29.1.04

Hutton's findings fuel a Government led assualt on Free Speech

Even after the second resignation at the BBC in the form of Greg Dyke, the Government is still demanding an apololgy from the BBC. It is being blinded by the smokescreen of its own arrogance.

The specific allegation made by Andrew Gilligan in one broadcast at 6.07am was unfounded BUT the basis for the overall story and doubts over WMD and the 45 minute claim were well founded and have been proven to be true.

The BBC should and did apologise for Gilligan's unfounded claim BUT should not have to apologise for running a legitimate story in the public interest. The Hutton Report and the Government are in effect saying you are not allowed to question the truth of Government claims. The JIC's and Governments own checks into the 45 minute claim and associated intelligence is as sloppy and worthy of condemnation as Gilligan's journalistic sloppiness. At least Gilligan didn't lead us to war with his claims.

This is a major assault on the democratic process, a free press and the BBC. The reason the Government are so upset is that more people trust the BBC than them - you can shoot the messanger but not the message.

28.1.04

HUTTON: Dossier Not Sexed Up - Kelly death followed being named as source

In the last half hour Lord Hutton has delivered his verdict into the circumstances surrounding the death of weapons expert Dr. David Kelly.

Lord Hutton concluded that Dr Kelly did indeed take his own life with a concotion of pills and by cutting his wrist after having been named as the source for the BBC's report that claimed the Government dossier on Iraq had been 'sexed up'.

Going on to deliver his report in full, Lord Hutton stated that the claim that the Government had in some way 'sexed up' its dossier was unfounded.

He said that the question of whether the dossier had justified the decision to go to war was outside the scope of his inquiry. He did however highlight the controversy caused by the 45 minute claim.

Hutton Inquiry website HERE

Lord Hutton went on to heavily criticise Andrew Gilligan for his unfounded remarks and report and siad the BBC's system of editorial controls was defective.

Thus far the findings suggested by the controversial leak to The Sun newspaper seem to be reflected by what Lord Hutton is saying - Blair's 2nd narrow escape in 2 days as No.10 appears to be in the clear while the BBC is coming under fire at all levels.

Lord Hutton's report HERE
FULL COVERAGE AND ANALYSIS TO FOLLOW ....

27.1.04

Number's up for 118 as David Bedford wins image rights

Ofcom has today ruled that 70's marathon runner David Bedford should be allowed to protect his image from being caricatured without his permission.

The Number had used a character based on Bedford in its successful 118 118 campaign. Ofcom didn't go as far as banning the adverts.

[more on this soon]

26.1.04

Should Bloody Sunday journalists be sent to prison over sources?

While Andrew Gilligan and the BBC brace themselves for the judicial wrist-slapping expected in Lord Hutton's report, two other journalists are weathering the final gusts of an equally serious storm that could see them sent to jail for contempt.

Alex Thomson and Lena Ferguson who interviewed various soldiers about the Bloody Sunday shootings for news reports on Channel 4 have maintained a consistent silence over their sources saying they would rather face prison than name names.

The 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings saw 13 civilians shot dead by army soldiers. There followed widespread dissatisfaction about the Widgery Inquiry held after the shootings and after public campaign and media coverage, Tony Blair in 1998 ordered a new Inquiry be set up with Lord Saville as Chairman.

Having been asked to give evidence before the Inquiry, Thomson and Ferguson were also asked to reveal their sources - the names of the soldiers they had spoken to. Both refused, saying they had promised those interviewed they would not to reveal their identity.

The Inquiry insisted they disclose their sources and they were told that failure to do so would result in them being reported to the High Court as being in Contempt of the Tribunal.

This was two years ago since when both journalists have been left with Lord Saville's Damacles sword of contempt hanging over them.

As the Inquiry resumed sessions this week, the pair had hoped to be told of their fate. As BBC reports both still insist they they would rather face jail than betray their sources.

Lord Saville has apparently been considerig the matter and promised they will not have to wait 'too long' for his decision - which in the context of a Inquiry that has already lasted four years is open to interpretation.

Surely there is sufficient substantive material for the Inquiry to examine without having to continue threatening journalists over their sources. It would seem perverse to sanction the very journalists whose work contributed to highlighting the need for the Inquiry they find themselves before.


Should we be showing suicide bombers' publicity stills?

Having courted controversy over its use of a female suicide bomber, militant Islamic group Hamas is publicly reinforcing its campaign message by releasing pictures of Reem Raiyshi with her children.

As reported (with picture) on Ananova, the sight of the 22 year old mother with the two young children her actions orphaned is as shocking as her subsequent deadly deed.

The use of the young mother has caused widespread outrage amid fears that more children could be left orphaned or worse still, used in future attacks.

Media Beak asks - should the media be showing such pictures? your comments please!

Will Beckham's bodyguards spill the beans? - if so, what can he do about it?

Well it is de rigeur is it not to tell all if the price is right. Employee loyalty is a fastly fading concept especially when it can be readily traded. As Paul Burrell showed, it doesn't pay to displease those who are privy to ones secrets.

Whatever Atricle 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights may prescribe, Privacy, it would seem, is not a cherished human right but something forfeited upon becoming a celebrity.

Whether a human right (as in the cases of Wainwright or Peck) or a celebrity commodity (Douglas v Hello) the English courts are in no hurry to recognise any distinct law of privacy. So what can be done to stop the lucrative market in secret selling?

First, don't fall out with Cuban bodyguards who have been known to smuggle rottweilers for Fidel Castro.
Second, offer them more money (depending on how much you don't want them to tell) than the papers.
Third, check the confidentiality clause in your agreements!

If Beckham's bodyguards were employed by Real Madrid rather than him then their confidentiality clause might cover the club and club related confidences but not other confidential information they may have on Beckham that does not affect the club. But even if a comprehensive confidentiality agreement does exist what protection will it offer? He could try the prior restraint route and injunct all the bodyguards from diclosing anything. If that fails then he could of course sue them for anything they do reveal in breach of their confidentiality clauses. The latter is not much use as the presumed damage of publication will already have been done.

As happened with the Queen and Ryan Parry, Beckham may find that the best protection the law will give may be an injunction based on breach of confidence - but whether it will be granted before or after publication is not so certain - if you were a displeased Cuban security guard would you risk an injunction, no money for your story and the threat of contempt in the UK or would you leak your story via a web site closer to home and then tell the full story for the price that seemed right??

OFCOM license review set to streamline ITV

Ofcom has today announced plans to streamline the license review process in order to reduce the regulatory burden of licensing regulation.

Under the 2003 Communications Act Channel 3 (ITV) licensees are entitled to have the financial terms of their licenses reviewed from 31 December 2004.

This process would normally have taken place in stages but Ofcom wants to enable all 16 licensees to have their terms reviewed at the same time. In setting out proposals to simplify these reviews Ofcom hopes to improve transparency and reduce the regulatory burden on broadcasters.

A full consultation document has been published here and Ofcom hopes to respond to this and publish its timetable for reviews in early April 2004.

23.1.04

Hutton Report Special - Wednesday 28th Jan

All the latest cases and comments will be back on Media Beak on Monday 25th Jan and there will be a special review of the Hutton Inquiry findings on Wednesday January 28th.

Don't forget to e-mail media beak with you latest news and views!

15.1.04

Date set for Hutton Report

Lord Hutton's eagerly awaited report into the circumstances surrounding the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly will be delivered on January 28th.

There has already been the usual speculation and positioning ahead of the report with both the BBC and the government seeking to defend whatever it is they may have to. They have a 24 advance on the report to allow them to come up with their responses or excuses.

Bookies have the odds on Blair resigning over the report at 20/1.

With the crucial Commons vote on university fees the day before, it should be a busy week for Blair.

14.1.04

Press Complaints Soar

The number of complaints received by the Press Complaints Commission has risen by a whopping 39 per cent. A number of high profile front pages accounted for the quantum leap over 2002 with coverage of celebrities, footballers and royals attracting widespread complaints.

The number of complaints falling under the PPC Code of Practicewas up by 10 per cent while the amount of complaints the commissioners were able to resolve rose 21 per cent over 2002.

Commenting on the figures, the PCC seem more excited about the fact that the increase is down to their proactive and high-profile role rather than seeing it as a sign of increased public displeasure with the features in their morning read.

Still, self-regulation has to be better than legislation and the press had a narrow escape after an investigation by the Culture and Media Committee of the House of Commons concluded that continued self-regulation was preferable to tightening up or adding to existing media laws.

Japan clamps down on cartoons

Does the art form from the orient that brought us the kama sutra now face censorship?

The ancient Japanese cartoon form of the manga has been around for hundreds of years and features prominently in published works. The often explicit cartoons and drawings have become part of tradition and are recognised as an art form in their own right.

But the big bad marker pen of censorship could soon be drawing a thick line over many of these drawings following a surprising court case in Japan.

A judge in Tokyo has handed out a suspended prison term to a publisher upholding the prosecution's claims that the sale of his books amounted to the distribution of obscene literature.

This is the first time manga cartoons have been branded obscene and could have a serious impact on cartoon publishing in Japan. This could also have further reaching implications as this form of cartoon is widely used in adverts and other promotional campaigns.

As the BBC reports, the publisher sees this as an infringement on his freedom of expression and has appealed the decision.

9.1.04

Transsexual date show proves costly for Sky

Sky One provided us with much amusement last year when it emerged that its show 'There's Something About Miriam' had seen a brood of butch blokes fall for a transsexual.

Contestants were outraged after it emerged that she was a he and we were treated to pictures of Miriam in his/her swimsuit and stories of how several men had got intimate with Miriam.

Whether they should have realised - as the title of the show suggested - that there was a significant something about Miriam or whether the programme makers had unfairly set our unsuspecting blokes up, its bumped up the programme budget for Sky One.

The broadcaster is reportedly doing a deal with the contestants whereby they would pay them 500,000 pounds compensation in return for being able to screen the six episodes. Depending on how you look at it - either Sky One is getting a good deal and securing itself against any defamation actions or the contestants are quite happy to be defamed in exchange for 100,000 pounds - and that has to be an easier way of making the money than going without sleep for a week in the hope of wining Channel 4's 'Shattered'.

No smooth talking from Kilroy Silk

As reported on MediaGuardian.co.uk former MP and daytime TV show host Robert Kilroy-Silk has caused outrage with what can best be described as an anti Arab rant in his column in the Sunday Express.

Aside from its extreme and racist tone, his article showed no sense of judgement or perspective.

While racial equality groups have called on police to look into whether Kilroy-Silk's remarks amount to an offence as well as being offensive, a new row has erupted in the media.

Playing it safe and keeping impartial the BBC has suspended daytime TV show Kilroy while it looks into Mr Silk's actions. An angry Sunday Express sees this as an affront on free speech. Here the boundaries become blurred - the BBC through its status and charter has to be impartial while the Sunday Express is not known for restricting its views.

The further question arises as to banning a programme because of its content or a person because of opinions they have expressed elsewhere - do you ban the speech or the speaker?

There is no denying that certain publications and broadcasters in the Arab world would reciprocate Kilroy-Silk's comments with similar sentiment towards certain western societies but that does not exonerate either side.

Free speech is an ideal that has to be pitched against what will be tolerated by a given society. Britain is a multi-cultural and pluralistic society and whether accepted by Kilroy-Silk or not, free speech does not give journalists or TV presenters who are meant to be responsible carte blanche for airing racist remarks.

He may have a right to say things but that does not mean what he says is right.

Taking libel to the grave

Many thanks to Media Beak's friend the IPKAT for forwarding this one:

A Welsh widower is locked in an unusual dispute with his local council over the wording he wants on his wife's grave.

Gordon Lewis from Llangattock believes that a delay in admitting his late wife to hospital was the cause of her death from septicaemia. In laying his 64 year old wife to rest he also wants to lay the blame on the doctors and have it inscribed on her headstone.

A cautious council took legal advice and considers Mr Lewis's choice of words to be libellous. As they control the cemetery they won't allow the intended wording.

Mr Lewis has called for a coroner's inquest into his wife's death.

Media Beak concludes that if an inquest goes ahead then perhaps a compromise could present itself - were the coroner's findings to be inscribed on the grave then that would get round the libel issue.

Victim outraged as Grosvenor House rape case dropped

Having taken the headlines by storm and sent contempt lawyers - notably the Attorney General - into a spin, the case of the Grosvenor House rape allegations has finally been dropped.

Having reviewed the case against 4 of the 8 people originally implicated, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue charges against premiership footballers Carlton Cole and Titus Bramble as well as party goers Nicholas Meikle and Jason Edwards. The CPS said there was not sufficient evidence to secure a realistic prospect of conviction.

The Attorney General had voiced serious concerns over the media coverage of the sensational story after both the accused and victim provided the press and the public with their version of events.

The 17 year old at the centre of the gang rape or 'roasting' allegations hired publicist Max Clifford to handle her side of the story. Speaking on her behalf he said she was outraged and considering bringing a civil action.

For all the concern and calls for tougher control over the media's coverage, the point to note is that the case was dropped because of lack of clear or provable evidence. This poses a far bigger obstacle in rape cases than any media coverage. So with no case being brought in law names and faces can now be known and shown - the public can make up its own mind on the facts - here we have the media law dilemma: the courts don't want too much media coverage for fear of trial by media or contempt but then when the facts of the case are such that sufficient evidence cannot be led or proved and the case is dropped...then by default, its back to the media and public opinon to make their judgment on the facts of the case.

Al Fayed tries to ban BBC from showing viewers the money

Harrods boss Mohamed al Fayed has secured a temporary injunction against the BBC preventing it from screening an investigation into his financial dealings.

The BBC had to pull the latest edition of the Money Programme after al Fayed was granted a 3 week injunction preventing the programme from being shown. The dispute arose after the BBC had agreed to let al Fayed review the final version of the programme before it went out. The BBC maintains that only applied to the interview with al Fayed and not the programme as a whole. Granting the injunction, Mr Justice Royce said that al Fayed had not been given sufficient opportunity - in line with the terms of the agreement - to offer corrections as to any factual inaccuracies.

So, subject to some editing and further legal negotiation we may eventually get to hear about where al Fayed is stashing his cash. The disgruntled Harrods boss has announced he's had enough of the UK tax regime and is moving to Switzerland.

Couch Potato says he'll sue Cable Company

We've had smokers suing tobacco companies for the harm caused by smoke, now we've got viewers saying they'll sue TV companies for making them fat!

Timothy Dumouchel from Wisconsin has blamed his daily drinking and smoking as well as his wife's weight gain on the fact they have cable. He'd apparently asked his cable operator to disconnect his service back in 1999 but they never did. Having also promised his family that they could watch TV as long as cable was available he's now claiming that being fat and lazy is the cause of having cable.

Having intimidated staff at the cable company Dumouchel has threatened to sue Charter Communications for 5,000 Dollars or free computers and a lifetime supply of free internet access. Presumably he wants to swap channel surfing for net surfing and have some spare change for take away pizzas and burgers!

So far no claim has been filed at Wisconsin Circuit Court - perhaps Dumouchel has found the 'off' button on his TV.

6.1.04

Who's to blame? report delayed as Hutton decides

The eagerly awaited report of the Hutton Inquiry has been delayed forcing the media and political mud-slingers to hold their fire. Not surprisingly, Lord Hutton will be applying his wisdom to his wording as he writes the conclusions to his report. The BBC is outraged by reports that it was setting up its fall-guys and its Chairman Gavyn Davies has vowed that whatever the findings, Hutton's report will not pave the way for reforms.

While Hutton takes his time the Government is getting twitchy ahead of the Parliamentary debate on top-up fees and the spectre of back-bench rebellion. Bad news from Hutton would not sit well in the current political climate and no photo opportunity with troops in Iraq is likely to convince people otherwise.

So it seems we may have to wait a further week or two to find out the results of the Hutton whodunnit.

Mirror names Charles as Diana Inquest opens

Amid protests by royal bean-spiller Paul Burrell, the Daily Mirror has today revealed the senior royal Diana thought was planning an accident in her car was in fact Prince Charles.

Apart from getting Charles' year off to a good start the Mirror's decision to publish will no doubt court controversy.

Burrell was quick to issue a statement saying he had never intended this to come out and had censored it from his own book. Having been paid well over half a million pounds from selling his book and story rights to the Mirror he now has the cheek to say he is consulting his lawyer to see if there may be a cause of action against the Mirror for revealing the name. Considering that this 'sensational revelation' was heavily traded on by him to secure his media deal, Burrell is perhaps pushing the boundaries of even his self-appointed importance.

So Burrell aside, the Palace has kept quiet saying it was not going to respond at this stage - well if it is a fair and accurate report of a true statement then there is not much the Palace can say or do about the revelation itself. It is the implication of the revelation that is of greater importance and calculated to do more damage to Charles.

Was Piers right to publish and be damned? - yes. The letter has been requested as evidence by the long awaited Inquest into Diana's (and Dodi's) death. As such it will be placed in the public domain - or at least should be. The public have waited long enough for this Inquest and will now it seems have to wait a further 12 - 15 months to give the coroner a bit more time to think about this one - Michael Burgess said the extra time was necessary to consider all the evidence and decide which witnesses to call. He has also asked Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens to investigate the various allegations surrounding the Paris car crash. Whether Sir John will be knocking at Charles' door remains to be seen.

Whether what Diana wrote or its implications are - as many have suggested - preposterous will be a matter for the police and the Inquiry to ascertain. Whether they be proved true or untrue the public has a right to know why a now dead Princess thought the heir to the throne was planning 'an accident'