely given the rather blatant favour he's shown by his ideological allies, a repeat of his 80s tie to Thatcherism.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

IPSO Expresses itself orders front page correction

A significant ruling in a number of ways:
The Express has been ORDERED (sanctions for recusal remain untested, a grey area at this point) to print a FRONT PAGE correction

That's a huge change from the PCC and GCP/PC before it, when papers managed to bury corrections inside

It isn't a one off or first either - they've already ordered The Times to do the same back in April
Papers really don't like this as it deeply undermines their brand and threatens reader trust; unlike buried apologies it is seriously embarrassing

This came about from a third party complaint, something the Culture Select Committee had attacked the PCC on (they generally ignored their own rules and almost always refused to consider such complaints)

The Editors Code breach is on Clause One: Accuracy, something the red-tops are guilty of on an almost absurd level of frequency. No real sign that this culture of falsity to fit ideology is being tackled, but still an improvement on the PCC's record?

The ruling was against the Express; phone-hacking and their woeful response (condemning The Guardian for reporting on it!!!) was the death knell of the PCC, but it was Desmond's withdrawal of his Northern and Shell titles from its remit that had already torpedoed its credibility as a regulator.
Let's not forget that several papers remain outside the new regulatory system (FT, Guardian, Indie/i), having refused to sign up to IPSO.

HUGE story nonetheless.

And there's more! Whilst Greenslade wryly but rightly flags up the small, misleading nature of it, The S*n was also forced to issue a front page trail to a longer apology inside, though it's owner will no doubt be content enough that the damage has been to his ideological opposite, Jeremy Corbyn.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

BBC's More Good News About Israel. Time for OfCom?

Quick post, useful example on broadcast media. The title riffs on Glasgow University Media Group*'s excellent series of content analysis-centred ...Bad News books, highly recommended...

So, yet again the Beeb seems to show a pro-Israeli, anti-Palestinian bias (there are several more examples in this blog and GUMG have written a book on this too!) and ... Well, not a lot actually happens.

Time to call in OfCom?

TV HISTORY PM Heath used ITV for political ends

Most of the examples we look at relating to TV regulation show the TV regulators to be resistant to government pressure - something that went into steep decline from the moment Labour declared war on the Beeb over its 'sexed-up dossier' report, leading to the curious death of Dr Kelly (see Guardian; Wiki; BBC).

This google search provides lots of articles on the Blair Labour government's attacks on the BBC, leading to its two leaders quitting the BBC - even though the reports that Blair was so furious over were essentially accurate.

This one shows up overt government manipulation of TV for political ends.

Previously unseen documents that implicate former prime minister Edward Heath in a concerted attempt to influence the jury in one of the most controversial prosecutions of trade unionists in British history will be revealed to parliament this week. 
It is understood that a dossier of newly unearthed papers suggests that some of the most senior members of Heath’s 1972 Conservative cabinet and members of the security services commissioned and promoted an ITV documentary entitled Red Under the Bed that was screened on the day the jury went out to consider the case against the “Shrewsbury 24”. One of the previously unseen files shows that Heath, on seeing a transcript of the film ahead of the trade unionists’ conviction, informed the cabinet secretary: “We want as much as possible of this.” 
Twenty-four men were arrested and charged with offences ranging from conspiracy to intimidate to affray following the first national building workers’ strike in 1972. The strike lasted for 12 weeks and won workers a pay rise, but the union’s picketing tactics enraged the construction industry and the government. Six men – including Ricky Tomlinson, who later found fame as an actor and starred in The Royle Family – were sent to prison. Tomlinson served 16 months of a two-year sentence. 
Another striker, Des Warren, was jailed for two years and eight months. His death in 2004 from Parkinson’s disease has been linked to his time in prison, in particular to the use of a “liquid cosh” – a cocktail of tranquillisers – that was administered to inmates at the time.

LEVESON IPSO PR war as Hacked Off fail to Impress industry

Publishers and opponents treat the Leveson report like holy scripture.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

IPSO won't shine light on Sun Survation story says Greenslade

The offending S*n feature
Very useful piece this, on a story which will rumble on until IPSO publish any deliberations on it  - and very likely beyond if Greenslade is right in anticipating an all-clear ruling.

There are some calls for a wider boycott of The S*n to join the ongoing Merseyside boycott, though initial online noise over that seems to have gone fairly quiet. This story has become iconic of wide dissatisfaction with our press though. The Mail, the most complained about paper of them all with its often vile values earning it the sobriquet of Hate Mail, must be delighted that it's red-top right-wing rival has now stolen its thunder with the most complaints yet received by IPSO on any story.

The reason I say this is a very useful piece is because it highlights the real complexities in any attempt to improve our press through regulation, self- or statutory.

Was this a nasty story likely to fuel racist attitudes? Basically, yes. Was it an entirely inaccurate reading of the results of a poll? Essentially, no.

Greenslade points out that while the nature of the poll that produced the results was dubious at best, the paper's interpretation of the results could not be dismissed as distorted or inaccurate.
Better judgement could have been used, and the paper was unseemingly grateful for this opportunity to grandstand and launch a populist (certainly amongst its mainly C2DE readership) anti-Muslim, anti-immigration broadside with the fig leaf of respectable data ... but how far should we go to enforce better judgement? How would we formalise that, and how could that possibly avoid being grossly censorial?

This was a nasty article, inaccurate in it's demographic claim but accurate in its interpretation of the data the story was based on. Press regulation, even in what seems the simplest of clauses in the Editors' Code (itself revised just this week), is never simple or straightforward - and no matter how nasty our billionaire tax-dodger owned press gets, let's not forget the closeness of the terms regulation and censorship.

IPSO won't shine light on Sun Survation story says Greenslade

Very useful piece this, on a story which will rumble on until IPSO publish any deliberations on it  - and very likely beyond if Greenslade is right in anticipating an all-clear ruling.

There are some calls for a wider boycott of The S*n to join the ongoing Merseyside boycott, though initial online noise over that seems to have gone fairly quiet. This story has become iconic of wide dissatisfaction with our press though. The Mail, the most complained about paper of them all with its often vile values earning it the sobriquet of Hate Mail, must be delighted that its red-top right-wing rival has now stolen its thunder with the most complaints yet received by IPSO on any story.

The reason I say this is a very useful piece is because it highlights the real complexities in any attempt to improve our press through regulation, self or statutory.

Was this a nasty story likely to fuel racist attitudes? Basically, yes. Was it an entirely inaccurate reading of the results of a poll? Essentially, no.

Greenslade points out that while the nature of the poll that produced the results was dubious at best, the paper's interpretation of the results could not be dismissed as distorted or inaccurate.

Better judgement could have been used, and the paper was unseemingly grateful for this opportunity to grandstand and launch a populist (certainly amongst its mainly C2DE readership) anti-Muslim, anti-immigration broadside with the fig leaf of respectable data ... but how far should we go to enforce better judgement? How would we formalise that, and how could that possibly avoid being grossly censorial?

This was a nasty article, inaccurate in it's demographic claim but accurate in its interpretation of the data the story was based on. Press regulation, even in what seems the simplest of clauses in the Editors' Code (itself revised just this week), is never simple or straightforward - and no matter how nasty our billionaire tax-dodger owned press gets, let's not forget the closeness of the terms regulation and censorship.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

IPSO Editors Code changes hailed and condemned

It won't help ease suspicions when Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre leads the back-slapping over the announcement of changes to the Editor's Code, to begin on January 1st 2016.

Hacked Off attacked the announcement, claiming not only that the changes ignored some of Leveson's specific proposals but also that there 8 ways in which the Code was actually watered down.

The two additions concern coverage of suicides and gender discrimination (I wonder if that will eventually require updating to specifically include transgender discrimination, on which the Press have an abysmal record?).

It is significant too that headlines are now included in the most-abused clause, Clause One on accuracy. The Code's preamble also specifies that complaints need to be addressed swiftly through IPSO. The press remains split on regulation, with several papers still refusing to sign up to IPSO (or rivals), but the body it funds, PressBOf, is making a concerted push here to shore up the image and acceptance of IPSO as the sole legitimate press regulator.

A continuing Conservative governemnt will have no appetite to upset a largely supportive press; a future Corbyn-led Labour government presumably would ... but if the mainly right-wing press get their way and their incessant anti-Corbyn flak (also noticeable in the supposedly left-wing Guardian) sees him replaced by a Blairite right-winger their path, remarkably, looks clear once more.

The Press just keep supping in that last chance saloon...

Thursday, 26 November 2015

PRIVACY LIBEL Paisley name and shame racist ranters

The Paisley Daily Express (that's a Scottish city near Glasgow) has faced threats of lawsuits and had 'an office visit' since taking the bold decision to name social media posters who expressed extreme views on 50 reguees being housed in the area.

These may well fall foul of hate crime laws, which have seen jail terms handed out - most frequently for racist abuse of footballers such as Stan Collymore (retired, now a TalkSport Radio commentator).
Is this compatible with the Editor's Code clauses on privacy?

Yes. The people named and shamed posted on public forums, particularly Facebook, from where the paper got biographical details and pictures. They clearly hadn't set their profiles to private.

It's worth comparing this to the NoTW's past name and shame campaigns, which at best bent the law, never mind the Code clause, and quite purposefully whipped up a moral panic which saw paediatricians attacked by illiterate mobs.

See article. NB: features asterisked strong language.

Monday, 23 November 2015

BBC Dir Gen hints at OfCom switch

Tony Hall is arguably the worst leader the Been has had since Thatcher, enraged at the Peacock Report's refusal to back BBC privatisation, appointed the free market zealot John Birt as director general.

His internal market reforms saw a bloated bureaucracy balloon as internal departments had to treat each other as commercial concerns, and tended for everything.

Hall has caved in to government pressure to agree to taking on a government welfare policy, free license fees for pensioners (the high-voting group it is prioritizing public spending on whilst slashing spending on the young), widely seen as a fundamental undermining of the BBC's supposed independence from government.

Now he's showing some awareness of this, albeit arguably belated and without diluting his own free market reforms, and cuts to youth-centred output (youth channel BBC3 will go off-air shortly, with rumours about Radio1 and Radio6).

He's arguing that the BBC should be externally regulated, that funding reviews should be by the decade not in five yearly cycles that make it easy for governments to exert pressure, that major shifts in BBC direction should require the assent of 2/3 of parliament, with online votes from the public over smaller decisions too.

It's a detailed article; here he is on how things seemed to have changed when he rejoined the BBC in 2013 after years away:

“The foundations of the BBC’s independence became weaker. The traditions and informal arrangements which protected it had been eroded. Politicians had not done this deliberately – it happened under all parties.“First, the licence fee was spent on things that were not directly to do with broadcasting. On digital switchover. On rural broadband and local TV. Then twice it was settled without a full process.”

Friday, 20 November 2015

FAIR USAGE Google to fight takedowns as unfair cop

Huge, huge issue for both regulators and the media companies they regulate: what to do about new media platforms that often undermine established practices and laws, not least copyright law.

For a student seeking hits for their film or video work, or just getting a handle on the complex realities of the modern film or music industries, you need to know the arguments and battles that rage around YouTube and others' practices...

After a series of skirmishes with established media and others the company said it was “offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] takedowns”. 
Google’s move comes after privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation successfully defended Stephanie Lenz, a mother whose 29-second video of her son dancing to Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy had been removed from YouTube after Universal Music issued a DMCA notice ordering it to be taken down. 
“With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the US, feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them,” Fred von Lohmann, Google’s copyright legal director, wrote on the Google blog.

Google offers legal support to some YouTube users in copyright battles.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

OfCom Sky Sports - sunny prospects after deregulation

Slightly curious logic to this OfCom ruling, with BT still pursuing legal action against Sky and the government attack on the BBC ensuring its no longer a serious competitor for sports rights.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

TV WATERSHED Australia dilutes regulations citing digitisation

Could this point the way to the UK's future direction? The Aussie regulator ACMA, facing down objections from 'children's' groups (a misnomer really for these conservative, often religious, pressure groups who seek to dictate what kids can/not see), has diluted the restrictions and time blocks of their version of the watershed.

For all the free market rhetoric of the Tory government, who seek now to privatise C4 and whose undermining of the BBC points the same way, the moral guardian stance continues here. The UK has recently seen a tightening of watershed regulations, with the Beeb effectively extending it! 

Regulation suits a deregulatory party just fine when it provides positive headlines in the Mail and other absurdly hypocritical right-wing papers.

The logic of the Australian regulator chief, Chapman, is hard to argue with, but logic won't determine UK policy at least until after the 2015 election!

Chapman said the changing media landscape meant “responsibility will be increasingly shared”.“The digital era has brought many challenges for broadcasters, and there were aspects of the previous code which made it difficult for them to respond and innovate,” Chapman said.“Since the previous code was registered in late 2009, there have been tremendous shifts in the media landscape,” Chapman said. “Many of the provisions in the earlier code had been around for 20 years or so – from an analog era where viewers could only source content from three commercial free-to-air channels and two national broadcasting channels.“The digital era has also brought challenges for viewers, and the new code is designed to assist them to better manage their own viewing in an environment in which responsibility will be increasingly shared between government, industry and, importantly, viewers (citizens).

Sunday, 8 November 2015

CHILDREN PRIVACY TalkTalk teen suspect seeks silence

Not a great sign for the impact or future success of IPSO in forging a press with high standards... The hacking suspect from my home county is suing three UK national papers as well as Twitter and Google for revealing his identity, something the Editors' Code bans, with no mention of the Press regulator's involvement.

HISTORY 1960 F-bomb detonates in UK press

The article linked below contains strong language as part of reportage of court proceedings in 1960 under the Obscene Publications Act, widely viewed even then as archaic but still a live factor in media regulation today.

Towards the end of the article you can read about the behind-closed-doors approach of the Press Council, which censured three papers for daring to use the 'f-word' so frequently raised in court proceedings - for daring to report accurately!

55 years on we still live in an uncertain landscape of asterisked 'swear words', whose taboo status is linked to one hegemonic, ideological view of society. The absurdity of The S*n (my asterisk denotes my distaste at this rag) treating us to 't*ts' in writing whilst featuring topless teens (even post-Page Three) is as fine an argument as any that a modern re-thinking is overdue.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Canada readers revolt against right-wing press

Could this be a sign of a future issue for the British press? The left-wing (relatively!) opposition have just won an election despite the Press overwhelmingly urging support for the right-wing incumbents. It's been clear that this direction has been ordered by the owners.

The public outpouring of anger and disillusionment on social media does not augur well for the prospects of the printed press.

First past the post may frustrate the prospects of Corbyn's more socialist Labour and potential allies such as the Greens who (like UKIP, and the Lib Dems to a degree) gained millions of votes but minimal seats, but there certainly seems a surge of radicalism amongst the young at least - a readership that the press are failing to attract.

Whether we see anything like this in the UK or not, the article is an interesting, clear summary of how another major press (mal)functions.

Friday, 23 October 2015

BBC Savage book shows gov used licence fee threat over NI Troubles

The link is to a lengthy article - a great overview of what is a very useful case study to get into how media regulation works, both through formal regulators and media laws and informal power: private meetings, threats, controlling appointments and budgets.

It's a point I've made repeatedly in this blog: the notion of the BBC's independence is undermined by the government setting the license fee. Robert Savage's new book, and Greenslade's piece on this, highlights the very direct, explicit use of this threat by multiple governments to try and muzzle the Beeb's coverage of 'The Troubles'*.

(*That's a propaganda label which has achieved hegemonic status, successfully branding the violent conflict with aspects of a civil war as a mild outbreak of civil unrest.)

The wider parallel with the apparent assault on the BBC by the current incumbents is clear enough.
Greenslade's article is a great summary by the way of a complex but key case study in how media regulation works - including the informal, non-codified/statutory system of political pressure and influence.

Intriguing enough for me to order the book straight away! 

[3am but did just that ... only to see its £70, one of these cynically priced books designed to milk library budgets. What a shame, sounds like a great read.]

Put me in mind of that great Day Today (Chris Morris) satire of the Broadcasting Ban an enraged Thatcher brought in when both ITV and the BBC defied her over coverage of the so-called Troubles:

Thursday, 22 October 2015

LEVESON Will press be forced to pay legal costs win or lose?

The history of press regulation has been one of government fear over press reprisal, thus the 60 year record of blatantly poor self-regulation failing to see any statutory change.

That could be about to change ... though I doubt it; if the Tory government did force through a proposed change on legal costs from libel cases they would unite the entire press in their fury.

The proposal is a good example of why there is no simple solution to the issue of press regulation. Self-regulation is a bad joke that has poorly served the public and clearly failed to improve press standards, although it's too early to judge IPSO which could yet change this tawdry, self-serving history.

Yet the proposed statutory regulation is an appalling, clearly unjust idea! That the bleats of the press barons about government repression and censorship, attacks on democratic principle, lack credibility is a reflection on the industry's low standing, not the arguments they're wielding.

Greenslade puts the case forcefully that allowing anyone to sue a paper without having to pay legal costs (win or lose, the paper picks up the tab) is unfair and would pose a severe threat to the financial viability of papers, never mind the scope for abuse.

Yet...without further reform the scope to wield libel law largely remains an option only for the rich. A well meaning statutory change would both fuel press determination to resist ANY further new regulation and discredit the cause of stronger press regulation!!!

Complex, as I said!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

WIDER LAW Media unites to attack government FoI changes

A major chunk of wider law which has empowered the media could face radical dilution under government proposals. An unusually wide alliance of media organisations have registered their concerns over this.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, which has fought for greater openness for over 20 years, said he feared the government’s supposedly independent commission was made up of people, such as former government minister Jack Straw, who are known to believe that there should be more exemptions under FoI.  
“If we don’t do something about it, the act is going to be seriously restricted,” he told the SoE meeting. The campaign group is to hold a briefing on Wednesday to discuss how best to fight government attempts to introduce more restrictions. 
Asked about the government’s review of the FoI earlier on Monday, John Whittingdale, the culture secretary, denied that the current review meant that it would be overturned. 
“[In the same way] everyone thinks I am going to abolish the BBC just because I am going to look at how it works after 10 years,” he said. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

LEVESON IPSO PR war as Hacked Off fail to Impress industry

A good summary by Greenslade of the binary opposite views of Hacked Off and (most of) the press on the Leveson Report: a righteous attack on and firm legal proposals to improve the press vs an anti-democratic attack on a free press.

Hacked Off support Impress, a rival to IPSO that is seeking to win a royal charter - which would effectively put the entire press under a new legal regime, even though Impress has only signed up a farcically small number of hyper-local titles.

Without any possibility of a truce, let alone a settlement, the two sides spend a lot of time hurling verbal missiles at each other. 
The latest volley is the release of an “independent report” called Leveson’s Illiberal Legacy, produced by a press freedom group known as 89Up, published by the Free Speech Network and sponsored by three publishers: DMG Media, News UK and the Telegraph Media group. 
According to an article in the Daily Mail, the report makes “a devastating attack” on the Leveson inquiry, which “became a tool for a determined group of lobbyists [Hacked Off] to use regulation to erode press freedom.”  
The report states that laws rushed through in the wake of Leveson “pose the most substantial threat to British press freedom in the modern era”. It also poses an “imminent danger” to local newspapers. 
It calls on the government to annul the royal charter and to repeal sections of the crime and courts act.
Publishers and opponents treat the Leveson report like holy scripture.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Krotoski video series The Power of Privacy

The power of privacy – video series.

The Power of Privacy – documentary film

Aleks meets professional digital detective, Max. He’s challenged to gather as much information on her as possible. What he finds is staggering

The power of privacy (1/5): Does the internet know where you live?

Aleks travels to Las Vegas to meet hackers at the Def Con conference. There she learns first hand how easy it is to be tricked into dropping your guard

The power of privacy (2/5): Hacking exposed: the tricks of the trade

Aleks meets three security experts in a bid to take back control of her privacy

The power of privacy (3/5): What can you do when private data goes public?

Aleks heads to Japan to delve into the potential and pitfalls of open data

The power of privacy (4/5): Open data: mapping the fallout from Fukushima

Aleks explores how the internet of things will continue to reshape privacy in the future

Freedom of Information law undermined by advisory panel?

This is a key piece of wider law signifying the UK as a liberal democracy, and perhaps ironically commended by Tony Blair's contention that passing it was one of his biggest regrets.

The law, in theory at least, compels public bodies to publish information upon request.

In practice, the foot dragging this often brings is akin to King Kong with a limp. There have been numerous high profile court cases, something financially struggling newspapers are wary of.

PM Cameron appointed an advisory panel which appears to be made up of critics and opponents of FoI, as this article details.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

IPSO Tele guilty of Clause 1 Accuracy Corbyn slur

The right-wing press haven't held back from a fierce bombardment of flak aimed at new Labour (not New Labour!) Jeremy Corbyn, seeking to sink his counter-hegemonic arguments before they can achieve any foothold. It must be said that the supposedly left-wing press has acted similarly, much to the outrage of their readers - the Guardian's readers ombudsman acknowledged as much.

So, it is perhaps heartening in the context if historically pitifully weak press self-regulation to see IPSO apparently make a rare stand on Clause One of the Editors' Code: Accuracy.

While our broadcast media are fiercely regulated through the statutory body of OfCom, with the government  free to dramatically undermine the BBC's much trumpeted independence through the purse strings (and successfully agitating for the BBC to do less and get smaller), press self-regulation has often verged on the farcical.

Let's not forget that the PCC abolished itself (albeit bowing to the inevitable and strategically acting to see off any government action) for failing in its job.

So, the IPSO ruling over the Telegraph's blatant smear job has to be welcomed ... but is it enough to declare IPSO a real break from past practices, a shiny success?


Greenslade takes up the specific point on IPSO accepting without challenge the Telegraph's contention that a headline must be considered in context of the full article, a weasel logic indeed, as for many the headline will be all they read (or retain).

What about the wider point of our press' practice of filtering the news through an ideological prism to fit pre-ordained positions? Is it really a credible position that this one story stands alone as the sole example of our national press trampling over the most basic and fundamental clause in its fervour to bury Corbyn and the views he represents?

Monday, 21 September 2015

IPSO Mail corrects Muslim immigrant smear story - damage done?

Its not exactly a shock to see the Mail print an inaccurate, sensationalist story stoking up racial tension and fuelling anti-immigrant sentiment ... but for once the press regulator has stepped in to insist they correct the false, misleading story.

Thats a definite point in IPSO's favour compared to the weak PCC.

BUT ... still the issue remains: is a correction enough? Will it REALLY undo the damage of the original story? Should ALL corrections be prominently featured on the front page to motivate papers to try harder to adhere to the Editor's Code?

Note too that this is another example of IPSO accepting and ruling on a third party complaint, something the PCC routinely refused to do.

Management consultant Miqdaad Versi complained to the Mail on Sunday, which responded with a letter saying it had “intended no disrespect to the Muslim religion”, but did not correct its story. Versi then took his complaint to Ipso, saying the article was based on conjecture and the religion of the gang was not relevant to the story. 
Following the complaint, the Mail on Sunday agreed to rewrite the story to remove the references to Muslims and carry a correction both in the paper and online. 
The correction said: “An article on July 26 said a gang of Muslim youths was responsible for damaging Home Office immigration enforcement vehicles in Shadwell, east London, in the week the prime minister appealed to Muslims to help combat extremism. Muslim readers have asked to point out that the youths’ religion was unclear and, in any case, irrelevant to the story. We apologise for any offence caused.” 
Versi, who is assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain but brought the complaint in a personal capacity, welcomed the correction. “The coverage of Muslims in mainstream media continues to be very negative and there are too many sensationalist headlines that generalise about Muslims. This story in particular was both inaccurate and referred to Muslims when it was irrelevant to the story,” he told the Guardian.


Saturday, 19 September 2015

OWNERSHIP Russia limits foreign ownership to 20%

In very stark contrast to British (de)regulation and laissez faire media market, dominated by foreign ownership and with the one major British success story (the Beeb) under intense threat, Russia has introduced strict ownership limits.

Jeremy Corbyn has hinted at a policy of forcing media conglomerates to break up, divest subsidiaries (with Murdoch's empire thought to be a key target) - one reason why he faces such incessant flak (yes, Chomsky's concept, filter, once more) from a hostile press.

Vladimir Putin had responded to his own dislike of media criticism by effectively forcing a series of high profile, influential western media outlets to be sold to Russian companies, reducing the likelihood of media scrutiny.

In the land of the free (market) this has not gone down well, but, although its limits have been steadily diluted, the US's main federal regulator, the FCC, also enforces limits on non-US ownership of media. Murdoch took on US citizenship to be able to expand his American holdings. He faced no such issues in the UK when buying the Sun and Times newspapers, nor when buying out BSkyB shares ... at least until the phone-hacking scandal saw public outrage trump the complicity of a friendly free market government.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

OFCOM C4 seek to fight political attack

Here's a new twist on media regulation: C4 have responded to a strongly worded attack from parliamentary authorities, condemning its exposé of senior politicians' alleged corruption as an unwarranted, unethical invasion of privacy, by calling in OfCom themselves.

C4's move is clearly intended to rebut the political attack, a novel approach.

Both the BBC and C4 appear to be under threat of privatisation from a Tory government (and right-wing press) that perceives both these PSBs as leftie, liberal outfits biased against the Tories, social conservative values, free market ideals etc

Channel 4 has asked the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, to investigate a cash-for-access sting on two former foreign secretaries after criticism over its reporting of the allegations.
The parliamentary commissioner for standards cleared Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw, and said the damage done to the former MPs could have been avoided if Channel 4’s Dispatches and the Daily Telegraph had accurately reported the exchanges they had filmed.

The broadcaster has issued a defiant statement defending its journalism and took the unprecedented step of asking Ofcom to look at the case.
The move will put Channel 4 on a collision course with Straw, Rifkind and the parliamentary authorities, who have been quick to claim that the programme was the result of shoddy journalism.

David Cameron issued a statement through Downing Street welcoming the fact that “Sir Malcolm, and his family, can now put this distressing episode behind them”.
Insiders at Channel 4 maintain that it is in the public interest to expose politicians who are happy to use their positions for private gain.

Daniel Pearl, editor of Dispatches, said: “This programme raised important questions which concern voters about how senior politicians are able to use their public office for personal financial gain. This is a matter of public interest and was a legitimate journalistic investigation.
“We’re confident in our journalism and have decided to take the unprecedented step of inviting our statutory regulator Ofcom to investigate the report.”

Peter Preston has since written an interesting opinion piece on this for The Observer.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation has its own rules about stings. You can’t just trawl around for dirt without reasonable cause for specific suspicion. (That’s why those same rules against trawling stung the Telegraph when Vince Cable was a victim a few years ago). And Ofcom - a statutory regulator, remember - has different rules again, which Channel 4 traditionally applies with added rigour. There has to be evidence-gathering in initial investigations: no trawling. Two exhaustive stages of form-filling - first for filming, then to secure permission to broadcast - must be completed through the production process. Two lawyers sit on top of it throughout. This isn’t the wild west, or an excuse to run wild around Westminster. 
So here’s the rub. You can quite see why Rifkind and (especially) Straw felt themselves hard done by. You can understand why the MPs’ committee Hudson reports to clambered onto a high horse. But you can’t quite see why the film shown and the offers made weren’t assessed as multimedia, not just as print transcripts. Nor is it easy to understand a process where the ombudsman meets in person with aggrieved parliamentarians, but doesn’t seek personal appearances from the journalists involved. Seven years after the Telegraph’s revelations about MPs’ expenses, and 27 years after “Cash for Questions”, parliament is still doing its own regulatory thing. Channel 4 is right and feisty to take its case to Ofcom. Ipso, anxious to set standards as well as hear complaints, might prod the Telegraph to do likewise.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

FUTURE Could Corbyn reintroduce ownership limits?

It is abundantly clear that a right-wing government able to rely on generally favourable coverage from a UK press which is also largely right-wing, and which has undermined the BBC's finances so radically, will have no desire to regulate on media ownership.

Quite the opposite: should we expect Murdoch to resurrect the buyout of the 60% of BSkyB shares his conglomerate doesn't own - so inconveniently halted by public outrage over his paper's phone hacking of Milly Dowler? Probably, yes; despite the protests of the Culture Select Committee and others, the Tory Culture Secretary was set to wave it through pre-Leveson.

Now we have a left-wing Labour leader, will there be a sharp end to the consensus over free market, laissez faire media regulation? Again, probably.

Corbyn has said little on this yet, but his one utterance directly attacked concentration of ownership and many perceive Murdoch's empire as a target.

Let's not forget that Tom Watson, who doggedly pursued News International and the phone hacking story even when directly threatened by the Murdoch press, and at the cost of his marriage, is now deputy leader.

The Blairite right-wing Labour MPs will doubtless argue that Labour needs to court the likes of the Mail and the S*n - after all, Tony himself flew out to Australia to genuflect before the great man in advance if the 1997 election.

Such arguments will surely now be rejected, and we can expect to see a sustained, vicious barrage of flak to shoot down this counter-hegemonic force.

The largely hostile coverage in the Guardian suggests that there might be friendly fire too, even if Greenslade thinks the paper will be neutral.

Greenslade also states that Corbyn has to become PM to change media policy, but that isn't necessarily so. We saw under the coalition government that the backbench Select Committee undertook the scrutiny that the responsible government minister, Jeremy Hunt, appeared reluctant to, including Watson famously describing James Murdoch as a Mafia boss.

With some cross-bench support (ie, Labour, Tory and others) its recommendations could still be enacted, though whether it will put forward any radical changes, other than eviscerating the BBC, does seem unlikely.

We have also seen plenty of examples of backbench bills getting close enough to passing to force government to act.

Whatever now happens, the cosy consensus and hegemony of deregulation will at least be up for debate, marking a distinct shift in 36 years of both major parties cutting media regulation.
The current Tory Culture Secretary could face charges for leaking anti-BBC briefings to the Sunday Times: John Whittingdale accused of misleading parliament over BBC story in Sunday Times.

Friday, 4 September 2015

IPSO Unfair says Blair as Mail complaint rejected

Tony Blair, alongside his attack dog Alistair Campbell, was seen as a master manipulator of the media, winning Murdoch's support and that of The S*n after he notoriously flew out to Australia to privately meet with Murdoch and strike a deal.

Now a former PM, he complained about a Daily Mail story on his refusal to follow Parliament's demands to submit to questions over 'comfort letters' sent to IRA men, a form of legal guarantee against prosecution.

IPSO rejected his complaint and the argument that the Mail had breached Clause 1: Accuracy.

Okay, he's a Labour ex-PM, but this still shows IPSO standing up to very powerful forces.

Tony Blair attacks 'major failure' at Ipso after Daily Mail complaint rejected.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

FILM WEB PIRACY Contrast protest over MPAA with UK ISP Torrent bans

Quite a contrast...

In the US a combination of mass (including street) protest and tech-corporate lobbying (including paying for ads) stymied an attempt, led by Hollywood/MPAA, to make it easy to isolate websites accused of copyright infringement.

Move on 3 years and the likes of Google have swiftly jumped on a new attempt by the MPAA to bring this in by the back door - this time they're focussed on one site, MovieTube, but succeeding in cutting it off would establish the principle.

Here in the UK we have no triple democratic lock (House, Senate, Supreme Court in the US), just a supine Lords to check the power of a Commons which the PM can operate as an "elective dictatorship" (Lord Hailsham's infamous phrase, then attacking a 1970s Labour government) when a single party has an overall majority.

Here, ISPs already block a wide range of websites which serve as search engines for Torrents (a means of linking with multiple users globally to download often copyrighted material).

PM Cameron, to the delight of the likes of the Mail (which loves media regulation or censorship ... just as long as its not of the Press), is pressing ahead with proposals to enforce age ratings on music videos online, to make every online adult to state whether they're opting in or out to adult material (always a difficult definition), and have already enforced a ban on a wide range of adult categories.

Against the backdrop of an overwhelmingly right-wing press, traditionally in favour of conservative, censorial campaigns (so long as it doesn't impact their businesses), there's been little protest here - at least, little that the public might hear about through the mainstream media.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo have accused US film studios of attempting to resurrect the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), which was defeated in Congress in 2012. 
The US technology companies joined together to file a brief (pdf) with New York courts urging judges to strike down a preliminary injunction filed by six film studios of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which calls for a blockade of the alleged piracy site Movietube.  
Sony, Universal, Warner Bros, Disney and Paramount are seeking to remove Movietube from the internet and stop internet companies linking to or providing services to the site, including search engines and social networks. 
“Plaintiffs’ effort to bind the entire Internet to a sweeping preliminary injunction is impermissible. It violates basic principles of due process ... [and] ignores the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which specifically limits the injunctive relief that can be imposed on online service providers in copyright cases,” the technology companies write in the amicus brief. 
They state that they do not condone the use of their services for copyright infringement and that they work with rights holders to tackle issues, but that the “proposed injunction is legally impermissible and would have serious consequences for the entire online community”.

Monday, 10 August 2015

TWITTER Beckham ignores IPSO over Mail kids intrusion

(lord) John Prescott did it, forcing the Sunday Times to quickly withdraw an inaccurate story.

David Beckham is taking the same approach, but will the mighty Mail bow to social media pressure...

The PCC and now IPSO face being ignored by those powerful enough to have a social media, especially Twitter, presence sufficient to impact on public opinion.

The Mail, the most complained about paper of all, not only ran pictures of Beckham's 4 year-old daughter, contravening the Editors' Code, they also criticised their parenting.

Now this is the same paper that rages and fulminates against the nanny state itself turning (ninny) nanny, a similar state of hypocrisy and cant to its endless moral panics over sexual content in broadcast and other media ... which it gleefully, salaciously features in large, multiple pictures (not forgetting it's notorious sidebar of shame).

Obviously as the Beckham girl is an elected official with an important influence on our democracy ... Hmmm. Okay, so the legal public interest defence is out, unless you re-heat the fatuous line Murdoch has used for decades (if the public chooses to buy papers with this content, they're interested and the market should cater for them), and Richard  Desmond trotted out at his cringeworthy Leveson appearance ("ethics?").

The Editors' Code, as the Mail will know, doesn't provide a public interest exemption for the children clauses.

Sterling work from the Mail then. Beckham would have a good case if he took it up with IPSO, but tweeted instead. Neither the Mail nor press self-regulation come out of this looking good.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

BBC cuts by government a Murdoch plan?

An incendiary post by Jukes (via a tweet by Nick Lacey, well worth following), though can anyone informed about the media landscape really be surprised at this apparently ongoing relationship between the Murdochs and a government/party when they both share a core neo-liberal, low tax, 'free market' ideology?

I've often blogged on the right-wing hostility towards the BBC and PSB generally, and how the sustained flak both from right-wing papers and politicians (often quoted in such coverage to beef it up or keep a story running) has looked ever more likely to finally down the BBC as a publicly funded large-scale broadcaster.

Jukes takes this point a step further, writing about an actual deal between Murdochs and senior Tory government ministers to work together to kill off the BBC as an organisation able to compete with the likes of Sky.

This is a short extract - its worth reading more.

As I've detailed in my 2012 book, [T]he Fall of the House of Murdoch, the plan to shrink the BBC by 30% was part of a four year dance between Cameron, Osborne and James Murdoch, as he vied to cement his succession at News Corp by buying the whole of BSkyB, and amalgamating News International and Sky in a digital hub at a new base in Isleworth.  
Called Operation Rubicon, the deal would have sealed the Murdoch family as owners of Britain's most lucrative TV channel and its biggest newspaper group - a virtually unassailable position in the media landscape. Their only real (non commercial) competition was the free news service provided by the BBC both in broadcast and online.

Jukes' book.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

FILM MPAA R rating as commercial kiss of death

'Many cinemas refuse to show R-rated films and they tend to struggle at the box office.'

Nothing new or startling here, just a handy direct quote on this point  - that as many major retailers and exhibitors essentially boycott R-rated films (likewise CDs with the explicit lyrics 'parental advisory' sticker), producers are heavily incentivised to get lower age ratings. My past posts on the impact of BBFC 18 ratings covers similar ground - and looks at the alleged favouritism shown by both BBFC + MPAA towards studio productions. The higher NC-17 rating is considerably worse - Miramax's Harvey Weinstein describes it as "economic suicide" (quoted in Julian Petley's Censorship)

Executive producer Gabe Hoffman, who bankrolled early screenings of the film with his own money, complained to industry magazine Deadline that, while Berg had granted some print interviews, she had turned down “dozens” of requests from broadcast news networks.
An Open Secret has had a tough time gaining traction, despite receiving lots of press from print publications, like the Guardian. It was given an R rating by US certification body the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Many cinemas refuse to show R-rated films and they tend to struggle at the box office. Hoffman wrote an open letter to the MPAA’s chairman Christopher Dodd, asking for the ratings body to reconsider their decision.  
“We were extremely disappointed to find our film – which discusses these issues maturely and carefully – thrown into the same category as films which display gratuitous sex and violence,” he wrote. 
“If just one single teen … finds their inner strength, and is able to escape their current abuse situation because of your decision, wouldn’t that make your time spent personally reviewing the film, and its rating, all worthwhile?”

Producers of Hollywood child abuse documentary criticise director for not promoting film.

D-notice: the unseen hand of government censorship

I've cited this a few times before, but its worth looking at individually - a great example of the often arcane nature of official censorship in the UK, bypassing the voluntary self-regulation system.

Peter Preston defends the system as great value at £250k a year: D-Notices: the best security show in town at a bargain price.

Greenslade's history of the D-Notice
The D-notice system is a peculiarly British arrangement, a sort of not quite public yet not quite secret arrangement between government and media in order to ensure that journalists do not endanger national security. 
In his official history of the system*, a former D-notice committee chairman, retired Rear Admiral Nicholas Wilkinson, explained that it “emerged amorphously across three decades of increasing concern about army and navy operations being compromised by reports in the British (and sometimes foreign) press.” 
It was finally created in 1912 in the runup to the first world war, when the fiercely anti-German press barons of the era were only too happy to prevent the enemy from accessing useful intelligence. 
At the outset, therefore, it was largely viewed as a sensible and pragmatic arrangement that did not inhibit press freedom. Editors and journalists appear to have accepted it without demur up to and including the second world war, when self-censorship was the order of the day for Britain’s press. 
At the outset, therefore, it was largely viewed as a sensible and pragmatic arrangement that did not inhibit press freedom. Editors and journalists appear to have accepted it without demur up to and including the second world war, when self-censorship was the order of the day for Britain’s press. 
The first major controversy occurred during Harold Wilson’s administration, in 1967, in what became known as the D-notice affair, thus bringing the system’s existence to wider public attention for the first time. 
Wilson accused the Daily Express and its defence correspondent, Chapman Pincher, of ignoring D-notices by revealing that the secret services were scrutinising thousands of private cables and telegrams sent from Britain without obtaining the necessary Official Secrets Act warrant. 
The prime minister called for an inquiry and set up a tribunal to decide whether Pincher had breached the system. It prompted the Daily Mirror editor, Lee Howard, to resign amid mutterings of censorship. Then, to Wilson’s embarrassment, the tribunal cleared the Express. 
But the effect of this affair had far-reaching implications. Editors were bolstered by the fact that the tribunal had underlined the voluntary nature of the system. Governments became hesitant about being overly heavy-handed about using D-notices to prevent publication that could be shown to be in the public interest. 
Four years after the Wilson fiasco, all existing D-notices were cancelled and replaced by what were called “standing D-notices”, which gave general guidance on what might be published and what should be discouraged.  
The fact that such notices were recommendations to editors, without any legal status, resulted in them being renamed in 1993 as DA (defence advisory) notices. 
One of the interesting features of the system has been the press-friendly nature of several of the officials chosen to head the committees, former senior servicemen such as Wilkinson and Colonel Sammy Lohan. 
And it is truly ironic that Wilkinson’s history was itself subjected to censorship. Five chapters had to be excised prior to publication in 2009 after Whitehall officials invoked a rule that official histories should not include matters concerning the administration in power. It is being republished with new chapters this month. Famously, editors have also got away with bypassing the D-notice system altogether by refusing to alert the committee to stories they feared might lead to injunctions. 
The Observer kept secret its 2004 revelation about a memo showing Britain helped the US conduct a secret and potentially illegal spying operation at the UNin the runup to the Iraq war.  
The result? An almost identical system but a change of name: DA-notices become DSMA (Defence and Security Media Advisory) notices. Nothing, it seems, works quite so well as a British fudge that allows the press to keep its freedom while volunteering to protect national security. 
* Secrecy and the Media: the Official History of the United Kingdom’s D-Notice System by Nicholas Wilkinson (Routledge, 2009)

Preston's reflections on the D-Notice system and changes
D-Notices, now called DA-Notices, have been around for more than 100 years – and still many people, including a prime minister waving them in the wake of Edward Snowden, remain grumpily ignorant of what they’re really about. Perhaps changing the name to National Security Notices (as just recommended by a review committee) will help Mr Cameron concentrate.
The notices are not censorship with Whitehall bovver boots. They’re an extremely light-touch, voluntary system that helps press people – often at local level – who think they may have stumbled on a story make sure they don’t sprawl full length by inadvertently reporting something that endangers British security. You ring up an amiable retired air vice-marshal in the Ministry of Defence who checks around and tells you where and if peril lies. A committee of editors and civil servants meets twice a year to monitor and discuss.
And that, essentially, is what will happen post-review too, with a few tweaks and modernisations – plus one economy to lighten George Osborne’s load. The whole apparatus, operating 24/7, costs around £250,000 a year, a bargain basement safety net. And what would happen if the system didn’t exist? More press calls to M15, who employ three staff officers to deal with media inquiries. More calls to M16, with two press officers. More to GCHQ, now with a press office and expert manager. More to the phone-answering legions of the MoD, Cabinet Office and Home Office.
I was interested to sit on the review, fascinated by the different attitudes, from draconian to complaisant, different departments of state manifested; and happy to discover the cheapest effective security show in town (or probably anywhere). Every little helps, prime minister.

Monday, 20 July 2015

ADVERTISER POWER Gawker editors quit as ad boycott threat sees article banned

Useful example of one of Chomsky's 'five filters' at work as it shows this is as true of new media as it is of dinosaur media (60s Times, NoTW closure, Telegraph HSBC non-reporting)

Just as with the case of the Daily Telegraph's Peter Oborne quitting in protest at articles critical of HSBC bank being pulled to protect advertising revenue, so we have another case which shows how the fabled free press is actually heavily influenced by advertisers and commercial considerations (so Murdoch pulled the BBC off his Asian satellite TV network Star and pulped the hardcover [expensive!] copies of Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten's autobiography when China complained, safeguarding his access to the huge Chinese market, and ensuring Tiananmen Square would get no mention, and critics of Chinese Communist rule were silenced).

Perhaps this case isn't as clear though - there are ethical considerations (though, as with the UK press using the public interest defence this may be simply convenient to mask the real commercial calculation?):
Gawker Media’s top two editors resigned from the news and gossip site on Monday, in response to the company’s decision to remove a controversial post. The post, published last Thursday, concerned a publishing executive who is married to a woman and who allegedly attempted to book a gay escort. 
The post was described by some critics as a form of blackmail and widely condemned in the media. At least one advertiser put ads on hold in protest....Gawker’s founder Nick Denton defended his decision to take down the post on Monday and said that the managing partnership should not make editorial decisions. He took full responsibility for the removal of the post.  
“Let me be clear. This was a decision I made as founder and publisher – and guardian of the company mission – and the majority supported me in that decision,” he said. “This is the company I built. I was ashamed to have my name and Gawker’s associated with a story on the private life of a closeted gay man who some felt had done nothing to warrant the attention.”