Unbalanced: radio host’s ‘mental hospital’ jibes

Talkradio host George Galloway earned a heavy rebuke for a “biased and unbalanced” show on the Salisbury poisoning affair. Ofcom found “serious breaches” of the broadcasting code. People who disagreed with his “dissident” views were dismissed as inmates of Broadmoor Hospital, which houses criminals with mental illness. Ofcom said Galloway’s fame as a radical did not exempt it from having to achieve due impartiality. Read more.

GDPR ‘no reason to withhold court lists’

Journalists protested when some courts announced they would no longer supply the media with lists of cases that were due to be heard – including charges and details of defendants – because of the General Data Protection Regulation. The Ministry of Justice quickly corrected the “misunderstanding”. Read more.

Media law trainer David Banks wrote a provocative blog post on the affair, in which he also asked why the lists are not available to the public.

BBC editor ‘not guilty’ over naming sex victim

A rape victim “went into meltdown” when she heard her identity revealed on the BBC Asian Network, a court heard. The reporter knew she had a right to anonymity but wrongly assumed the name used in court was a pseudonym. The editor who approved the script was tried for breaching her anonymity but cleared by a judge for his “honest mistake”. But the case raises several interesting points for journalism students:

  • The editor, not the BBC, was charged
  • Pseudonyms are not used in court
  • The reporter had never covered a court case – and the editor didn’t know
  • The reporter was distressed by the error
  • No BBC editor had been charged before

Note also that the case was heard by a judge, sitting in a magistrates’ court.

Had the BBC itself been charged, the outcome might have been different. Or might not.

Read the BBC report here.

Who regulates online video? And social media?

As of the middle of 2018, there was no regulator for social media in the UK, noted the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in its blog on 13 July 2018. A tricky topic: is it really feasible to regulate the content of individual users? Can platforms realistically keep on top of all the content?

Across the European Union, TV and on-demand video is regulated under the Audio Visual Media Services Directive (known as the AVMS Directive). In Britain the actual work of regulating broadcast and on-demand is carried out by Ofcom.

At the start of 2019, video on newspaper and magazine websites was not regulated by Ofcom: it fell under the ambit of the print and online regulators – IPSO for most publishers. The same was true for online-only publications signed up to IPSO.

The EU could change that.

Proliferation of multi-media content meant “newspaper websites could, in theory, start to resemble video-sharing platforms,” said the IPSO blog.

But this website notes that the ethical codes for newspaper sites are nowhere near as demanding as for broadcast media.

Read the full IPSO blog post here.

Grabbing Facebook pics falls foul of IPSO

Scraping pictures and other information from Facebook and other social media could be unethical, the former editor Chris Frost argues in a book chapter (2018). He cites a publisher saying one woman’s picture was “publicly accessible”, but the account privacy was set to “family and friends”. Another picture of a possible Manchester bombing victim was taken from a hoax account. Both resulted in IPSO rulings. Read the full chapter here.

Drone arrest couple ‘may have strong privacy case’

The 24-hour shutdown of Gatwick Airport, caused by a drone, became a media law story when a man and woman were wrongly arrested for causing the havoc – and their names were widely published. The Mail on Sunday splash headline read: “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?”

One commentator quoted by Press Gazette said their case had echoes of the coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard, for which he was awarded £210,000 damages against the BBC. He was never charged. The case reshaped the landscape regarding privacy and media freedom.

In a Guardian blog, Professor Roy Greenslade said the affair was reminiscent of the case of Christopher Jefferies, the innocent man who suffered character assassination in the media after being briefly detained in connection with a Bristol murder. But he also noted the public interest in disclosure.

The same Press Gazette report quoted Gill Phillips, the Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, warning that privacy claims were now taking the place of defamation cases – with smaller but still punitive costs involved. Privacy cases offered no defence of truth, and ambiguity over the potential defence of public interest.

Read more:

Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick drone chaos could have ‘strong’ privacy claim against newspapers in wake of Sir Cliff ruling

Couple in drone incident hit out at media coverage of arrest but press point to police farce

MPs repeat call for ‘Cliff’s Law’ to stop suspects being named before charge after Gatwick drone front pages

The press ruins Christmas for former drone suspects – Roy Greenslade