All posts by Simon Pipe

I teach journalism and media law part-time at university and spend the rest of the time, fell-running, dancing, creating. "Creating" can be taken many ways. I was a senior broadcast journalist at the BBC and a reporter, sub-editor and feature writer on newspapers before that. For five years I ran St Helena Online, a news website about the remote British island in the South Atlantic, at

Tories pass off faked video as ‘satire’

Dishonesty online is being passed off as satire and humour by political parties and activists responsible for fake videos and websites, says Alastair Reid of First Draft News in an article published by That’s his response to a video faked by the Conservative Party and then published on its official Twitter account, falsely showing Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary unable to answer a question on TV. The BBC’s Andrew Neil had to apologise for sharing a manipulated video of an SNP politician during the 2019 general election. Facebook subsequently said it would ban some deepfake political videos – but not all. It’s a hazard for journalists who need to be wary of being taken in, as happened with a fake website for US election contender Joe Biden. It’s also of interest because satire can be used as a defence in a defamation case.

Read the article here.
See Twitter reaction here.

Station breached licence when building demolished

A Christian radio station was found to be in breach of its licence when it stopped broadcasting to an area of London – because its power supplier knocked down the building from which its power was supplied, without warning. The station knew noting until it went off air. It was found to have failed to alert Ofcom, which found it to be in “serious and continuing” breach of its licence.

The case is detailed in the Ofcom Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin number 393 (December 2019), here.

Sky mic picks up swearing as batsman bowled out

A stump mic used on a Sky broadcast of an Ashes cricket match picked up the sound of a batsman swearing strongly after being bowled out. Commentator David Gower was also caught swearing when he believed his mic was switched off. Sky took action to prevent a repeat of swearing being broadcast on live TV before the watershed, including monitoring audio from mics, but was still found to be in breach of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

The episode highlights the need to anticipate problems with live broadcasts and take steps to prevent them.

The case is set out in the Ofcom Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin number 343 (December 2019), here.

Open justice advocate asks: is naming really right?

An article in the British Journalism Review makes familiar points about the threat to open justice caused by the lack of journalists in court; but then goes on to question the idea that people in court cases must always be named, especially in the digital age, when court reports remain searchable online long after print reports would have faded from memory. Academic and campaign Judith Townend says open justice should not merely mean catering to the needs of the media. Read the piece here.

Judge allows naming of school in pupil sex case

Young journalists are warned they might breach a child’s anonymity by naming the school they attend. It is routine practice to avoid doing so. But in a case involving a teacher who had sex with a public, a reporter persuaded a judge that in a large school, the risk was tiny. He said there was a strong public interest in naming the teacher – and the judge agreed. But the important thing is that the reporter warned the judge in advance. Note that in other cases, judges have decided that it is the media that must decide what is safe – and face the consequences if they are wrong. Read more.

Open justice includes court papers – sometimes

(This story makes a point about open justice that goes beyond what most students will need to know). A campaign group asked to see documents that were submitted as part of a court hearing to see if they helped in another case. The request led to a Supreme Court ruling that the principle of open justice extends to evidence submitted in a case, even if the judge did not read it. But Lady Hale also said that anyone wanting to see such evidence should expect to have to give a good reason for being given access. Any journalist applying for access is advised to quote the campaigners’ case. Read more.