Tag Archives: House of Lords

Lord Black: Teacher reporting restrictions ‘unprecedented, unnecessary and unworkable’

Speaking in the House of Lords on Tuesday, Lord Black of Brentwood, who is also executive director of the Telegraph Media Group, raised his concerns about Clause 13 of an education bill, which would introduce reporting restrictions on alleged teacher misconduct.

Addressing the House Lord Black said he feared he would be “a lone voice” in raising what he felt were “serious repercussions for freedom of expression and the rights of children”.

First, it is unprecedented because it gives to a particular group of professionals a right that no one else enjoys. Yes, it is appalling if a teacher is falsely accused of a crime-and I take to heart the comments of my noble friend Lady Perry – but that happens in other careers involving children, too. If this reaches the statute book, who really believes that the move towards greater secrecy in the justice system will stop there? We had a glimpse of that in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. The GMC has already started a campaign arguing that doctors called before its disciplinary committee to answer charges of abusing a patient should not be identified. Interfering with the media’s ability to report in this way is therefore profoundly dangerous-the thin end of a wedge that will lead inexorably to much wider reporting restrictions that will undermine the long-held principle that, for justice to be effective, it must be open and transparent.

Those principles exist for good reason because not all criminal misconduct is prosecuted. Teachers accused rightly of assaults might never be charged by the police due to lack of evidence or because of failure to take a whistleblower seriously. A teacher might be dismissed from a school and, for whatever reason, the school and those involved want no publicity. Allowing him or her indefinite anonymity has frightening implications for the welfare of children. As I understand it, it would also be an offence to name a teacher accused of a crime even if he or she were identified at an inquest or in a civil court action. The media or a parent would have to apply to another court to lift the reporting restrictions, as would anyone who wanted to publish the findings of an official inquiry. In an open society, that cannot be right.

He closed by urging the Government “to think again”, and if they press ahead to amend the current bill to include the provision of a public interest defence and the exemption of courts and other statutory bodies from the automatic restrictions.

Hatip: The Newspaper Society

FT.com: Digital chiefs challenge House of Lords digital economy bill amendment

A letter to the Financial Times signed by some of the highest digital figures in the UK challenges the House of Lords adoption of amendment 120A to the digital economy bill.

This clause, they argue, will lead to more cases where internet service providers (ISPs) block websites accused of illegally hosting copyrighted material – before being seen by a judge.

The writers, who include Tom Watson MP, Stephen Fry, the chief executive of Orange; the MD of Google UK, the chairman of the TalkTalk Group, BT Group’s chief executive and the MD of EBay, claim that freedom of speech will be threatened, without reducing copyright infringement.

Full letter at this link…

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Independent.co.uk: Government plans for secret inquests

“Plans to introduce secret inquiries into controversial deaths from which the public and bereaved families could be banned are to be pushed through the House of Commons by the Government,” reports the Independent.

“Last night ministers suffered a humiliating defeat for the proposals in the House of Lords, but insisted that they were ‘clear’ that ‘harmful material’ must not be made public, and would reintroduce the measures in the Commons.”

Full story at this link…

Channel 4 (part 3): BBC Worldwide could benefit from merger, says Duncan

More comments from Channel 4 CEO, Andy Duncan, at the House of Lords Communications meeting:

  • ‘Synergy’, ‘Pluraility’ and ‘Radicalism’ appeared to be the keywords playing on Andy Duncan’s mind, as he explained his vision of a merger between Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide.
  • Channel 4’s CEO felt the broadcasters could be beneficial to each other, holding on to their ‘distinctive’ brands while planning bold strategies for a bigger and brighter future. The question was, according to Duncan, ‘how much synergy is there?’
  • He highlighted BBC Worldwide’s DVD venture as an example, positioning Channel 4 as the ideal candidate to, ‘unlock some of the constraints’ placed on the BBC in the cross promotion of this enterprise.
  • Any notion of the station’s identity being absorbed and lost as a result of the plan was shrugged off by both Andy Duncan and Anne Bulford, the organisation’s financial director. “At heart, the culture would be aligned,” she claimed. “You have to maximise the commercial revenue you can get from that.”
  • Despite claims that the channel would effectively be syphoning the BBC licence fee ‘through the side door’, Duncan remained insistent that talk of merger was only a partial solution.
  • Duncan indicated direct funding from the licence fee could still be ‘a valid option’ in the long term. Pooled resources, radical action and strategic thinking would be needed if value were to be added to the organisations.

Channel 4 (part 2): Duncan says channel is still key source of cutting-edge content

Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan also said at yesterday’s Communications Committee in the House of Lords that:

  • Channel 4 is fulfilling its role as a Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) by functioning as a gateway to new talent, innovative programming and contemporary content.
  • Commercial television was simply unable to invest in or provide the content Channel 4 is recognised for.
  • However, when challenged about the function of programming such as Endemol’s ‘Big Brother’, Duncan was forced to concede that it served more as a source of income than it did as the ground breaking concept it was billed as 10 years ago.
  • Digital channels such as E4 and 4Music were hailed as some of Channel 4’s more recent successes. Despite this, it remained unclear as to how these services were able to fit within the remit of Public Service Broadcasting. Current PSB legislation was ‘archaic’ in this respect, Duncan said. In addition, he said, online services such as Channel 4 Learning showed their requirements as a PSB had evolved successfully beyond the original vision of the law makers.

Channel 4 (part 1): Station plans to focus more on regional content

Following up on yesterday’s Ofcom round-up, here are further reports from the House of Lords, where Channel 4 chief executive, Andy Duncan spoke at a Communications Committee hearing.

  • Channel 4 is unlikely to move away from London in a bid to save money, although it is keen to expand its influence around the UK. London was the centre of the UK media industry, Andy Duncan explained to the committee. Savings made from any move were likely to be ‘negligible’ at best.
  • Although Channel 4 is already active in places such as Glasgow, Duncan admitted the station had relatively little presence in Scotland and other parts of the UK, outside England.
  • The station’s CEO said that they were adept at creating good quality ‘one-off’ shows. The challenge was to create more opportunities for ‘returning’ series based in the region.
  • Certain Channel 4 IP, such as ‘Dispatches’ and ‘Cutting Edge’ already allow for the allocation of programming and resources focused in and around the country.

Sea change: did online campaign group force political transparency?

It’s an interesting landmark: a quickly put-together online campaign in the UK may have influenced a political reversal. Gordon Brown has cancelled proposals for MPs to protect the details of their expenses.

The House of Commons leader, Harriet Harman, cited lack of cross-party support as the reason behind the change, according to the BBC report.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported:

“The decision is a major victory for freedom of information campaigners and follows growing opposition led by the Liberal Democrats to the proposal, and website campaigns urging the public to email their MP objecting to the move.”

Does this show something of a sea change in political influence? Note that the campaigners directly mobilised their supporters, without reliance on mainstream media.

Tom Steinberg, founder of My Society, the organisation behind the campaign, thinks traditional media manipulation tools had little effect.

He comments on the MySociety blog:

“This is a huge victory not just for transparency, it’s a bellweather for a change in the way politics works. There’s no such thing as a good day to bury bad news any more, the internet has seen to that.”

Matthew Cain, over on his BacAtU blog, gives five reasons why he believes the campaign had clout, and points out that Stephen Fry helped the cause too… with a humble re-tweet on Twitter:

But, also today, a reminder of the way media connections have traditionally worked, with the appointment of a new head of political lobby, the Financial Times’ Jean Eaglesham. But how much influence and inside knowledge does the lobby have anymore?

Press Gazette reported:

“Eaglesham dismissed any suggestion that the need for constant ‘rolling’ news has diminished the quality of parliamentary reporting.

“She said: ‘Clearly it’s a risk we’re all aware of, however, now we also have the added value of more analysis and breaking news through blogging and other online content. Things change so fast now, it’s fascinating.'”

The role of the lobby was discussed at the end of last year in the House of Lords. Hazel Blears talked about the influence of the political bloggers in November, in an address to the Hansard Society.

links for 2008-07-10

House of Lords takes to YouTube

The House of Lords has launched five short videos on YouTube in a bid to attract young people to politics.

The videos explain the role of the House of Lords as part of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Life Peerages Act.

Broadcast on the UK parliament’s YouTube channel, the clips follow the launch of Lords of the Blog, the blog for the house.


Daily Mail was ‘late online’ admits chief exec, as new site moves out of beta

A redesigned Daily Mail website – rebranded as Mail Online – is to be officially launched after a period of beta testing.

The old site will be shut down over the next couple of days as the new design is brought in, an announcement on the site said yesterday.

The revamp introduces a navigation bar with drop down previews of section headlines, a central picture gallery and a wider page format.

A bookmarking function to allow users to save stories on a personalised page is another new feature, while the right hand column of the homepage has been given over to articles from the newspaper’s popular Femail section.

Speaking to the House of Lords communications committee today, Charles Sinclair, chief executive of the Daily Mail and General Trust, said the paper had been ‘quite late online’.

“With one or two honorable exceptions the newspapers around the world were not making a good job of putting newspapers online,” he said.

“So the Mail has come to this rather late – in the last 18 months, but having decided what to do, it is now doing it rather well.”

The narrowing gap between audiences for the Mail website and Guardian.co.uk showed the success of its online strategy despite coming to the web relatively recently, Sinclair said.

The most recent figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic (ABCe) put the Mail website at 17,972,153 unique users to the Guardian’s 18,703,811.