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Huddersfield 15/16 JPP Law 1

Introduction to media law

Richard Jones

on 22 September 2015

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Transcript of Huddersfield 15/16 JPP Law 1

Introduction to
media law

Today's lecture

Contact me
Email: R.L.Jones@hud.ac.uk
Twitter: @rlwjones
Blog: richardjonesjournalist.com
Office: JM3/08
Office hours: Tuesday 1:15-2:15,
Wednesday 12:15-1:15
Introduction to media law
The English legal system
Regulation of journalists
About me
These lectures
The English legal system
Regulation of journalists
Introduction to
media law

I'm going to be giving you eight lectures in this module. Six are on law.
Further reading
Today is going to be a general introduction to media law. Future lectures before Christmas will look at courts, defamation, copyright and privacy.. Next term's law session will be a refresher.
If you only buy one book during your journalism studies, I recommend you make it McNae's Law for Journalists. There are copies in the library, too.
There's some easy-to-read summaries of the key points at the BBC College of Journalism.
A good place to keep up with recent media law cases and debates is the Media Law section of the Guardian website
If you find this stuff interesting, I can recommend some media law blogs to check out and some people to follow on Twitter too. Just ask.
I'm going to teach you about key legal issues that journalists have to be aware of. But I want to make these lectures useful to you more generally, too. If you blog or tweet you need to know about the law as it applies to you.
Richard Jones
1999-02 University of Leeds
2002-08 Sky News
2006-13 Freelance
2009-13 Stay-at-home dad
2010-11 Saddleworth News
2011-13 University of Leeds
2012-13 BBC Radio 5 live
2013-date Here
We have a 'free press' in this country. But the media is not completely free to do whatever it wants. It's subject to certain laws and regulations.
"Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."
Thomas Jefferson, 1816
"With these rights, however, come responsibilities to the public interest: to respect the truth, to obey the law, and to uphold the rights and liberties of individuals."
Lord Justice Leveson, 2012
The media plays an important role in our society. It keeps the public informed on important matters, and it acts as a watchdog on those in power.
So if you're interested in being a journalist one day, or even if you just want to blog or tweet a lot, it's important you know where those laws come from, what they say, and what they allow and don't allow you to do.
Here, the BBC's Jeremy Bowen goes into harm's way to help keep the world informed about what's going on in a Syrian town. If he and his team weren't there, we wouldn't have that independent account of events.
An Australian reporter challenges this candidate in the last general election there about his policies.
The traditional sources of law are custom, precedent and statute.
Also known as 'common law'
Guidance from previous cases
Laws made by Parliament
Human Rights Act 1998:
This law was passed by Westminster, and made the European Convention on Human Rights part of UK law.
This is important for journalists.
Article 10
is the right to 'freedom of expression' but this often clashes with
Article 8
, the right to 'private and family life'. We'll talk more about this when we come to privacy.
There are two main divisions of the law: criminal and civil.
Cases involving alleged crimes, like murder, burglary, fraud and many more.
Cases involving disputes between individuals or organisations, including divorce, compensation claims and libel cases.
(Sometimes there's a bit of overlap)
When people talk about 'English' law, they mean the law of England and Wales. Laws and systems are a bit different in Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you ever want advice on the differences, I can help.
Decisions in lower courts can be challenged in higher ones. The criminal and civil courts fit together a bit like this.
We'll look at the laws, the various courts and different examples of cases in detail in future lectures.
But journalists are also subject to various regulations within their industry, as a way of maintaining good standards. There's been a huge debate over the last couple of years about the best way to do this.
Newspapers have been relatively free for a long time. Licensing of publishers through the law ended in England in 1695. So, anyone can start a printed publication at any time.
We'll talk about broadcasters and the internet in a bit. But first: newspapers and other printed publications.
In 1953, concerns over press behaviour led to a system of self-regulation being set up for newspapers, with a body called the Press Council. It was later replaced by the Press Complaints Commission, which was itself replaced last year by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
"Let's be honest. The Press Complaints Commission has failed. In this case, the hacking case, frankly it was pretty much absent... There is a strong case for saying it's institutionally conflicted because competing newspapers judge each other. As a result it lacks public confidence."
David Cameron, 2011
Supporters of self-regulation say it's the best way to keep our free press as free as possible. But critics claim having newspaper editors essentially judging each other meant the PCC was never independent enough.
"I’d rather have a troublesome, mischievous and, yes, sometimes disgraceful press, than a self-censoring and spotless one. In a free society, newspapers, providing that their facts are accurate, should be able to give a verbal kicking. It may not be pretty, but a more decorous press makes for an uglier society."
James Harding, then Times editor (now BBC Head of News), 2012
One thing about the PCC which has been carried over to IPSO is the Editors' Code of Practice. This is a set of rules which offers a good guide for how journalists should behave.
I recommend you read it.
It includes guidelines for journalists on issues such as accuracy, giving people a right of reply, privacy, harassment and several more. It also outlines a defence of 'public interest'.
You can complain to IPSO if you feel journalists have broken the code. IPSO has greater powers to impose fines and demand higher profile apologies than the PCC did.
Critics say that, under the PCC, apologies were often hidden away.
Broadcasters are regulated by Ofcom. It also has responsibility for overseeing things like phone services and the post.
One big exception is the BBC, which has its own structures. Again, these are the source of debate and may change. It could even be regulated by Ofcom in future.
If you want to set up a TV or radio station broadcasting in a conventional way, you need a licence from Ofcom. This applies whether you're ITV, The Pulse, or a small community or student station.
Ofcom has a broadcasting code. A key difference from newspapers is that broadcasters must be impartial in political matters. Ofcom has tougher powers to penalise companies that break it, including fines and even withdrawing a licence - taking a channel off the air.
The Iranian-based Press TV had its licence revoked in 2012, for broadcasting a "confession" by the high-profile pro-democracy activist Maziar Bahari, recorded under duress while he was in prison in Tehran.
So, journalists working for printed publications and traditional broadcasters have regulations which they have to take account of.
But this doesn't extend to the internet, other than for newspapers' own websites and online publishers which choose to join the regulator.
But when I set up my own local news website, I wasn't subject to the PCC or anything like that. Just the criminal and civil law we talked about earlier.
The same goes for you. If you blog, or tweet, or upload a bit of audio, or post a video to YouTube or Vine or anywhere else, it can include whatever you like, so long as it's within those criminal and civil laws.
In an era when anyone can publish things online, critics say any attempt to regulate newspapers more tightly is doomed to fail, because information will leak out anyway.
Some kind of voluntary scheme for news bloggers has been proposed. But the likes of Guido Fawkes make such a virtue of their freedom, it's doubtful whether it would be a success.
However, the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times haven't signed up for IPSO. They say it needs to prove its independence first.
Unfortunately, these lectures take place at different times and in different rooms from your normal JPP lectures. This is because of an unavoidable timetable clash. I'll remind you by email each week - please look out for these and check if you're not sure when or where to go.
There are also visits to Kirklees Magistrates' Court. You will do one each in groups, led by me either later this term or in term 2.
Now, IPSO is being firmer in demanding front page corrections by newspapers.
Full transcript