Labour is calling for an “emergency” amendment to the law in relation to media takeovers to give ministers greater power to intervene, following News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.
According to an announcement by the party on Sunday (28 August) it hopes to “close legal loopholes” identified during News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB, before the conclusion of the Leveson inquiry. News Corporation eventually withdrew its bid as phone hacking allegations continued to be mounted against its now-closed News of the World title.
Under the proposed amendments to Section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002, outlined by shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis in a letter to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, ministers would be given powers to ask regulators to apply “a wide ranging public interest test as well as a fit and proper person test”, from the start.
The changes also call for ministers to be able to intervene at any stage “if new information came to light”. Lewis will put these proposed measures before both the House of Commons and House of Lords when the summer recess ends in less than a week.
Following his take on the Sun’s reporting of his own recent walkabout in Southampton, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott takes on Sky News’ broadcast of Gordon Brown’s “bigoted woman” comments, labelling them as more evidence of “the dying Murdoch empire (…) doing all it can to influence a British election”:
What Murdoch’s Sky News did today was just as bad as his paper’s phone tapping.
It was a breach of privacy, it was underhand and it was done in the pursuit of ratings and political influence.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s well-reported gaffe yesterday, when he referred to a woman he had just met as “bigoted” in a conversation with an aide that he thought was off air, was broken by Sky News. It was Sky’s microphone as the pool broadcaster at yesterday’s event in Rochdale that was still on and clipped to the PM’s jacket as he let off some campaign-changing steam… As the audio and footage passed into the public domain, it was picked up and aired by other broadcasters and news organisations.
7.14 Broadcasters or programme makers should not normally obtain or seek information, audio, pictures or an agreement to contribute through misrepresentation or deception. (Deception includes surreptitious filming or recording.) However:
it may be warranted to use material obtained through misrepresentation or deception without consent if it is in the public interest and cannot reasonably be obtained by other means.
But what if the BBC had of been the pool broadcaster for the day? – the corporation’s editorial guidelines are stricter and have a section on secret recording, in which “deliberately continuing a recording when the other party thinks it has come to an end” is listed as a definition of secret recording.
According to a Telegraph.co.uk report, Sky News said Brown left in his car before the microphone could be removed and switched off, so “deliberately continuing” perhaps doesn’t apply here if it had been the BBC’s mic instead.
But the BBC’s editorial guidelines also state:
The following rules apply to any proposal to secretly record, whether for news, factual or comedy and entertainment purposes.
All proposals to record secretly must be approved in advance by the relevant senior editorial figure in each Division or for Independents by the commissioning editor who may consult Editorial Policy. Each Division is responsible for maintaining these records to enable the BBC to monitor and review the use of such techniques across its output.
A signed record must be kept of the approval process, even if the request is turned down, and secretly recorded material must be logged. This record is required even if the material gathered isn’t broadcast.
The gathering and broadcast of secretly recorded material is always a two stage process. The decision to gather is always taken separately from the decision to transmit.
Any deception required for the purposes of obtaining material and secret recording should be the minimum necessary and proportionate to the subject matter and must be referred to the relevant senior editorial figure or for Independents to the commissioning editor.
The re-use of secretly recorded material must be referred to a senior editorial figure or for Independents to the commissioning editor before transmission and a record kept of the decision.
Would the outcome have been different or would public interest overrule?
But a story headlined ‘No Prez-ence’, which suggested no one turned up to hear Prescott speak at a visit to Southampton, appears to be the straw that’s broken the camel’s back. Prescott says he is now going to expand his campaigning for Labour to ensure it’s the Sun and Murdoch’s Son “wot lost it” on 7 May, he says.
The Guardian’s assistant editor and esteemed political pundit Michael White was spotted taking a well-timed, and no doubt well-earned, nap during the opening proceedings of the Labour party conference in Brighton today. Shame he couldn’t have spent the day lazing in the sun in a deckchair with a knotted handkerchief on his head…
Labour councillor for Haughton West, Nick Wallis, responds to comments made by Northern Echo editor Peter Barron about the impact of council newspapers on the local press.
Wallis says he isn’t sure council budget cutting will inevitably lead to the closure of local authority publications (much criticised by the local media for their impact on advertising revenues and local democratic coverage).
“A key point is that a lot of local newspapers, do not operate like the Echo which is broadly fair in its treatment of news stories. It’s a bum rap if whatever you do, no matter how well, the local paper slags you off as ‘loony left’ because of the general political bias of the media group. It’s precisely the one-eyed nature of a lot of the local press that generated the growth of council magazines, because local authorities wanted to talk directly to their residents, and avoid the hostile spin continually imposed by media,” writes Wallis.
However, he later adds that councils should do more to support local media and encourage a ‘strong, independent local press’.
“At the same time, local papers have to accept that councils have the right to communicate directly with their residents, and not always have to have their news reflected through the prism of the paper,” he says.
We’re still experimenting with neater ways to present Twitter conversations – without having to do time-consuming cut-and-pastes – but a Tweader conversation at this link shows recent tweets between Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger and MP Tom Watson.