Exam date

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

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

PCC IPSO effectiveness the arguments FOR

A bullet-pointed, abbreviated list; everything I refer to below is covered in more detail elsewhere in this blog and/or handouts (many of which are also embedded within posts).

There is very little change from PCC to IPSO, but there is some:
IPSO has exercised a new power (still no sanctions if papers refuse though) to insist on front page corrections: it has forced The S*n to do this over a false claim about Jeremy Corbyn, and the Daily Express (in Dec 2016) for claiming English is dying out in schools; they have also forced The Times to do this.
The Editor's Code was revised for 2016, now including headlines within Clause 1 (Accuracy)
Part of this revision was to explicitly require SWIFT resolution of complaints.
They have increased the non-industry representation on their board
They have shown a much greater willingness to consider third party complaints, something the PCC was criticised (by the Culture Select Committee) for routinely threatening to do (The Express '311 languages spoken in our schools' story about the decline of spoken English was one example)
They have been much more assertive over website content, notably including US editions - even more notably, this includes ruling against the Mail Online, the world's leading newspaper online and the newspaper group many accuse IPSO of being run by

There are very few examples to convincingly argue that the press have been effectively regulated, but all of these points can be raised:
- the PCC consistently highlighted high 'satisfaction ratings' in their annual reviews
- despite all the contrary evidence, they did get fulsome praise from Tony Blair and David Cameron
- (and, when FINALLY responding to Calcutt's 1993 recommendation to replace the PCC with statutory regulation, the 1995 Tory gov praised the PCC)
- Prince William held a 'thankyou party' for the PCC and national editors (we'll consider this more later)
- by encouraging non-legal resolutions to disputes (ie, not the courts, expensive lawyers), they arguably made resolution more attainable for ordinary people
- a glib argument, rather hypocritically used by a press who leave to scream for state regulation of TV/film/ads/web, but still important: the press remains (notionally...) free from state/political interference; we have a 'free press' in the UK unlike many authoritarian nations (China etc)
- a linked point: it was/is self-funding: it costs the taxpayer nothing (ditto the BBFC), unlike OfCom (around £100m a year)
- the PCC argued that the numbers of cases 'resolved' itself indicated success, and that every correction or removal of article/picture proves their effectiveness
- three notable improvements from the PCC over the GCP and Press Council that preceded it: (1) lay membership become dominant; this wasn't just a press body judging the press, but also many non-press outsiders (2) it had a published 'Editor's Code' which set out the grounds on which complaints could be made and on which they would be judged [the PC did this in their final year, but essentially neither the GCP nor PC made the basis of judgements, or an open set of standards, known] (3) as is now accepted practice across the board for media regulators (the BBFC in particular highlights this, labelling their published information 'BBFC Insight' and specifically proclaiming this as a service for parents), the PCC publish their Code and judgements on a website, as well as detailed annual reports
There are few respectable sources who will offer up arguments for the PCC specifically, though there are more who will argue the wider point in favour of self-regulation; I recommend in particular looking for the 'Peter Preston' tag in the tagcloud. A former Guardian editor who also briefly served on the PCC, he continues to pen articles strongly advocating self-regulation, and even defending the record of the PCC. He insists that they do a better job than statutory regulators like OfCom. The PCC's website itself naturally contains useful material arguing that it is an effective regulator.

The counter-argument is overwhelming, but you mustn't make the mistake of simply ignoring the points above. Its also worth stressing that the apparent failure of self-regulation isn't a direct argument for statutory regulation: it is simply a reflection that the form and nature of the self-regulation we have had has been ineffective. The GCP, PC and PCC have all been largely reactive bodies, mainly responding to complaints (as explicitly highlighted in the PCC's very name), although the PCC did occasionally intervene when contacted with pre-publication concerns by those who would be impacted by planned articles. It also remained too dominated by press figures, despite the numbers of lay people involved. If a tougher regime, with the power to fine (as Leveson recommended, but the press rejected, and IPSO won't have), to enforce corrections within a timescale and on a page/size of its choosing, or even, as had been discussed, inflicting tax on papers who repeatedly breached the agreed standards or, like Desmond, just refused to come under the regulatory system ... then self-regulation may very well be effective.
So, before going into the many reasons for and examples of ineffective press self-regulation, do remember that this is not necessarily proof that self-regulation doesn't work - just that the style and approach of a system that, for example, ignores issues around press ownership, is (and surely will be with the not-so-different IPSO?) ineffective, as can clearly be seen by the consistently poor standards of our national press.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

IPSO children rulings + web + advertisers more powerful

Pending updates, check back for more

Some links from another post:

What is the Editors' Code? Save a full copy for yourself. What does it have to say about children? What does it have to say about ownership? Advertising?Do you think this is a sufficient basis for press regulation?
Have a look at rulings - any useful cases on children?
Now have a look for Guardian reports on IPSO and children - anything to add?

BELOW: I searched the IPSO database for clause 6 rulings; 4 of the 6 most recent (on 23.5.17) complaints were against what has consistently been the most complained against newspaper (the lack of change in this clearly suggests a failing system) - the Daily Mail (and its online wing).

It can be argued that whenever anyone goes to the courts instead of the regulator this indicates a failure of press regulation. That is often true; the case of the Toploader guitarist using solicitors to get the Daily Express to agree to cease publishing photos of his child, under the guise of reporting on a celebrity couple's break up, was a clear demonstration of the failure of the PCC. Its response was invariably slow, with any resolution or judgement passed down months after publication - no use to a parent seeking to prevent further invasion of his child's right to privacy, as enshrined in clause 6 of the Editor's Code. The press, especially the red-top/tabloid press, have a long history of such breaches:

If you want to see evidence of the Mail continuing on its proud record of most complained about paper, see this detailed analysis from the TabloidCorrections website (once more, an example of more effective or at least accurate oversight than the formal regulator is an online source?) - which includes this table exposing just how few complaints IPSO actually rules on, an absolutely crucial point in judging them. If you wanted to know which paper was most guilty of Editors Code breaches, IPSO data would actually be misleading - most of their cases are just listed as 'resolved' by 'mediation', and IPSO don't make any judgement!

In the Toploader case, Richard Desmond, the porn baron who infamously asked for an explanation of the term 'ethics' at the Leveson Inquiry, withdrew the Star and Express titles from the PCC. As a voluntary self-regulator, there was no sanction or punishment for this; his papers, frequently found guilty of Editors Code breaches, had simply ceased to be regulated even under the dreadfully weak PCC system. The parents in this case had no regulator to turn to.

What about IPSO then? They have further toughened their children's clauses (6 + 7) in the Editors Code; they have also included a reference to 'quickly' resolving complaints in this revised code (recognising a key PCC failure). They're also tougher than the PCC, having forced the Times, Mail and Sun to run front page corrections. They can also point to a case where they ruled in favour of parents complaining against the Express about publishing images of their children. However, the parents were the royals Duke + Duchess of Cambridge, the same Duke who once held a party to thank the PCC for keeping the press away while he went to uni, a dubious privilege given to someone funded by the public and in line to become head of state. Even in this case the sanction was, well, pathetic: the Express had to link the adjudication (ruling) for 24 hours on its website. That'll teach them?!

Consider then the first case IPSO handled, the 'devil child' complaint by an MP, Sarah Wollaston. This fell between the end of the PCC and launch of IPSO. As The Sun eventually apologised for paying for the story, its misleading nature, and harming the child (a 4 year-old), IPSO considered the matter resolved. This has become a key theme, shared with its predecessor: if the complainant says they've been satisfied with a paper's response, IPSO don't actually make a judgement; look up their searchable database and it would be hard to know if press standards are being breached as they simply say 'resolved', offering no judgement on whether the Editors Code has been breached. Here's how pressure group Hacked Off saw this, from their 2015 review of IPSO:

You can see another mark of continuity with the PCC: The Sun got away with this. Their 'apology' was 4 sentences. On page 2 - some contrast to the front page splash and double page feature inside. There is no record of them having broken the Editors Code as IPSO don't make a ruling if 'a resolution' is reached - and lets not overlook that this complaint (from a third party, so there IS some improvement from the PCC!!!) was one of many; why ignore the rest? Were they also satisfied? (IPSO only contacted ONE complainant, the MP). They've not been fined, not been warned, not even really had to apologise - 3 sentences boasting of their fine standards before that vague apology! Why would they not do the same again? The Sun's Editors Code breaches should surely be judged recorded: they'd swiftly build up a huge record of clause 1 breaches for a start. Their record should be plastered over their front page each time they add to it with further breaches. They could be fined. Without such sanctions why should they be bothered about IPSO rulings - or, indeed, the lack of an actual ruling?!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Facebook censorship an important media regulator

UPDATE: Hot on the heels of the article that prompted this post, The Guardian published a major report into the secretive workings of Facebook, including revealing their specific censorship policies: their internal guide for moderators on what is and is not acceptable. Read their coverage here. There is a clear issue: doesn't Facebook (and Twitter, Reddit etc) need regulating within the UK - perhaps by IPSO?! Or should governments just ignore such global entities as impossible to effectively regulate?!

Special section of The Guardian with its revelations about its secretive policies

Alongside Google's enforcement of the right to be forgotten across the EU, which effectively deletes many 1000s of news stories when their subject (committing an embarrassing or criminal act) complains, Facebook's vague media policies need to be considered as a highly influential, important strand of media regulation separate from the formal industry regulators such as OfCom and IPSO.
The law courts have always formed another separate plank, with libel and slander laws used to sidestep the regulators and often extract heavy punitive payments from newspapers especially, a financial penalty that might make self regulation work if it were a punishment IPSO could enforce. The super-injunction should serve as a warning that such regulation-by-courts often does not serve democracy well. Many papers will fold, ceasing investigations, not publishing critical articles, pulling articles off their website and publicly searchable archives, to avoid potentially crippling legal fees even if they win!!!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Murdoch's Sky bid at risk from US abuse lawsuits

A good example of how regulation is often shaped or at least influenced by agencies beyond the formal regulators.

Since the 2nd Royal Commission on the Press, there has been a legal requirement for the government to approve ANY takeover of a newspaper, though that this was and is a token gesture to see off pressure for tougher regulation is reflected in the fact that not one such sale has ever been rejected. Indeed, recently published archives of then PM Thatcher's secretive meetings with Murdoch as he successfully sought to takeover The Times newspapers in the early 1980s suggests that ideologically friendly governments are prepared to help powerful press barons bend or break the law to have supportive media voices in place.

Rules on TV ownership have been tough from the start. There has been considerable deregulation, especially under Blair's 'New' Labour government, been there remain limits on what any individual company or media magnate can own. Murdoch is bidding is buy up the remaining 61% of BSkyB shares he doesn't own, but must get OfCom's agreement that this will not cause competition issues in the UK market AND that he, his sons and his scandal hit corporation, facing multiple lawsuits for sexual abuse and racial discrimination in the US, constitute a 'fit and proper' owner.

He abandoned his 2011 bid to do the same once the phone hacking scandal hit big over the Milly Fowler case, leading to his closing the NoTW. Will he be forced to back down AGAIN after another big scandal?

Probably not.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

MacDonalds TV ad provokes 100 ASA complaints

Not a detailed case study, but a useful reference to show that protection of children is a key theme with all media regulators - and that it's the Twitter response rather than the formal complaints that has led media reporting in, awareness of and interest in this story.

The ASA hadn't decided whether to investigate at the time of writing

Sunday, 7 May 2017

YouTube rank pranks endangering children?

Who should regulate this - OfCom (YouTube channel equivalent to TV channel?), BBFC (video - after all, they partially regulate music video on YouTube)? The social media giants are getting a really easy ride compared to the tightly regulated TV and (to a lesser degree; no ownership restrictions) film industries, both of which are subject to strict licensing systems. Surely they ARE now competitors to both, so perhaps the tough regulation on film/TV is unfair - unless also applied to UGC and social media?
Mean stream: when YouTube pranks go horribly wrong.

Pranks have been a booming part of YouTube’s scene for years – but it’s a subculture prone to attracting controversy. The latest incident has led to a US father and a stepmother losing custody of two of their children as a result of some of their prank videos.Mike Martin of Baltimore ran a channel named DaddyOFive, featuring his wife, Heather, and their five children. At the height of the controversy, but before his videos were made private, DaddyOFive had more than 750,000 subscribers and the clips were viewed more than 176m times.Family YouTube channels are not uncommon – but the Martins were accused of child abuse because they regularly made their children the subject of their pranks.

Monday, 1 May 2017

MPs say social media must face fines as publishers

MPs are adding their voice to the slowly growing pressure for the social media giants to face regulation equivalent to the traditional media industries. With convergence (a newspaper is now as much a website, app, radio, TV as it is a print medium!), it seems hard to justify the social media firms escaping regulation - unless we adopt a laissez faire, ultra free market approach and scrap or radically reduce ALL media regulation (deregulate).

NB: The Home Affairs Committee is made of backbench MPs from all parties, NOT government ministers; its job is to scrutinise the work of government and to make recommendations in that policy area - just as the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media + Sport) has the Culture Select Committee scrutinising its work (they were very critical of the PCC while the government ignored or even praised it!).
Social media companies are putting profit before safety and should face fines of tens of millions of pounds for failing to remove extremist and hate crime material promptly from their websites, MPs have said.The largest and richest technology firms are “shamefully far” from taking action to tackle illegal and dangerous content, according to a report by the Commons home affairs committee.The inquiry, launched last year following the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox by a far-right gunman, concludes that social media multinationals are more concerned with commercial risks than public protection. Swift action is taken to remove content found to infringe copyright rules, the MPs note, but a “laissez-faire” approach is adopted when it involves hateful or illegal content.Referring to Google’s failure to prevent paid advertising from reputable companies appearing next to YouTube videos posted by extremists, the committee’s report said: “One of the world’s largest companies has profited from hatred and has allowed itself to be a platform from which extremists have generated revenue.”In Germany, the report points out, the justice ministry has proposed imposing financial penalties of up to €50m on social media companies that are slow to remove illegal content. 

Social media firms must face heavy fines over extremist content – MPs.