Archive for the ‘OFCOM’ tag

And if Russell Brand & Jonathan Ross had been newspaper journalists?

without comments

Suppose it had been two newspaper journalists who made the call to Mr Sachs, put the video on the newspaper’s website and published an article about it. How would the response have been different?


Well, it would have received very little coverage in the press because most papers still abide by the rule that they will not criticize one another’s behaviour – particularly on taste and decency issues (there are notable exceptions but these tend to be buried within the media sections of websites like the Guardian).

It is very unlikely it would have been picked up by the broadcasters since they too tend to avoid moralizing about members of the British press (note how little mention there has been on the BBC, for example, of the indictment of various newspapers for their McCann coverage).

Without the oxygen of publicity it is unlikely there would have been many complaints. As Martin Belam has pointed out, there were only two complaints after the original Ross-Brand broadcast on October 18th. The rest of the complaints (over 27,000 and rising) came after the broadcast was covered by the Mail on Sunday and other newspapers.

Even had people complained in their thousands, we would not have known. The Press Complaints Commission – the press equivalent of the BBC Trust or OFCOM – does not release figures about the number of complaints on a specific issue. It waits until the end of the year and then tots up the total number of complaints – and even then groups them by which clause of the editorial code they fall under (e.g. accuracy, privacy). And all complaints, excepting those from Mr Sachs and his granddaughter, would have been thrown out anyway because they would be counted as ‘third party complainants’ who are not directly affected.

And if Mr Sachs himself had complained? Or his granddaughter?

If they had complained to the newspaper there is little likelihood they would have received a response. The Federation of Poles in Great Britain wrote to the Daily Mail a few months back, complaining that the paper was deliberately encouraging discrimination against immigrants, in particular Poles and their families. It cited more than 50 Daily Mail articles that it argued contained anti-Polish sentiment (including: ‘Polish Borat claims groping women is normal in Eastern Europe’, ‘Polish immigrants take £1bn out of UK Economy’, and ‘Fears for NHS & Schools as 1,000 Polish children are born every month’). After the Daily Mail refused to respond the Polish community appealed to the PCC which arranged for a letter to be published in the paper.

And if they had complained to the Press Complaint Commission? Their complaint would have been rejected. The Commission explicity excludes taste and decency issues from its remit.

The result? If it had been two newspaper journalists there almost certainly would have been virtually no press criticism, few complaints, no apologies, no suspensions, no resignations, no inquiries, no fines.

But because it happened at the BBC? Blanket front page coverage in the national press, over 27,000 complaints, statements by the leaders of both main political parties, the suspension of both presenters (and resignation of one), an official inquiry, the potential of a significant fine for the broadcaster (to be paid out of the Licence Fee).

Written by Martin Moore

October 30th, 2008 at 9:43 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

The end of 'light touch' regulation on the net?

with one comment

OFCOM Chairman David Currie this week reiterated Andy Burnham’s comments that the time has come to extend content regulation on the net. The question is, what exactly does this mean?


When, during the Q&A at the RTS on 26th September, Burnham said he would like to “tighten up” regulation around online content, people weren’t sure if he was speaking off the cuff or letting slip a growing consensus within government. Following Currie’s comments it now looks like the latter.

This would be consistent not only with the prevalent mood for greater regulation, but with a series of parallel developments dating from pre 2008.

A couple of months back the government accepted ‘in full’ the recommendations of Tanya Byron’s review of children and the media – commissioned in 2007 and published last March (Safer Children in a Digital World). Indeed it was referred to by the DCSF, the DCMS and the Home Office as a ‘landmark report‘ and has led to the establishment of a UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCIS). This body will, amongst other things, develop new self-regulatory standards for online content (backed up by a statutory body).

Next year the wonderfully titled ‘European Audio Visual Media Services Directive’ or AVMS directive for short, will be integrated to British law. This successor to the much traduced Television Without Frontiers directive, will extend certain broadcast regulations to broadcast material on the net (including labelling and restricting access to content that “might be harmful to minors”).

And then there’s the Public Service Broadcasting review. Ostensibly this has little to do with the extension of regulation, but eventually it will have to, if only by default. If future public service broadcasting includes broadcasting on the net (which it will), then OFCOM will need to extend its remit to cover this material.

So regulation proceeds by many fronts – and given the global financial crisis one can assume the government will now be less shy about pushing forward with a regulatory agenda.

For anyone creating and publishing content on the net, watch out, here comes regulation.

Written by Martin Moore

October 16th, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

Journalism past and future?

without comments

Beside one another on my RSS feed:

“Up to 500 editorial jobs could be cut from ITV regional operations, the National Union of Journalists said today after Ofcom endorsed ITV proposals to slash its local and regional news services” (from Media Guardian)
and…
“The Teesside Gazette is to increase its roster of ultra-local contributors to 1,000 in the next year, building on the 400 it already has across 22 postcode-related sites (from Journalism.co.uk)”

Written by Martin Moore

September 29th, 2008 at 10:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Show me the money!

without comments

Back in April OFCOM launched its public service broadcasting review, bringing it forward by 2 years because it believed the crisis in funding methods was too urgent to wait.

Since then there has been an awful lot of discussion as to where the diminishing funds available for public service broadcasting will come from. What you might call a general media-wide chorus of ‘show me the money!’ Until now much of this discussion has focused on how to slice and dice the BBC’s Licence Fee (with the BBC strongly demurring of course) and very few suggestions of different ways in which to fund public service broadcasting.
Well after today, thanks to Steve Morrison (CEO of All3Media) we have some alternatives.
Morrison was speaking at one of OFCOM’s (in)famous ‘Stakeholder Events’, held at the London School of Economics this morning.  He was one of four people on a panel, each arguing the merits of one of OFCOM’s four future funding models (1. Evolution; 2. BBC only; 3. BBC & Channel 4; 4. Competitive funding).
He was arguing for model number 3 (what you might call the ‘have your cake and eat it’ model). In this scenario the BBC license fee is untouched, Channel 4 receives significant public subsidy, and there is a new ‘contestable funding pool’ of money for anyone prepared to make public service programming.
But unlike those who have previously argued the case for Model 3, Morrison had actual, tried and tested examples of potential future sources of funding. These included:
1. A sales tax on recording equipment – e.g. a 2.5% tax on MP3 players, PVRs, DVD recorders etc. (it’s not clear how/if this applies to computers/hard drives)
2. Retransmission levies – e.g. charging cable channels a small fee to rebroadcast material
3. Sales tax on other media – e.g. on cinema tickets, videos
4. A levy on broadband providers – e.g. an extra £1 on your £15 broadband bill
The difference between these and other, theoretical examples, is that each is currently in use in many other countries. The first is used in most major European countries (and raises over 500 million euros in revenue). Retransmission levies are in place in 30 European countries (according to Morrison) but not the UK. Similarly with the sales tax and levy.
These examples introduce a new dimension to the debate about the future of public service broadcasting. They reinvigorate a discussion that was becoming far too BBC-centric, and they give OFCOM new alternatives to research.
Whether there is any likelihood that, even were OFCOM to recommend one of these future funding methods, an incoming Conservative government would entertain the idea of introducing new taxes for future media provision is another question entirely. 

Written by Martin Moore

September 10th, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,