The final question in the second-year media law test is based on a scenario – a newsroom discussion of how to cover a story, prompting various issues. The challenge is to identify the legal and ethicals issues, and say why they might apply. Three of the questions encourage you to discuss and explore the issues – as far as the time-limit allows.
For a 20-mark question, worth 40% of the total marks, you need to allow at least 35 minutes to answer – ideally more if you can.
You will be asked four questions prompted by the scenario. They’d be roughly the same whatever the scenario. They are:
- name the key areas of LAW you would consider.
- Briefly identify and discuss some of the detail of those laws that might apply here, relying on your knowledge and your law book.
- What aspects of the Editor’s Code apply here? Discuss them.
- What aspects of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code apply? Discuss them.
Below is a video to show you how you might tackle these questions. To see the scenario on which it is based (adapted from the 2018 test), scroll down the page.
You are working the early shift for a national news agency in the Midlands when your news desk receives news that a 14-year-old girl in Birmingham has been found dead by a rail line. Police have not confirmed her identity or the cause of death and say they are investigating. They will not confirm if the death is suspicious or not at this stage. The place where she is found is close to a level crossing where there have been recent reports of children playing ‘chicken’ with commuter trains. You quickly identify her name and school from social media, but can’t find her address. Your news editor tells you to take the material from social media and write a 300-word story on the girl. You are then told to go the school and question students who are going in about the dead girl to find out where she lives so you can go to the family home and track down her parents. You are also told to get a tribute from the teachers. The aim is to get a recorded statement from the family and pictures of the house. As you are about to leave, the police issue a statement from the family asking that they be left alone. Your news desk tells you to go anyway. How do you respond?
It quickly emerges that an 18-year-old man has been urging children to risk their lives playing chicken. You know that he has previously been in the youth courts for other offences. So far, police have not talked to him.
Meanwhile, your photographer colleague has been shouted at by police for taking pictures. She phones in to the office asking for advice: a police officer has taken her camera, saying she is being disrespectful, and is demanding she delete her images.