Aug 18 2014

Media Plurality in the UK: Where Do We Go From Here?

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256 Chris Dawes, an industry veteran and Senior Visiting Fellow at the LSE,  analyses the Government’s recent response to the report into media plurality by noting the challenges of measuring plurality, examining possible next steps for Ofcom, and arguing that competition law and public interest assessments may prove to be the key tools in regulating media influence.  The Government published on 6 August its response to the House of Lords’ Select Committee on Communications Report into Media Plurality, which was published on 4 February.

The main conclusion of the response is to proceed as proposed in July 2013, i.e. to “commission the development of a clear measurement framework, to be worked up in partnership with industry”. Or perhaps that’s one step back. A long and detailed analysis and consultation and further analysis seem likely, in order subsequently to “allow for the first ever baseline market assessment of media plurality in the UK to be conducted”. Continue reading

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Aug 11 2014

A Predictable Act of Political Cowardice: The Government’s Response on Media Ownership

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Professor Steven BarrnettWe’ve briefly come back  from our summer recess (until August 18) to share this response from Steven Barnett, Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster, who is directing an AHRC funded project on Media Power and Plurality. His detailed analysis of government policy inaction, co-authored with Judith Townend, has just been published in The Political Quarterly: And What Good Came of it at Last’ Press–Politician Relations Post-Leveson.  In this post he argues that the recently published Government response to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications Report into Media Plurality is another act of political cowardice in the ongoing media plurality debates.

If one week is a long time in politics, three years are an eternity. Remember those heady days in July 2011, as the phone-hacking scandal broke and unanimous condemnation from our political leaders’ reflected public revulsion? It wasn’t just the criminal acts targeting young or vulnerable victims that prompted a popular outcry, but the manifest abuse of untrammelled corporate power that had allowed one company to get away with it for so long. Something, they all agreed, must be done.

Speaking in the House of Commons just days after the hacking scandal broke, David Cameron was explicit about the need for action: “[the] challenge is how we address the vexed issue of media power. We need competition policy to be properly enforced. We need a sensible look at the relevance of plurality and cross-media ownership…. never again should we let a media group get too powerful.” In the same debate, Ed Miliband was specific about the policy changes required to deal with abuses that arise from media concentration: “The [Communications] Act needs to be updated as such a concentration of power is unhealthy.” Continue reading

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Jul 31 2014

Summer Reading from The Media Policy Project …

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Damian_Tambini_4489 croppedAt the Media Policy Project we are often asked for readings by those wishing to get up to speed on complex policy issues. This is why we produce our policy briefs and idiots guides. Recently, we have had several requests for briefing on press regulation. As we will be taking a break until 18 August, in a departure from our usual short blog format, Damian Tambini provides A Short Essay: Summer Reading on Press Reform.

Press Reform in the UK is stalled. With referendum and election shimmering on a distant, sunlit horizon, and the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) strolling around in the Long Grass, this summer holiday is a time for some longer term reflection.

For those that want to get up to speed on the technical detail of post-Leveson reform, this blog post is still current and there is a reading list here. We have published three policy briefs related to Leveson implementation; these, and our archive of blog posts explain why the reforms that were recommended by Leveson are incomplete.

If a reading list from the Media Policy Project sounds a bit heavy for the poolside then have no fear. At LSE Media Policy we believe summer holidays are (also) for novels. These, I would argue, are indispensable if we are to understand the deeper reasons for the current impasse.

Leveson, Politics and the Press: Why Trollope Matters

When Michael Gove was asked by Leveson for his thoughts on inappropriate closeness in relations between politicians and the press, his answer was ‘Twas Ever Thus’. Gove might have changed his views about matters of political presentation since then of course, but I have been wondering about his appeal to perpetuity. Everything has a beginning, including press power. Continue reading

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Jul 30 2014

Four Things Policy Makers Need to Know about Social Media Data

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emcphersonYesterday the UK Parliament’s House of Lords Communications Committee reported on its Inquiry into Social Media Offences such as revenge porn and cyberbullying. In the meantime in the other House, the Science and Technology Select Committee continues is looking into more productive uses of social media, namely data gathering and real time analytics. The use of social media in this way is not straightforward either though. Ella McPherson of the University of Cambridge, who has given evidence to the Committee, tells a cautionary tale and sets out four points she argues policy makers should understand about social media and analytics.

I recently gave evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.  This was based on written evidence co-authored with my colleague, Anne Alexander, and submitted to their ongoing inquiry into social media data and real time analytics.

Both Anne and I research the use of social media during contested times; Anne looks at its use by political activists and labour movement organisers in the Arab world, and I look at its use in human rights reporting.  In both cases, the need to establish facticity is high, as is the potential for the deliberate or inadvertent falsification of information.  Similarly to the case that Carruthers makes about war reporting, we believe that the political-economic, methodological, and ethical issues raised by media dynamics in the context of crisis are bellwethers for the dynamics in more peaceful and mundane contexts. From our work we have learned four crucial lessons that policy makers considering this issue should understand: Continue reading

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Jul 28 2014

Seven Things You Should Know About the ICO’s Big Data Report

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ICO_Carl_WiperCarl Wiper, a Senior Policy Officer in the ICO’s Policy Delivery department, explains big data in layman’s terms, when data protection laws apply, and argues that data protection principles already established in the UK and EU law are flexible enough to cover big data.

Big data is a hot topic at the moment, with businesses, scientists and governments all keen to see what benefits it can offer. But big data is not a game that is played by different rules. If it involves personal data, you need to follow the Data Protection Act. The ICO’s report gives our perspective as the regulator of that law.

1. What big data is

Big data is often defined by the so-called ‘three Vs’: volume, variety and velocity: big data typically uses massive datasets, brings together data from different sources and can be used to analyse data in real time. But it is difficult to produce a watertight definition. Big data has been described as a phenomenon rather than a technology, and that’s a useful distinction.

2. Why the ICO cares

Some big data won’t use personal information at all – for instance when using climate data. That doesn’t concern us. But if big data uses personal information, such as data from social media or loyalty cards, then the ICO is interested. Using personal data brings legal obligations under the Data Protection Act, and that’s regulated by the ICO. Continue reading

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Jul 25 2014

The Final Media Policy Meme: #popleveson Made Light of UK Press Inquiry

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This season of Media Policy Memes will end with an example of parody-based user generated content that brought UK’s press regulation debate to the forefront of social media. The #PopLeveson Twitter Hashtag trend was born in the midst of the 2012 Leveson Inquiry.

In parody, Twitter users imaged an alternate trial in which Lord Justice Leveson and Robert Jay QC cross-examined famous pop stars using their own lyrics.

Twitter users mocked the trial proceedings, and the famous style of “no-nonsense” Robert Jay QC, by placing famous pop icons as witnesses and cross-examining them with lyrics from their own songs.

Participating “Tweeters” cross-examined each artist with “the Leveson treatment”, with a judicial examination based on their own song lyrics. The musicians who “stood trial” on Twitter included the likes of Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Bob Geldof, and The Beatles.

Thousands of people took part in this trending hashtag, including BBC correspondent Robert Peston, spin doctor Alastair Campbell and ex-deputy PM John Prescott.

#PopLeveson has even earned a place as one of Twitters funniest hashtags, with an Eponymous book named in its honour.

Some highlights from the #popleveson Hashtag:

Justice Leveson

But I put it to you that not all Mondays are entirely unsatisfactory, are they Mr Geldof? #popleveson.

Alastair Campbell ‏ @campbellclaret
Mr Mercury, if you put a gun against his head, pulled the trigger and now he’s dead, then a guilty plea might save time #popleveson

Dave Turner  ‏ @ArmyofDave
You may call it ‘sexual healing’, Dr Gaye, but I contend that some would consider it ‘serious medical malpractice’.  #popleveson Continue reading

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Jul 25 2014

Another Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression….And?

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Kailey Fuller-JacksonAs we pointed out last week, many international indicators show a lack of improvement in the protection of freedom of expression across the globe. Recently the UN and several other international organisations produced an updated Joint Declaration calling for Universal Freedom of Expression with assistance from Article 19 and the Centre for Law and Democracy. Kailey Fuller-Jackson, an MSc candidate at the London School of Economics argues that this declaration leaves too much room for impinging on freedom and will be of limited use in countries where national level protections are not already in place.

On 6 May, 2014, Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression (FoE), in conjunction with the African Union, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released a new Joint Declaration on the Universality and Right to Freedom of Expression. This document was anticipated, given the Joint Declarations produced regularly on Freedom of Expression since 1999. Each year the declaration expresses specific values and foci, with last year’s supporting the digital terrestrial transition.

2013 v. 2014

2013: Digital Terrestrial Transition 2014: Universality of Freedom of Expression
An emphasis on the inherent need for the free flow of information as a measure of democracy and social participation An emphasis on the core value of FoE as a human right that is essential to cultural, philosophical, and religious traditions
Concern over commercial and political interests dominating policy-making discussions to the impediment of the digital transition Concern over justifications of violations to FoE such as cultural and traditional values, moral or religious beliefs, or threats to public order
Caution over the possibility of the digital transition exacerbating the concentration of ownership and control in broadcast media, and potential to increase the digital divide if poorly executed Highlighting the ability of FoE violations to further marginalise minorities and act as a warning for larger human rights and security issues
Policy-making towards digital terrestrial transition must be strategized to maximise public interest and be implemented by a third-party non-biased regulatory body Recognition of a state’s right under international law to restrict FoE under certain cultural or traditional circumstances (Section 1D), but maintains this should not unduly impose on human rights
State policies and licensing should promote media diversity and encourage the growth of community/local broadcasting services A call for the abolition of specific types of laws that are stated to not be excused by cultural or traditional circumstances (Section 1F)

Continue reading

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Jul 22 2014

The Future of the BBC: the Burning Issue of Diversity Behind & on Screen

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Shaku & MyriaSome heated discussions in the UK Parliament’s ongoing Inquiry into the Future of the BBC have highlighted the continued problem the broadcaster has with representing the country’s minority groups. LSE’s Shakuntala Banaji and Myria Georgiou argue that the problem is not just an issue of training individuals, but needs to be considered in the context of prejudice in society and structural barriers.

Over the years we’ve heard a number of explanations for the lack of diversity within British media. Are Black, Asian and Middle Eastern (BAME) youth not talented or skilled enough or getting the right career advice to make it in the mainstream media? Are they being held back by community stereotypes within BAME families which position acting, film and media as professions well below accountancy, law, medicine and finance? Or might the fall in diversity both on- and off-screen reflect an increasing racism in British society as some have argued? Debates on these questions will intensify in the build up to the BBC Charter review.

Defining the diversity problem

The truth is that the representation of diversity on screen and in media production and management is now in a worse state than it was 10 years ago. The increase in casualization of media work, the decrease of funding for development of diverse programming in public broadcasting, and limited questioning of the way media organisations are run have been detrimental for diversity in the media. BBC Director General Tony Hall recently responded to this reality by announcing the corporation’s intention to invest in training diverse talent, but the comedian Lenny Henry has argued publicly that blaming BAME for not being trained does not address the problem. What Henry emphasised is that a startling number of so-called initiatives have resulted in worsening diversity statistics.

Dealing with this issue requires policy makers to address three difficult but crucial areas: Continue reading

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Jul 21 2014

Biometrics Please! Automated Border Controls & Data Protection Obligations

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ICRI logoDiana Dimitrova, a legal researcher at ICRI, KU Leuven, focuses on privacy, data protection, and border control in the framework of the FastPass project. In this post she argues that the automation of border control in the EU increases the data protection obligations of the respective authorities and necessitates legislative changes.

Most Member States of the EU are members of the Schengen Area. In other words, they must carry out border checks in accordance with the Schengen Borders Code (SBC). The check includes, inter alia, the presentation of a travel document and establishment of link between the travel document and the passenger (i.e. identity verification). The nature of this verification, however, changes when the process is automated.

Recently, border control has become increasingly automated. For example, when flying in and out of the Schengen Area, but also in and out of the UK, there are e-Gates for Automated Border Control (ABC). Although ABC is implemented differently across the EU, e-Gates usually allow passengers to scan their passports and to present their face, fingerprints or even iris for identity verification. These are called biometric identifiers.

Processing sensitive personal data at borders

ABC results in the automated processing of (biometric) data and thus brings along more responsibilities to the respective authorities as controllers of passenger data. Continue reading

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Jul 18 2014

Media Policy Meme 7: Symbolizing the Battle for Free Press

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Despite the opportunities afforded by online platforms, there is evidence that freedom of expression and particularly freedom of the press has not been improving across the globe, and that often this is a reflection of state policies. Reporters Without Borders said its most recent World Press Freedom Index is a “reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term”. A UNESCO report released last month found that progress on press freedom has lost momentum citing particularly the “rise of new challenges such as internet censorship and the use of national security and anti-terrorism laws”.  This week’s media policy meme has become a dominant symbol for free speech in silent protests around the world.

Supporting press freedom. Photo by mobiledisco CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While many different types of protestors have used the tactic of putting tape over their mouths, the use of black tape is specifically associated with journalists worldwide in support of freedom of the press. One example that has attracted a lot of attention is the recent imprisonment of Al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt on terrorism-related charges stemming from an interview with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood sparked an international outcry.

In February 2014, Al Jazeera called for a Global Day of Action to support the release of the journalists who were jailed in Egypt for months without trial. Members of the press and others in 40 locations around the world staged vigils for the cause, many of them wearing the signature black tape. On 24 June 2014, in London, BBC staffers were joined by colleagues from across the media in protest of the continued detainment of these journalists.

The notion of journalistic freedom has become a complicated policy issue in light of government surveillance, media ownership concentration, and a variety of  issues under the umbrella of Internet governance. Still, in many parts of the world governments are still using national security as a justification to stifle journalists.

Tweet us your thoughts on the issue to: @LSEMediaPolicy


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