Exam date

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

Saturday, 31 January 2015

BBC DG invites flak by suggesting watershed outmoded

UPDATE, FEB 2015: STEPHEN FRY SWEARS DURING BAFTAS
The BBC stoutly defended Fry, and the principle of free speech, though said it 'noted' the concerns expressed for this post-watershed swearing. For some, the watershed isn't enough!
At one point, he told his audience it was “pissing down with stars”. He also introduced Tom Cruise as “Tom f**king Cruise” as he ambled on stage to present an award.
“We received complaints from viewers unhappy with some of Stephen Fry’s language while presenting the Baftas,” a statement on the BBC’s complaints website read.
Attitudes to strong language vary enormously and we considered very carefully how to reflect this.
Stephen, whose irreverence and style is extremely well-known to viewers, has presented the Baftas for several years. Any strong language was used after the watershed, and there was a presentation announcement at the start of the programme warning viewers that the broadcast would contain language of this nature.
“We accept that some viewers disagreed with this approach, and this feedback has been noted.”
Before you ask, the Mail was a tad cross at all this, shockingly enough (whilst squeezing in a load of large celebrity pics).

Both the BBC's film ratings and the TV (and radio) watershed face a problem which can be summed up in that one familiar word: digitisation. If young kids can effortlessly access TV or films at any time with any rating, can we really maintain the pretence of control? As more of us timeshift instead of following schedules, the concept gets even weaker.

There are other arguments against a watershed: why should adults, not least those without children, be restricted in their viewing?

The BBC have addressed and acknowledged some of these points, arguing that they provide valuable information so that those parents who choose to can make informed choices - though cinemas don't have any legal wriggle room to let parents/children decide.

Cinemas themselves will surely join any calls for deregulating film controls - they face fierce, intensifying competition from TV and mobile platforms, with TV advantaged by the ease of getting around age restrictions.

Read this article for a debate on the watershed between editors of prominent magazines, Robin Parker (Broadcast) and Boyd Hilton (Heat). Perhaps ironically, given Heat isn't exactly reknowned for classy, child-friendly material (but does attract young readers), it's Hilton who takes the pro-watershed line.

Below the line: an overview of how the Mail, Indie and others reported this story.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Sunifesto Murdoch right-wing vision made explicit

Wee bit careless to present so few ethnic minority faces?
I can't recall seeing quite so detailed, especially from a tabloid, as this before - an all-encompassing manifesto that quite neatly provides the clearest possible evidence of The Sun and thus Murdoch's (as much as he absurdly continues to deny influencing his papers' viewpoints and agenda!) ideological orientation.

The timing is smart - the political parties are yet to publish their manifestoes, and UKIP, Labour, Lib Dems and Tories (the major right-wing/centre-right parties) will all feel some pressure to adhere to some of this classic neo-liberal agenda.

Roy Greenslade has been discussing Murdoch's recent, rather surprising, use of Twitter to make public his previously 'private' (they were clear enough if you read his papers!) views and partisanship:
For Murdoch’s inner circle, such open political expression is a thing of wonder. Before the age of social media, he kept himself firmly in the background, careful not to expose his own public views while actively seeking to sway elections through the editorial endorsements in his many newspapers across the globe.“He made clear to his editors which politicians deserved support and those that didn’t,” said a former News Corporation executive. “But unless it was time for an endorsement, those conversations remained private.”The former executive added: “Now with his Twitter feed, the world can see how he is thinking all the time. Which is unusual for Rupert, who liked to keep his own counsel. It has surprised many of us to see him go so public.”
Its worth reading his article in full. A bit more:
Murdoch watchers see the dual-track emoting of his Twitter feed and the editorial pages of his newspapers as symbiotic. The social media site does not only provide the media magnate a direct channel to vent his opinions – it also acts as a prompt for Murdoch’s editors, they say.
David Folkenflik, who is NPR’s media correspondent and the author of Murdoch’s World: The Last of the Old Media Empires, said that “Twitter has changed the ball-game. Every Murdoch editor around the world will be monitoring that feed very closely – they check it repeatedly – to see whether he’s expressed himself again.”
As the power of newspapers has waned amid the fragmentation of digital discourse, the relationship between Murdoch and his newspapers has arguably turned upside-down. Before the proliferation of other news sites, he used his newspapers to amplify his personal political views; today, with the News Corp empire bigger than ever, he uses his personal Twitter feed to amplify the influence of his newspapers.
As the former News Corp executive put it: “As newspaper endorsements become less and less important, this is one way for him to maintain a high political profile.”
That trend remains visible in the UK, where Murdoch pushed the power of newspaper endorsements to the limit with the Sun’s famous 1992 front page on the day after the Conservative party’s general election victory: “It’s the Sun Wot Won It”. Today, the Sun has to work that much harder to have the same impact – this week it launched the endorsement process for the UK’s May general election, 100 days before the event. It dubbed the paper’s campaign the “Sunifesto” and flagged it as “100 days to save Britain”.


THE SUNIFESTO: ANALYSIS

As to that 'Sunifesto', there are a few especially interesting points to consider:

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Balanced broadcasters? Don't bank on it...

Our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite http://gu.com/p/453g6

This is a piece by columnist George Monbiot, a prominent left-wing environmentalist (who can be seen in one of Russell Brand's regular YouTube videos); he argues:
The illusion of neutrality is one of the reasons for the rotten state of journalism, as those who might have been expected to hold power to account drift thoughtlessly into its arms.
He details a scandal at the Canadian equivalent of the BBC before examining the BBC's highly partial, biased reportage of the economic crisis and the austerity policy that our three major parties have all agreed upon. As you read this, consider that Chomsky's propaganda model has 'source strategies' as one of the five filters, with flak (for any foolhardy enough to question austerity) also an issue here, alongside the anti-Communism (i.e., anti-left-wing) filter too:

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Snooping laws mockery of press freedom

It's ironic, if in keeping with long-term governmental policy (of both Labour and Tory flavours), that the PM was in Paris to show support for the huge freedom of speech rally ... then announced his intention to support a further extension of already jaw-droppingly broad police and security services powers to eavesdrop. The right of journalists to protect sources' identities is a long-held (though contested) one, fundamental to the notion of a 'free press' that the Charlie Hebdo case has seen so widely proclaimed and reclaimed as a fundamental 'western democracy' value.
Alongside super injunctions, obscure security notices and committees, libel law, and even proclamations from the Electoral Commission, it is a solid reminder that the narrative of press regulation goes well beyond the soap opera of the formal regulator in all its many guises: GCP, PC, PCC, IPSO...
‘Freedom of expression’ anti-snooping campaign launched over Ripa changes http://gu.com/p/44p63

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Government regulate blogs 4 election...but not press?!

Can the electoral commission be serious about political blogs? http://gu.com/p/44zg2

Roy Greenslade reports on the Electoral Commission effectively bringing in backdoor (statutory; it is a government office) regulation of one part of the press: political blogs:
I don’t think we should overlook the revelation by Guido Fawkes that the Electoral Commission believes political blogs may need to register as “non-party campaigners” ahead of the general election.How bizarre. Guido’s alter ego, Paul Staines, was right to have rejected the “Putinesque” plan, as should other blogs contacted by the commission, such as ConservativeHome, LabourList and LibDemVoice.This is so last century, a heavy-handed and nonsensical response to the flowering of political debate in the digital world. Given that newspapers and magazines are exempt from such treatment, it is also unfair.
He continued:

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Press, Fourth estate, Freedom, Democracy: Paris murders

I was just reading through a recent post which included this bullet point:
  • even though many press arguments on press regulation are self-serving nonsense, this is an important point that should not be dismissed! 'Freedom of the press' is a basic of democratic norms
The link between the media and democracy, which the scandalous behaviour of the press has rather obscured even while editors and owners condemned any enforced regulation as undemocratic, has been a leitmotif, or meme (recurring theme), within much of the coverage of the Paris murders of a left-wing magazine's staff.

RIP Charlie Hebdo workers.

The examples I'll give below are all from the press, but this has been the dominant discourse of TV coverage too, with the many protests that sprang up seeking to demonstrate support for a free media as much as opposition to 'terrorist' killings.

As difficult as the routine inaccuracy, sensationalism, bias, arrogant, dumbed-down tabloidised approach of newspapers may make it, you should not discount the importance of the argument that a free press/media are central to any functioning democracy. What should also be considered, though, is whether a deregulated, free market in ownership (and content to a degree) is compatible with this lofty notion.

There is another issue here - given the fuss over 'lads mags' like Zoo and Nuts, with newsagents now forced to put these on top shelves in part-covered packaging, protection of children being the familiar justification, should newspapers put graphic news images on the front page? Is this compatible with protection of children from unsuitable content? Does the need to inform/freedom of speech outweigh this? Does it matter if we're talking about a broadsheet or a tabloid?

The Times put an unpixellated shot of the dead policeman on its front; the others pixellated it, and The Guardian, in its gallery of front pages (see below), noted that they had re-pixellated this.

Below the line are further front pages from the Telegraph, Guardian and Times - this was a consensus view that crossed the left-right divide.