Sunday, 28 November 2010


This week's lecture was on codes of practice.

The main point about following the codes - as they are not actual laws like defamation - is that it helps to maintain a level of trust between you and the audience.

Three main bodies

1. PCC (Press Complaints Commission)

2. Ofcom: statutory body, covers broadcasting as a whole

3. BBC: has a code of its own (mainly because it is funded by the license fee)

EXAMPLE: Queengate row - led to Peter Fincham's resignation.

Why do codes matter?

1. guides us through ethical issues

2. how far to go on a story

3. guides us to do legitimate practices

4. makes us aware that circumstances can make a difference (i.e. - is it in the public interest?)

Key areas

1. ethical behaviour

2. fair treatment (e.g. - respect for privacy)

3. accuracy and impartiality (e.g. - your political affiliations should not be explicit, especially in broadcasting)

4. protecting vulnerable groups (e.g. making sure children aren't identified via jigsaw identification etc)

CODE ONE: Press Complaints Commission (PCC)

Often seen as the weakest code as it ultimately promotes self-regulation. In effect, this gives publications the license to 'make their own rules'

- Deals with 1000s of complaints per year
- Can force publications to publish apologies off the back of complaints. Always something journalists want to avoid
- A public interest defence can often override the need for a printed/broadcasted apology
- The code is still fairly effective, despite its apparent weakness


Seen as a lot stronger than the PCC as it actually has statutory powers. Ofcom can fine an organisation up to £5.6m

EXAMPLE: BBC Radio scandal involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand

Ofcom can...

- order companies not to repeat programmes
- order a correction or apology to be broadcast
- impose fines of up to 5% of revenue
- take away broadcasting licenses

Ofcom is hot on 'undue prominence' (politics). Coverage of parties has to be proportional to seats won or who has a majority. For example, WINOL covers a constituency held by the tories, so we feature that MP (Steve Brine) more than anybody. If WINOL starts to include UKIP or the Greens etc weekly on the bulletin, this would not be tolerated by Ofcom.

Impartiality is also an interesting area. It is strongly required for all broadcasters, but newspapers are allowed to subtly show their affiliation. The idea is that buying a paper is a choice, where as the tv bulletins are often there whether you like it or not.

CODE THREE: BBC Editorial Guidelines

The BBC Editorial Guidelines serve a dual purpose: to act as a manual working document to judge complaints to it and as a general guide for journalists.

It is a useful reference tool, set up lie an encyclopaedia, covering everything fincluding:
- violence in the news
- publish taste
- electoral law
- reporting of war/terrorism

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