Exam date

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

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?!

Here's a lengthy summary from the website IPSOwatch (that it exists is another example of how the web can counteract to some extent the poor state of formal regulation, just like the NoMorePage3 campaign, and the StopFundingHate campaign, not to mention MPs tweeting rather than trying PCC/IPSO complaints):
Following Dr Wollaston’s complaint, The Sun admitted that it paid the child’s parents. So what did IPSO, which took over from the PCC last September, do about this flagrant breach of both journalistic ethics and the Editors’ code? It was not involved at all in resolving the complaint, which was settled through an agreement between Dr Wollaston andThe Sun. IPSO’s involvement was limited to publishing a ‘resolution statement’ on its website.
It is striking that the words ‘code breach’ do not appear anywhere in the statement, which signally failed to address any of the issues raised by the paper’s appalling behaviour. Instead of acknowledging that it broke the Code and promising not to do it again, The Sun simply said that ‘payments involving children would be signed off by the legal and managing editors’ office’ in future.
Most significant of all, perhaps, was the total failure to deal with the issue of prominence. Critics of press abuse have always argued that newspapers should not be allowed to bury corrections and apologies to front-page stories inside the paper, and IPSO has boasted about its willingness to take on editors on this point. So how did The Sun acknowledge its admitted wrong-doing in this landmark case?
In four sentences. On page two. And just to give a flavour of its non-apology, the statement began with this sentence: ‘The Sun is proud of our record of standing up for children and we believe we make a real difference’. Anyone who wants to know what the paper actually did wrong will have to follow a link to the ‘resolution statement’ on IPSO’s website.
Are errant editors quaking in their boots at the first evidence of how the new regime of self-regulation works? I very much doubt it.
In case you think that this is not representative, as IPSO were just getting started, then here's another case, with a similarly vague outcome: as the complainant agreed they were satisfied with the Mail's response IPSO did not investigate or rule on possible (actually, almost certain) breaches of clauses 1, 2 and 6 (accuracy, privacy, children). Here's IPSO's summary:
1. Rebecca Llewellyn complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), and Clause 6 (Children) in an article headlined “Pictured: 15-year-old's shocking injuries after he was attacked as he got off a bus on his way to school”, published on 14 February 2017.2. The article reported that the complainant’s 15 year old son had been physically attacked following a “bullying” incident after he had got off a bus. It included photographs of her son, with significant facial injuries. The article reported “the family of a schoolboy have released shocking pictures of his swollen and bloodied face” and continued by reporting that the photograph had been shared with his mother’s permission.3. The complainant expressed concern that the article inaccurately reported that her son had been bullied. She also said she had not given her permission for the photographs of her son to be included in the article.4. The newspaper said that its report was based on a viral Facebook post, which included the images of the complainant’s son. The newspaper said that the author of the post had stated that the photos had been shared with his mother’s permission, and several people had commented on the post saying that the complainant’s son had been bullied. It said that preceding IPSO’s involvement, the newspaper had removed the article, when the complainant had contacted them to make them aware of her concerns.
The outcome to what seems a fairly clearcut case of multiple breaches of the Editors Code? The Mail's official record of breaches will not include this: 'mediated resolution' means it is simply recorded as resolved, with no judgement made - and therefore surely no motivation to avoid further breaches if there is zero penalty? Here's IPSO again - and note the 2 month timeline, which doesn't include an IPSO investigation as there wasn't one (so not really much quicker than the PCC?):
Mediated outcome6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.7. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to write the complainant’s son a letter of regret, as well as make a donation to a charity of the complainant’s choice.8. The complainant said this would resolve his complaint to his satisfaction.9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.Date complaint received: 15/02/2017Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/04/2017 

There is another side to this, the abuse of laws to protect children to actually cover up scandal, and muzzle a free press. The royal example above, and the many others down the years, can be read as an example of press regulation favouring the privileged (though they didn't do much to protect Gordon Brown and his child even when he was PM) - that arguably comes down to an individual's political viewpoint. Singer Elton John took out an injunction to prevent publication of a story about his sexual affairs. Reporting on this was banned by the courts ... in England and Wales. It was widely reported in Scotland as well as in other countries beyond the UK, making this a farce. Elton John's argument for the injunction? To prevent damaging his children. See 'This celebrity injunction will probably rebound – a case of the ‘Streisand effect’'; and, later, 'Celebrity injunction: Privacy order protecting couple lifted by Court of Appeal'. Another example of social media/web being a more effective informal regulator?

Below there are multiple short case studies, mostly focused on how the web or advertisers are actually more powerful informal regulators than IPSO/PCC. First, take care to note the complicating factor: there are TWO press regulators!!!

Impress is a rival organisation, funded by an angry victim of a tabloid invasion of privacy - and angry multimillionaire victim. They have signed up zero national newspapers. Zero newspapers of any note whatsoever - just a few tiny online publications.

BUT - if they get a 'royal charter', Leveson's attempt to make regulation powerful but NOT statutory was to use the monarchy's ancient legal power, a clumsy notion in a 'democracy', with a threat of statutory power if this didn't work. Worse, if any regulator does get this (IPSO, and the entire national press, are - quite rightly for once - opposed to the royal charter idea), it effectively becomes law that any paper not signed up to a royal charter press regulator will have to pay the legal fees of anyone who sues them, no matter who wins, a sure recipe for bankruptcy.

TWEETS MORE POWERFUL THAN IPSO? MP tweets over S*n lies, ignores IPSO
A useful case to help argue not much has changed since IPSO replaced the failed PCC (don't forget, the PCC itself acknowledged failure, announcing its own closure). Former Deputy PM Lord (John) Prescott famously tweeted rather than complain to the PCC when he woke up to find the Sunday Times (a Murdoch paper) had made up quotes from him. Result? The article was swiftly removed (the same day), the negative publicity proving much more effective than a lengthy PCC process and ruling backed with no punitive power.

That MPs are not convinced that IPSO has changed things is reflected in another Labour MP doing the same, this time over a S*n (tabloid/red-top owned by ... Murdoch) article doing its bit to drip-feed anti-Labour (what Chomsky would see as an anti-left-wing filter) flak to its mostly working class readership, crucial in maintaining working class support for a Tory party whose policies are largely harmful to the working class.
On evening after The S*n mocked a footballer with black ancestry by comparing him to a gorilla and attacked the city of Liverpool on the eve of the Hillsborough disaster, hacks at The S*n decided to turn their fire on the Labour MP and Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon.The S*n's political editor Tom Newton Dunn attacked Burgon for supposedly joining "a heavy metal band that delights in Nazi symbols". Everything about the story is fact-averse nonsense. [SOURCE: The S*n's attempted hatchet job on Richard Burgon is spectacularly idiotic.]
A crowdfunding appeal successfully raised £100K to launch this campaign group, which has already got Lego to agree to cease advertising in The S*n, one of 3 UK national dailies identified as routinely promoting racial hatred. As referred to below in the ASA (McDonalds) case, and the successful tweets of Prescott (against the S. Times in the PCC era) and Richard Burgon (also a Labour MP, against another Murdoch paper, The S*n, this year), plus the reluctant minimal action by Facebook and Google over racist/right-wing ads (not forgetting the NoTW's closure!), advertiser power is a key informal system of regulation. Lose advertisers and bankruptcy will ensue for much of the media, giving them a very powerful position of influence (as Chomsky argues: its one of his propaganda model's 5 filters, likewise Curran and Seaton).

The NoMorePageThree campaign also used this tactic of threatening reader boycotts of advertisers. Stop Funding Hate also got Lego to stop a long-running promotion with the Mail.

THE ASA COMPARISON: Also bypassed, as McDonald's bereavement ad shows?
In poor taste ... not just the burgers, but their ads too. McD's felt compelled to pull an ad campaign showing a boy lighting up when told what McD burger his recently dead dad had enjoyed. Yes, there were complaints to the ASA, which announced it was thinking about investigating ... in which time McDs had withdrawn the ad. Score nil for the ASA then - but what's the point here?

McD's were facing a barrage of online hostility on FB and Twitter. The ASA can require an ad to be pulled, but, like IPSO, there is an issue with the speed of their response. McD's wasn't prepared to face the consumer flak, and damage to their brand, so pulled the ad before the ASA could even make up its mind whether or not to investigate (never mind make a ruling!). We've seen this with press regulation, former Deputy PM Lord Prescott tweeting about the Sunday Times making up quotes about them rather than bothering with the ineffectual PCC (the offending article was quickly pulled, something that wouldn't have happened with the PCC).

THE NEW MEDIA COMPARISON: Facebook's slack moderation
The Guardian's recent investigation into Facebook's moderation policies have exposed how lax its standards are, not least on the protection of children. It has a higher UK audience penetration than any UK newspaper - indeed, than all of them combined. For a press industry struggling to avoid bankruptcy (the Indie, now online only, and several short-lived new launches demonstrate just how tough economic conditions are for the industry) it is a legitimate argument, no matter how self-serving and convenient it may seem, that any new regulation would be unfair when their effective rivals are free of such restrictions.

Make no mistake, Facebook is a rival. Together with Google hoovering up 90% of new global online ad revenue (99% in the US), they are also profiting from users accessing newspapers within the Facebook app/site, selling on their user data for vast profit. The ad revenue they take in, boosted by users coming back to get press updates through their app/site, is not shared with the press, an argument the industry is also having with Google.

Facebook and Google are increasingly central to how we access and experience media, not least news media. If a paper or article doesn't appear in the top few results of a Google research it effectively doesn't exist, not least for the under-30s who have mostly lost the habit of buying or reading any daily newspaper. Likewise, if it's output isn't granted prominence in a Facebook user's newsfeed, alongside the latest cat videos or news of a friend's eating at a restaurant, then for many they simply disappear.
The web giants' policies therefore matter - and arguably should be regulated by national media regulators (as well as at the EU, supranational level).

THE NEW MEDIA COMPARISON: YouTube and child endangerment
Are children protected on/by YouTube? Did YOU have any difficulty in bypassing any age restrictions on there? Did YOU ever encounter any adult or disturbing material on there when younger? Few would argue its age restrictions are effective.

Then again, the BBFC acknowledge that in the online age, their age rating system cannot be completely effective - part of the reason they emphasise their BBFC Insight service, so at least parents can be informed of risks.

A recent court case, in which children were taken into care after their parents involved them in apparently traumatising and humiliating videos for their prank channels, videos that YouTube refused to take down, suggest they will not come near the BBFC's standards. The BBFC may seem to favour the studios, but they do not any direct profit motive, unlike YouTube; just like Facebook, it (and its parent company, Google) is reluctant to censor content which drives audience to them, and it has also shown reluctance to take close control of which ads appear after the outcry over neo-Nazi and other far right ads appearing. In the absence of a regulator, what pushed both to say they'd do something? Threats of organised advertiser boycotts, the very same process that saw Murdoch close the 300 year-old NoTW after the Milly Dowler revelations. Chomsky did include advertiser power as one of his five filters...

UK MPs are not impressed with the laissez faire attitude of the new media giants - and that was before the Guardian investigation uncovered the Facebook rulebook, in which Mark Zuckerberg states that they should oppose censorship as much as possible, including ignoring laws (such as Holocaust denial) when they're unlikely to be enforced. Just imagine the outcry if even Murdoch or Richard "ethics?" Desmond came out with that!
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 committeeIn 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. 
Interesting that they are clear that only fines will be effective - I wonder if those same MPs will be so firm when they are asked to review IPSO? The Labour/Lib Dem/SNP (Opposition) MPs will, but the (government party) Tory MPs, who clearly benefit from massive press support?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments and suggestions are very welcome ... but please ensure all comments are appropriate! All comments are moderated before publication. Spam will be reported