Archive for April, 2007

Regulation moves online?

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Ed Richards’ little reported speech last week to the Voice of the Listener and Viewer seems more intriguing in the light of the furore over the screening of Seung Hui Cho’s video.
In the old world, the chief exec of OFCOM said, newspapers could only print still photographs “with little power to shock”. On television, video was shown “in part”, “in context” and “in an OFCOM-regulated environment”. Now you can see video in its entirety, without context, in the unregulated environment of the net.
Though Richards used the example of the footage of Saddam Hussein’s execution he might as well have been talking about the Cho video.
“So we will need to establish” Richards concluded, “some core principles to underpin a new model of content regulation for the longer term”.
Is OFCOM re-thinking it’s ‘hands-off’ approach to the internet?

Written by Martin Moore

April 23rd, 2007 at 5:25 pm

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The Frontline Club – foreign news reporting & the Cho video

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At the Frontline Club last night to hear Harriet Sherwood, foreign editor at the Guardian, and Leonard Doyle, foreign editor at the Independent, talking about foreign news reporting. John Owen, chairing the discussion, opened with questions about the coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre – and the decision to screen the killer’s film.
It was a shame there was no broadcast editor on the panel since neither newspaper ‘broadcast’ the Cho video, but the Guardian did feature the link prominently on its website. Both news editors felt showing the video was a no-brainer and that it would have been ‘barmy’ not to.
But there was a voice of dissent from the audience. Paul Wood, the BBC’s defence correspondent, remembered that there were a spate of beheadings in Iraq three years ago – many of which were covered (and some screened) on western media, including the BBC. Until, that is, they discovered the beheadings were being carried out for the very reason that they guaranteed the killers worldwide media coverage. The coverage was the catalyst.
One must assume, given Cho’s imitation of the film Oldboy, and his pre-planned Fedex to NBC, that he too desperately wanted worldwide coverage and infamy. Now he has it. And we have a powerful and dangerous model for the next alienated loner with access to guns.
Would it not be better to make a distinction between the editorial decision to broadcast such a video on a news programme you know will be watched by millions vs. making a link available on a website – with corresponding context – and therefore clearly devolving the decision to watch to the user?
[Since my post yesterday Peter Horrocks, head of the BBC's TV news, has posted an explanation of his decision on the editors blog. The majority of the comments beneath take issue with his decision].

Written by Martin Moore

April 20th, 2007 at 8:38 am

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Whether to screen the Cho video

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Chris Shaw, the controller of news and current affairs at Channel 5, raises questions about the ethical dimension of broadcasting the Virginia Tech killer’s video in his comment piece for Media Guardian. Though he concludes that news organisations did not have much choice but to show the material, ‘the implications’ he writes, ‘are quite scary’.
If these questions or implications occured to other news editors, they clearly dismissed them pretty quickly. The Guardian (‘See the video’), The Telegraph (The killer’s video), The Times (The Cho video), the Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Sun, Sky and the BBC all lead with the story and links to the video. The Sun goes for the particularly unpleasant headline ‘Video Nasty – Maniac records video message – then kills 32 of his fellow students – watch video – click here’.
The Independent and the Express don’t have the video link, but one suspects that may be due to technical constraints rather than ethical dilemmas (the FT has neither the video nor the lead). Interestingly the BBC expresses no qualms about leading with the story and promoting the link, neither does it raise the ethical angle on its editors’ blog – I guess this means they didn’t discuss it. Whether one agrees that the video be broadcast or not, it’s an aspect of new media that won’t go away (remember Saddam’s execution?) and we should at least debate where the parameters lie.

Written by Martin Moore

April 19th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

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The benefits of a little distance

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Coverage of the French elections shows how a little distance can be a good thing in political reporting. Many UK newspapers have given context, perspective, and genuine insight to France’s most important election in two decades. John Lichfield has been given the space and time to tour the country, taking the temperature in Normandy, Fontenay-sous-bois, and Lorraine to date; and preluding his tour with a 3,500 word piece last Saturday. In the Observer Jason Burke scoots around France also on the lookout for bellwether towns. The Telegraph and the BBC both have decent background and basic facts.
It’s a great shame the Telegraph has got rid of Colin Randall and has no blogger across the Channel (Randall now blogging here). But then neither does the Independent or the Guardian (or not since 20 March). The Times is the only exception where Charles Bremner’s daily diary gives an idea of the rising political temperature. Elections need blogging like teenagers need texting and the dearth of them is surprising.
But generally reporting in the broadsheet press has been extensive and measured. Compare it, for example, to the sparse and unstructured coverage in the NY Times, or even the International Herald Tribune. What a remarkable contrast to the frantic cynicism that characterises much of the coverage of British politics.

Written by Martin Moore

April 18th, 2007 at 3:33 pm