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Legal and Ethical Considerations in the Media Industries (BTEC Creative Media)
Transcript of Legal and Ethical Considerations in the Media Industries (BTEC Creative Media)
in the Media Industries...
By Jake Nicholas
We will now look at the three parts in more
The three industries which I am
going to present are:
Print Media (Newspapers and Magazines)
Often regarded as one of the worst sporting disasters ever in the UK, and one of the worst in European football (eerily close to the Heysel Stadium disaster 4 years earlier).
This disaster involved 96 Liverpool and Nottingham Forest fans being crushed (to death) at the Hillsborough Stadium during the 1988-89 FA Cup semi-final.
After the disaster, several failings were found by the Taylor Report, started in 1990 (mainly because of the layout of the stadiums, which lead to the inclusion of all-seater stadiums which are seen throughout most of the top-flight football grounds)...
And the Hillsborough Independent Panel (Set up in 2012) report which showed that the media was portraying certain aspects of the disaster inaccurately and negatively portraying supporters of Liverpool FC
The Sun's infamous "The Truth issue
19th April 1989
After the disaster, several newspapers that covered the disaster published various inflammatory comments regarding the disaster. The most publicized and the most well known example of one of these newspapers was none other than The Sun, headed by former editor-in-chief Kelvin MacKenzie, who published the 19th April 1989's issue, commonly known as "The Truth"
In this issue, several comments were made about the disaster which were about the fans acting aggressive towards police, some resorting to urinating on police officers, as well as beating up officers who were actively helping people injured during the disaster.
It was later learned that these claims were not proven by the Police in the Taylor Report and that The Sun was, trying to "smear" the disaster in a bid to attract more people to buy the newspaper, which in fact, had the opposite affect as The Sun has some of its lowest readership values in the Liverpool area as many Liverpool fans, even to this day, still do not buy the newspaper
The Sun's article violated various codes from the PCC'S "Editor's Code of Practice" which outlines several guidelines to make sure that print media companies act considerable and proper.
In particular, The Sun violated the first code, Accuracy, as their claims that the fans were drunk and aggressive to police officers were not proven and were distorted, which the Code clearly states should not happen. In addition to this, they had presented the information in the article as if it was fact (in reality, it was false) which the Code clearly states that they should distinguish this clearly. Their apology was very late to the disaster, almost 23 years after the incident, which could also be in violation as their apology was rather late and only done so with looming pressure from the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
They may have also violated the fifth rule of the Code, intrusion into grief or shock, as The Sun had been quite judgmental towards the people affected by the disaster, their inquiries to the families and to the disaster were not sympathetic and the lack of discretion by the article towards those affected offended those affected.
The representation of Liverpool fans was also something which was ethically wrong. The Sun played on the "hooliganism" problem facing English football during the 1980's and portrayed the fans as drunkards and aggressive when this was not proven and in some sources, such as the BBC's coverage of the disaster, fans were very distraught about what had happened and were helping one another
Although The Sun did not break any laws regarding the Hillsborough Disaster, there were other legal cases against several figures in the Police force. That said, however, due to the unproven nature of the statements, they could be convicted under libel law, as they are publicly humiliating and inciting potential hatred on Liverpool fans who were the victims.
An example would be, David Duckenfield, a senior member of the Police, who had not only indirectly caused some of the problem by allowing fans to enter crowded areas but also provided false accounts to the FA that the fans broke in, was about to be disciplined by the Police but was abandoned on health grounds
Lessons Learned? Similar Cases?
23 years after the disaster, The Sun released an issue, titled "The Real Truth" in which they apologized about their 1989 issue and reported various findings from the Hillsborough Independent Panel, one of which suggested that 41 people could have been saved.
Rupert Murdoch urged Kelvin MacKenzie to say sorry in which he did say sorry during the 2012 HIP inquiry, as well as James Murdoch saying sorry during the Leveson Inquiry.
The handling of the Hillsborough Disaster highlighted the Sun's irresponsibility towards the handling of bereaved families and their headlines, which marked an end to their opinionated and often inflammatory headlines during the 1980's going onto the 1990's.
This whole case about how the media handled the Hillsborough Disaster has eerie lessons which, even to this day with the phone hacking scandal, have not been learned. It is similar to that case as the media failed to abide by the PCC's Code that promotes ethical journalism but unlike this case, they had violated several laws as well
Unlike many other countries, particularly Communist countries such as China as well as countries that experience or have experienced entire military control over the country, such as Burma or Argentina during the 1980's, the UK has never actually had any legal laws which restrict the press to ensure that it is truly "free". That said, however, there are still considerations that are taken into account.
The first consideration is that of the UN and European Commission's Human rights laws. In the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 19 states that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Which is also similar to the EC Human Rights article 10, "Expression" which outlines the freedom to express opinions and ideas without persecution but being subject to laws of the country.
What's the difference between...
Ethical and legal?
Ethical = Moral
Although something may not be defined by hardline laws, ethical considerations are done to guide people and companies to make sure they are conducting theirselves in a considerate manner
Legal = Legislation
Legal considerations are when people or companies consider potential laws which affect their industry and whether or not they are within or breaking that law.
Unlike Ethical considerations, conviction is a potential consequence if companies fail to uphold the law
The media does not have a special legal "value" or "exceptions" and most of the laws which are used to regulate it are the same laws which would be used to convict normal people, which is one of the main reasons why no special laws have been made specifically for the press
That said however, the press are not allowed to:
- Record or take photos of real court proceedings in the UK. That is why when real court proceedings are talked about, they tend to use drawings to enact what had happened in court (which are called Courtroom sketch) (http://www.courtartist.com/drawings/)
- The media are not allowed to alter the course of justice by publishing "potentially" influential information or publish any information which may be used to identify people involved in the case, whose identity is being kept secret by the Court
-They are not allowed to ruin people's reputations by inaccurate and unfair reporting. In addition to this, they are subject to Libel Law which means that they are also not allowed to ruin people's job standing, expose people to shame or ruin their reputation as mentioned earlier.
Instead of legal law...
The press follow the Press Complaint Commission's Editor's Code.
These are 16 carefully laid out rules which the press are encouraged to follow which include:
Opportunity to reply,
Intrusion into grief or shock,
Special regard towards Children, +
Special regard for Children in sex cases, +
Reporting of crime, +
Clandestine Devices and Subterfuge, +
Victims of Sexual Assault,
Witness Payments in criminal trials,
Payment to criminals, +
(+ Rules can all be circumvented if it is in the public interest, which could include exposing a crime, protecting national security and protecting the general public from being mislead by an action or statement by a person or company)
What was it about?
During the late 70's and early 80's, the home video format was relatively new. At this time, there was no regulation, in terms of age rating, towards films that were for tape. This led to a variety of films, mainly in the horror genre that were low-budget and were often characterized by extreme graphic violence and sexual references, that were later known as the "Video Nasties".
These consisted of a list of films, 72 in total, which the Director of Public Prosecutions (Sir Thomas Hetherington in 1984) and out of them 39 were banned outright. This was due to the looming pressure from the shocked British public which led a famous social activist Mary Whitehouse to speak out against these films, resorting to showing Conservative MP's (in power at the time) various scenes from these films in order to shock them at their 1983 conference in Blackpool.
But due to the BBFC's relaxing of the criteria in the last decade (which they do every four years to reflect the general public's views), many of the films in the list were released either heavily cut under an 18, or for some even not being allowed to be distributed
Any Legal Lessons Learned?
Arguably, without the "Video Nasties" scare, the Video Recordings Act of 1984 would probably not have been made a law in the first place, the BBFC would have not been put in charge of regulating films for audiences and future potentially harmful films would have never been accounted for, thus making the public vulnerable
The Video Recordings act highlighted the need for a universal regulating body that would regulate films as previous to this, different Local Authorities had different requirements for film classification. What the Act did was make the BBFC out of the former British Board of Film Censors and allow them to classify video recordings in age rating, separates the classification process for home and theatrical releases (with home releases being more stringent).
Although this was a big step for film regulation, there were a few loopholes however. Video recordings which were for educational usage or promoted either sport, religion or music then it was generally exempt but if it did not feature elements such as violence, bodily functions or criminal behavior that could be imitated.
Nevertheless, the Video Recordings Act of 1984 highlighted the need for guidelines and age ratings so that films reach their intended audiences without causing harm to those watching.
The 1980's for film was a major time for the film industry. The Films Act of 1985
had stopped the Eady Levy, which a percentage of box office earnings were pumped
into the British film production. That said, the 1980's was a rather hard time for the
BUT WAIT, That's not all!
Fritz the Cat:
Dead Man's Shoes
This is England:
During the course of the film, Fritz the Cat unethically portrays black people or black characters in a negative light. Some of these portrayals included the majority of the characters being depicted as Crows (as seen on the left), a female drug-dealer giving Fritz drugs as well as gangsters as seen on the left.
Although these portrayals could be justified by mentioning that the story is in the 60s, where black equality was not as good as it is now or that it is the director's style as he did another controversial film Coonskin, this still does not back up the fact that the film is racist and could be prosecuted under the Race Relations Act of 1976 as it clearly discriminates black people from other "white" anthropomorphic characters.
But because the film was released in 1972, it could not be prosecuted as laws cannot prosecute retrospectively.
Disability and its portrayal in this film, is somewhat controversial. During the course of the film, the protagonist's brother is abused by several others, by the means of spitting, rape and physical violence against him as he is defenseless and due to this constant bullying, he hangs himself in the end.
This film, however, does have some good attributes as well. The protagonist generally cares for his diseased brother and is constantly talking to him in his unconscious which is a good representation, in my opinion.
Out of all 3 of the film examples, this film's portrayal of people of an South Asian decent is the most publicized and known by people in the UK.
Due to the film being about Skinheads in the 1980's, during a time where the National Front (BNP now) were starting to get well known in the Midlands, there are quite a lot of scenes in which people that are a different race than that of "white" are being ridiculed, but each into a different extent.
The shop scene was possibly the most shocking, with the Skinheads robbing the store and constantly harassing the shop owner, calling him "Paki bastard" and "Paki cunt". In addition to this, they also vandalized his shop by spray painting similar words on the left side of the shop. There is also another incident involving an Asian person, which the Skinheads take
a young boys ball and threaten him with a machete.
Canis Canem Edit/ Bully
Controversy surrounding Bully
This game's controversy was a sad case of the reputation of the Rockstar Games series Grand Theft Auto and people trying to associate the "adult" nature of the game onto this, slightly lower-key, game.
One of the major issues was that of the games name, Bully. This caused a lot of controversy as the games initial screenshots depicted the main character, a teenage boy hitting fellow students, giving others "swirlies" (an act where people dunk a persons head in a toilet bowl while it is flushing) and gave the impression that the player would be the bully when, in actual fact, the player tries to stop bullying throughout the story.
Another issue in the story is that of sexuality, which is present throughout the game. The protagonist can have relationships with girls as well as boys in the game. In addition to this, there is a mission in the game where the gym teacher requests panties from teenage girls bedrooms while obtaining pornography, a mission where you have to take photographs of a teenage girl in a shower.
General misbehaviour is seen throughout the game and the player is able to misbehave all the time. That said, however, when caught the player gets punished often doing boring and often long tasks.
In the UK, Bullying is a major problem. According to the NSPCC website's 2011 bullying figures, it states that around 46% of young people and children said that they were bullied at least once.
It was the reason that the player could be a bad behaving student and "potentially" a bully, that had PC World, Currys and Dixons pull the games from their shelves. With the main reason being that the game does not comply with the family-friendly image of their companies. This was somewhat hypocritical as they stock more violent and adult games such as Grand Theft Auto IV which also goes against their family friendly image, But due to the age of the character being that of just a teenager, they thought that it was needed as a minor may be more inclined to imitate what's on screen.
It was the same reason being that the majority of characters are school children, that Keith Vaz, an outspoken member of the Labour Party against controversial video games, suggested that the game should be banned as this could be imitated by young children and potentially encourage young children to do this in real life.
In the same BBC article the director of Bullying Online Liz Carnell, said that the subject matter of the game was not appropriate (being that he impression that the game is about bullying, when the game actually counters this) and that video games should not cover this
Legal Issues overseas
Like a lot of the games in the Rockstar Games catalog, they have been subject to some controversy which, the majority of the time are people voicing concerns about the game. But in other cases, some games like Bully and Grand Theft Auto, have had legal cases being brought forward against them
One such case, happened in the United States. Before the games release in 2005, Jack Thomson who was a former lawyer in Florida (and was ironically disbarred through a video game case later in his career) turned video game activist had gained support from an activist group, Peaceoholics, and on August 5th 2005 had protested outside of Rockstar Games headquarters. Among many of the demands (many of which were directly aimed at the GTA series), one of the such demands asked:
"Not to release Bully under any circumstances"
Not so long after Jack Thomson also wrote a letter to Bill Gates about Bully, which quotes:
"Dear Mr. Gates, You have fifty-four (54) days in which to stop the release of Bully on XBOX. Govern yourself accordingly. Sincerely, Jack Thompson"
He had also done a petition to a Florida court which stated:
"[Bully] will be used by school-age children to rehearse varying levels of retributive violence in their schools, and that there will be a heightened likelihood that such retributive violence will occur in the Miami-Dade schools as a result...Plaintiff has, in writing, asked the defendants not to sell Bully...The defendants refuse to respond to this plea. Once the game Bully is released to the public, 'the horse will be out of the barn' and it will be too late to close the door...Sales...of Bully will constitute a public nuisance, because the sale of this game will..."tend to annoy the community or injure the health of the community, or become manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people."
In October of 2005, he had taken the game to court which he had asked for the game to be observed by the court to see if it could be tried under the nuisance law of Florida which two days later the judge had said that the game was ok to be shipped. He quoted that "There's nothing in the game that you wouldn't see on TV every night" and also mentioned that although he would not allow his children to play the game, he thought that this should not be banned from shipping.
Jack Thomson, after hearing that the game was given the go ahead, shouted abuse to the judge and to
representatives of Rockstar Games.
In Brazil, however, the game was banned under judge Flavio Rabelo as the game was thought to be harmful to teenagers and adults with a daily fine of 1,000 Brazillian Real for those caught with it
Although Bully was banned overseas and caused light controversy, a fellow Rockstar game Manhunt 2 caused quite a stir over here...
The 2007 Rockstar Games game Manhunt 2's original game was banned (and is still banned) by the BBFC, under the Video Recordings Act 1984 as it posed a harm risk to minors and adults, as they stated that the game:
"Distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game"
After a modified version of the game was resubmitted to the BBFC, who also rejected this version in October 2007 as it did not go far enough to address the problem, Rockstar Games appealed, using the Video Recordings Act 1984 through the Video Appeals Committee which the VAC supported.
In addition to this, the BBFC saw the VAC's judgment of "error of law" to be wrong and took this to the Judicial Review in the High Court which agreed that the VAC's judgment was wrong and overturned it.
The appeal was then given again on the grounds that the modified version should be
given an 18 which the BBFC then gave as they saw that challenging the decision was not realistic
UK Laws on Video Games
The Video Recordings Act of 1984 has been mentioned throughout the presentation and is one of the important laws affecting video games as it restricts games on age rating in terms of the game's content. But before the BBFC took over the rating of video games, a previous ratings system was done in the UK by the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association or ELSPA (which was rebranded to UKIE). ELSPA with the Video Standards Council started rating games in 1994 but later handed it over in 2003 to the BBFC.
Unlike the BBFC's later rating system, the ELSPA/VSC ratings system was not only voluntary, it was exempt from the Video Recordings Act which meant that its only role was to advise parents if a game was suitable for their children.
In addition to this, the VSC had maintained a Code of Practise for retailers (which it still practices today) which mixes law, business and common
practice. Among these rules include upholding the Video Recordings
Act, must not trade illegal goods and making sure that they do not reach
After the BBFC handed over the role of video game ratings in the Summer of 2012 for PEGI, it has been the uniform video game ratings system in the UK but when a game is potentially going to be classed as an R18, the BBFC would take over the classification of the video game. After PEGI took control, the Video Standards Council operates under the name of Games Rating Authority and enforces the ratings in the UK.
Future for Video Game Regulation
Ever since the birth of humanity, we have always been debating and arguing the good points and the bad and would it be ethical? That will always be the same now and forever, but with legal documents stating certain guidelines on what is and what is not law and new ways to circumvent these being done on a daily basis, will it be possible to uphold the law on something that is constantly changing?
This is a potential problem for gaming, film or any other copyrighted content. As more and more people are opting for online alternatives to purchase or download file-shares of copyrighted content like video games and less are buying their games in physical form, it would be harder to regulate and to constantly monitor whether people are downloading content which is either against the law, the person is underage or that the content is being shared Illegally.
One way could be censorship or restriction, but that like the Birth of Venus being censored would ruin many of the good parts that are in the bundle of uncertainty such as the Internet...but less aggressive approaches are out there
Digital Rights Management is one such way to stop piracy, which is one of the major problems in the games industry. It works by limiting what the user can do to a set of privileges on the software which usually involves locking it to a computer, console, program or another storage medium which the initial download and install took place. This is seen in Music with the advent of iTunes, with the music bought through their store being in a particular format (MP4) which a lot of players struggle to play
This is the same for gaming through the use of Steam, which is for the PC platform. It usually works by the user having to have Steam to run the game, the files being downloaded to the computer and restricting it to that person's Steam Account and computer. This still allowed for piracy as the potential hacker could circumvent the privileges.
Another platform which circumvents DRM as it is on "the cloud" is that of OnLive which allows the player to play games without downloading anything to their computer, which eliminates the possibility of a hacker rewriting the privileges as the game is online.