Exam date

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

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.