Azerbaijan frees journalists amid calls for clearer laws on press freedoms

As previously reported on Mediabeak, the European Parliament has recently been petitioned over the issue of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. The Council of Europe has also urged the country to pass a defamation law to clarify and protect press freedom.

The country’s president has since pardoned over 100 political prisoners including five journalists. The journalists included the editor of opposition newspaper, Senet who had been imprisoned following convictions for incitement while another editor was released from his sentence for defamation. It is believed that a further three journalists remain in custody.


Bigmouth's revenge - will Morrissey succeed in court?

As Mediabeak reported in DecemberMorrissey is suing the NME and its editor for defamation claiming their cut and paste style interview with him had misrepresented him as out of touch and xenophobic. Writing in the Press Gazette, Caroline Kean questions whether he indeed has a case to support his defamation action. She highlights the defences of consent to publication and fair comment and asks if the NME might be able to make either defence stand up.

Mediabeak observes that this will be down to the context of the overall article and manner in which the comments that have been attributed to Morrissey were elicited and subsequently used. While he may have consented to do ‘an interview’ that does not automatically mean he waives his rights in relation to the publication. The consent has to be informed and fair in the overall context.

The recent case of Lowe v the Times where Southampton football boss Rupert Lowe won a staggering £250,000 damages over comments by a columnist that he had behaved 'shabbily' could provide guidance here. The judgment came as a shock to the media as its implications are wide reaching.

More from BBC


Anti-Defamation League welcomes clarification after Will Smith misquoted over Hitler

A race row was brewing in cyberspace after several websites misquoted and interpreted what actor Will Smith had said in an interview with Scottish tabloid the Daily Record. The Hollywood star’s comments that Hitler’s ‘twisted, backwards logic’ led him to the deluded belief that the atrocities he was carrying out were ‘good’ were misinterpreted as actually condoning Hitler as good. This caused widespread upset – not least to Smithwho issued a clarification on the matter.

The Anti-Defamation League has welcomed Smith’s clarification and pointed out that the “episode serves as a reminder of the power of words, and how words can be twisted by those with hate and bigotry in their hearts to suit their own worldview. This is why all celebrities bear a special responsibility to weigh their words carefully, and an obligation to speak out against racism and bigotry whenever even a whiff of it appears, as Will Smith has done in this instance.”


X Factor voting scandal could open can of worms

Following the mass of complaints over voting on the X Factor final, Ofcom has got out its regulatory big stick and is asking ITV to provide it with information on this latest series and has also asked to see the full findings of the report carried out by auditors Deloitte into the problems with viewer-participation programmes. ITV attracted criticism and suspicion for only releasing extracts from the Deloitte report but Ofcom has now demanded “explicit assurance” from ITV that they allowed Deloitte to undertake an “exhaustive review” of programmes. In a week that has seen record fines handed out over vote rigging, Ofcom’s showing its in no mood to be messed with and a desire to force broadcasters and production companies to sort out the recurrent compliance problems with such programmes.

More from MediaGuardian
Previous report on Mediabeak

UN Assembly lobbies for law on defamation of religion

The United Nations General Assembly has this week passed a resolution urging member states to secure “adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and their value systems”.

The move follows calls (in the wake of the Danish cartoon row last year) by Islamic leaders, notably Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, to introduce legislative safeguards against the defamation of Islam.

The resolution was passed by a majority of 108 to 51 with many western nations opposing or abstaining the vote. While the resolution was couched in terms of defaming religion, the only one specified was Islam.

More from UN HERE


Tonga – Government sues paper for defamation

Tongan Newspaper Kele’a
Has seemingly done much to upset its kingdom’s Government and is being sued (for a second time) over a report it carried suggesting that the prime minister had privately employed a consultant. This might not seem like the highest order of libel but has caused plenty of upset in the Tongan cyberspace. The government published its stark criticism of the media back in March
This follows a raid on the paper by soldiers in February when they tried to shut it down.
The Tongan regime has been at loggerheads with the pro- democracy paper for years back in 2003 Reporters Without Borders issued an annual report on Tonga highlighting the royal family’s attempts to force ‘more respect’ out of the paper.

Abramovitch sues Sun

Roman Abramovich is suing the Sun for a reported £200,000 following its publication of a story mockingly suggesting he'd eaten Jose Mourinho and using a badly superimposed image of Mourinho's head on a plate in front of Abramovich who was brandishing a steak knife. The Chelsea boss has taken exception to the suggestion he undervalues Mourinho's contributuon to his club's success and claims the article has damaged his reputation and caused him distress.

His defamation action centres on two issues - first, defamation by innuendo - the picture and accompanying 'story' and second, the fact that Abramovich claims the Sun didn't afford him a right to reply or comment on the piece they published. Unless the Sun can come up with a good defence - and public interest isn't going to work here - it could be their head he has on a legal plate. If the Times can get hit with a £250,000 libel award - since reduced to £50,000 - over suggestions by a commentator that Southampton's boss had behaved 'shabbily' then Mediabeak does not much fancy the chances of the Sun in this action.


Complaints soar but Louis Walsh says X Factor result was fair

As reported on Mediabeak Ofcom has been flooded with complaints about the ability to vote on the hotly contested X-Factor final last weekend. In the space of 24 hours the number of complaints rose to over 1,000 viewers who claimed they were not able to get through to vote for their favourite.

Judge Louis Walsh has come out and said that it was not down to the best voice but the performance and 'X' factor and Leon's heartfelt appeal to the public ultimately won him a clear 10% lead in the votes. One might say 'who cares' but this goes deeper than the passions of Rhydian or Leon fans and brings us uncomfortably back to the arguments about vote rigging and the seeming inability of programme makers and the phone competiton third parties they engage to properly manage and secure compliance over facets of their programmes that engage the public and induce them to spend their money. So its time that broadcasters realised they need to invest as much resource in the compliance of product/programme add-ons as they throw at their promotion.

Latest HERE and HERE

BBC's u-turn on scumbags, maggots and faggots

As the old saying goes 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' or in this case try and seem politically correct by trying to fix the lyrics of a song that has long been established as a classic component of the yuletide repertoire. So it seemed odd that the BBC decided it needed to introduce an inelegant edit of the Pogues duet with Kirsty MacColl on the 'Fairytale of New York' track in case someone might take offence. Well offence was taken but it was fuelled by the decision to tamper with a song that the public has for years accepted as a classic. As the BBC saw complaints pour in over the course of the day they finally decided the whole thing was a bad idea and undid the edict and the edit to restore the song to its original form.

What this episode highlights is not that the lyrics penned and performed by the Pogues or Kirsty MacColl were unacceptable but it is the attempt at censorship of certain words that highlights the fact that those making the judgment about the censorship decision were influenced by conscious prejudices that did not transcend into the the literal and contextual form of the original recording (Mediabeak is aware that this sort of analysis belongs on Newsnight review accompanied by a tortured artistically troubled expression but is going to indulge it anyway!)

More on the story:
BBC's original decision HERE
The U-trun from Sky News HERE

Celebrity Scent Scandal - Kidman gets payout from Telegraph

Nicole Kidman has secured a 'substantial'payout from the Telegraph over allegations she favoured a scent other than the one she had a multimillion pound deal to promote. As previously reported on Mediabeak, Kidman unleashed her lawyers on the Telegraph after its 'Spy' gossip column suggested she was more partial to Jo Malone's White Jasmine and Mint scent than the Chanel No.5 she was under contract to promote.

There have been numerous cases involving celebrity endorsement in general and cosmetic and beauty products in particular in recent years. These did not always end up in court or cause the damage that might have been expected from the circumstances. Take for example Kate Moss, dropped by numerous brands including Chanel following allegations of drug taking, she recovered both physically and reputationally, even securing further lucrative cosmetic deals. Similarly David Beckham suffered no adverse effects following allegations about extra marital affairs around the time of his move to Spain.

The types of cases there have been can be broken down into three types: First, those where there has been an element of ‘passing off’ under trademark law. As in the case of former Formula One star Eddie Irvine and Talksport, you can’t use an image without consent or compensation. Singer Jennifer Lopez was threatened with legal action as her perfume ‘Glow by J-Low ‘ was seen to be too similar to another brand ‘Glow’. Even heavy metal band Metallica tried suing Guerlain when it issued a perfume under the Metallica name, even though confusion between the products could hardly be an issue.

Second, cases where the direct actions of an individual have undermined the brand. Kate Moss lost deals on the back of the ‘cocaine Kate’ allegations and following the racism row that erupted after her performance on Big Brother earlier this year, Jade Goody saw her perfume ‘Shh!’ withdrawn from sale in some outlets.

Third, cases such as this where companies can argue that the image they have bought in does not comply with the binding terms of the ‘buying in’ contract. Sainsbury’s suffered an embarrassing episode when Catherine Zeta Jones, who was promoting its recipes at the time, was spotted shopping in Tesco. More recently Teri Hatcher is locked in litigation with Hydroderma. The company is reportedly suing her for $2.8m for allegedly supporting other lip plumping products. This was on the basis that she was said to be ‘a fan’ of competitor City Lips.

Read more of this analysis from Mediabeak on Mediaguardian.co.uk: The Price of Speculation

Heather Mills McCartney hires M Law

The end of the year has not seen any closure on the acrimonious divorce battle between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney, nor has it seen much sympathy towards Mills from the press. It's fair to say that the 'Mucca' has had more than her fair share of media backlash but amid the positioning battle being played out in the 'Mucca' v 'Macca' media campaigns sight has been lost of the plight of their daughter who deserves that her parents suspend their egos and settle their differences in a more grown up manner than has hitherto prevailed.

Having 'parted company' with her lawyers Mischon de Reya and chosen to represent herself in her divorce case, Heather Mills has now, as The Lawyer reports, instructed M Law to take forward the three libel actions she has running against The Sun, The Mail and The Evening Standard.

More from Mediabeak on the Mucca v Macca legal and media battles:
'Mucca' and Macca: how much is too much?
Defamation by divorce proceedings?

London Underground censors bookies bingo ads

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has run into trouble with its latest ad campaign. Officials at London Underground have banned the ad – which shows a man posed as if breastfeeding a baby and accompanied by the strapline ‘where have all the women gone’ – saying it has ‘potential to offend public decency’.

The bookie is said to be surprised at the decision, seeing its ads as nothing more than a bit of fun. This isn’t the first time Paddy Power’s ads have run into trouble – back in January 2006 an ad called “The last supper” which depicted the biblical scene with ‘disciples’ seated round a casino table was banned by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) and in 2001 a scene showing betting odds over the heads of some old ladies trying to cross a road as cars approached them was also banned – the ASA had received over 50 complaints about the ad.

Other Paddy Power ads that have offended but were not censured included one showing two teenagers in school uniforms kissing on a park bench and betting odds were displayed on the girl’s chest as ‘Evens’ and on her thigh as “2/1” and one showing two babies in a bath along with a piece of faeces – again the odds were displayed. More HERE
Non-broadcast advertising rules are governed through the ASA by the CAP Code – this provides that marketing materials should not contain anything that is likely to cause offence – Section 5 provides:
5.1 Marketing communications should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Compliance with the Code will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency.
5.2 Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily conflicting with 5.1 above. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
5.3 The fact that a particular product is offensive to some people is not sufficient grounds for objecting to a marketing communication for it.

CAP Code

European Parliament to hear concerns over press freedom and defamation in Azerbaijan

As previously reported on mediabeak, Azerbaijan has been urged to introduce a defamation law to clarify its boundaries of free speech and lessen human rights abuses caused by lack of clarity in the law. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Monitoring Committee is due to meet in Paris on Wednesday this week to hear information gathered on a recent fact finding mission to Baku and has expressed its concern over the imprisonment of journalists on defamation charges.


Sheridan charged with perjury in relation to News of World libel case

Tommy Sheridan, former Socialist MSP and now leader of the 'Solidarity' party, has been charged with perjury in relation to his libel win over the News of the World. Sheridan secured a £200,000 libel victory last year after the paper published allegations over his extra-marital affairs, swinging and consumption of intoxicating substances. None of this was, according to Sheridan and an emotive testimony by his wife, in any way true. However the paper and prosecutors had unfinished business following the trial and perceived inconsistencies in the evidence placed before it.

After the trial last August the News of the World described the jury's decision that it had libelled Sheridan as 'perverse' and while it launched an appeal, prosecutors launched an investigation into possible perjury.

Sheridan was outraged by what he described as the heavyhanded tactics of the police surrounding his arrest and charge and claims he is the victim of a witch hunt by the Murdoch empire (see Sky News). Whether he is as 'incandescent with rage' as he was during the libel trial last year when he ended up sacking his lawyers, remains to be seen.

If the prosecution can prove dirty tricks then the headlines he sought to sue over will seem insignificant and be sure to resurface. Proving perjury may not necessarily mean that what the News of the World published was true but if the evidence given in relation to Sheridan's character was embellished or distorted then the reputation he sought ot sue over may have not been such that what the paper printed could be reasonably be held to be responsible for its tarnishing. The courts have in the past (as in the judgment in Grobbelaar v News Group Newspapers) made clear that they are not there to protect the reputations of those who by their own actions are not dederving of such protection.

More: Guardian BBC

X Factor Final - Ofcom flooded with complaints after Rhydian fans find phone lines blocked

Ofcom has received over 80 complaints in relation to the voting for the X Factor final after fans of favourtie Rhydian Roberts were unable to get through to the show to register their votes. Fans of Rhydian reacted in similar disbelief to many others as outside favourite Leon Jackson won this year's competition and landed the lucrative recording deal. According to reports on mediaguardian Welsh fans are outraged and one local radio station is even going to boycott Leon's single by not playing it on air.
The programme makers have responded with the excuse that phone lines were very busy but did point out that with all calls being channelled through the same system there could be no voting bias unless more viewers in Wales subscribe to Virgin Media cable whose customers did experience problems due to the high call volumes.

Ofcom is looking into the matter but to avoid disappointment Mediabeak suggests its better to stick with the old seasonal favourites from Slade to Sinatra.

More from BBC and MediaGuardian

Ofcom broadcast bulletin - Casualty, Bravo and Galaxy 102 found in breach

Ofcom has today published its latest broadcast bulletin and upheld complaints against the BBC's hospital drama 'Casualty' - for being too graphic too close to the watershed; Bravo's 'Dangerous Sex Games' for broadcasting adult material without encrypting it and Manchester radio station Galaxy 102 for broadcasting an offensive 'off air' remark in error.

In relation to Casualty, the ruling highlights that it is as much the context of the overall programme as the specific time the content goes out that has to be considered. While mostly watched by adult viewers, the programme is broadcast at a time when younger viewers may still be watching and graphic images of intestinal injuries and an amputation were deemed to be excessive. Ofcom appreciated that illustrating the experience of junior doctors and what they have to face was integral to the storyline but did not consider adequate warning was given as to the graphic nature of the content. The regulator reminded broadcasters that the 9pm watershed was a guideline and did not mean that it was permissible to shift to very graphic content just because a programme goes out after that time. It concluded that "Broadcasters must comply with the requirements ofthe Code that material must be appropriately scheduled and that images of the effects of violence must be appropriately limited and justified by context." The programme was held to be in breach of clauses 1.3 and 1.11 of the CODE.

Dangerous Sex Games broadcast by Bravo was found to be in breach of 1.24 - adult material should be broadcast under encryption - and 2.1 and 2.3 of the code - that deal with harm and offence. The token bit of chat around what were basically sex scenes did little to convince Ofcom that the programme was anything other than porn. Ofcom stated that:
"Taking into account all the circumstances (including the style and
focus of the camerawork on the actors’ bodies, the considerable duration of the sex
scenes, and the clear predominance of sex scenes compared to narrative scenes),
the primary purpose of the film appeared to be the sexual arousal/stimulation of the
audience. The content overall amounted in Ofcom’s view to a series of strong and
prolonged sex scenes joined together by limited narrative."

Meanwhile Galaxy 102 came under fire for broadcasting offensive language and comments. A 'technical error' meant that the presenter's comments that were meant to be 'off air' were actually broadcast and contained the following: “…I reckon every spacker in Manchester could go to Toys'R'Us….meanwhile I am having to walk fucking miles with me kids in the rain…”. This was in breach of clause 1.4 of the code - material that is unsuitable for children. While the radio station did put out an apology this wasn't until the broadcast the following week. For Ofcom this was too distant from the actual offending broadcast and did not provide enough evidence of controls to prevent and respond to such incidents.

The broadcast bulletin also considered an admission of mistake by game show The Great Big Quiz on iPlay/Play to Win TV. Sky Sports coverage of the Ricky Hatton press conference and Goals on Sunday also came under scrutiny for offensive language - though Sky did its best to get round the colourful expletives of its colourful characters.

Read Full Broadcast Bulletin

Lancashire Evening Post pays out for identifying sex victims

The Evening Post has been landed with a £3000 fine and £4000 compensation order after it admitted identifying two women who had been victims of sexual assault. Under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, victims of sexual assault are granted anonymity for life. The paper had reported on a case involving a local brothel but in identifying the women had not realised they had been previously identified as victims of sex trafficing offences (from which they derived the automatic anonymity).



Home Secretary seeks to gag murder trial

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has taken the unusual move of seeking a gagging - or 'Public Interest Immunity (PII)' order to allow for parts of a murder trial to be held in private. This is though to be the first time that such an order has been used in relation to a murder trial and it is normally something that is invoked where issues of national security or intelligence are at stake. This begs the question of what did the murdered author Allan Chappelow know or what was he writing about that was so secret or revealing that is needs gagging.

The 86 year old recluse had been found dead at his home in Hampstead last June and 45 year old financial trader Wang Yam is on trial for the murder. The trial is due to start on the 23rd January with a hearing on 14th January to consider the gagging order.

More from The TIMES


Ofcom issues new guidance on protecting Under 18s

Ofcom has issued new guidance on how under 18s should be treated when it comes to broadcast. The guidance follows research and consultation intitiated by the communications regulator earlier in the year looking into the measures taken by broadcasters to protect those under 18 who appear in programmes, especially where these are non-fiction broadcasts such as documentaries or reality tv shows.

The Ofcom Broadcast Code already provides specific protection for under 18s through section 1 of the code. In particular it states that:
1.26 - Due care must be taken over the physical and emotional welfare and the dignity of people under eighteen who take part or are otherwise involved in programmes. This is irrespective of any consent given by the participant or by a parent, guardian or other person over the age of eighteen in loco parentis.

1.27 - People under eighteen must not be caused unnecessary distress or anxiety by their involvement in programmes or by the broadcast of those programmes.

The new guidelines reinforce the regulator's belief that in relation to under 18s, "consideration of their welfare should be at the heart of editorial and production decisions".

The new guidelines aim to assist broadcasters in fully understanding the intent of and complying with the code.

View the guideline summaryHERE
The full guidelines HERE
The research into Children in Programmes HERE


Free to Speak: The boundaries of press freedom

Press and wider media freedoms may seem something that should be enshrined in constitutions and be taken for granted in the modern mobile age. While we have cause to malign the devious spin-led machinations of our own 'democratic' regime in the UK, its attempts at press interference pale into insignificance in comparison to the major violations and human rights abuses witnessed in other parts of the world.

Mediabeak has reported on some of these of late [1] [2] [3]

Today sees the first part of a new programme on the BBC World Service. Presented by Roy Greenslade, Press for Freedom (goes out at 9:05am 12/12/07) examines the struggle for media freedom that exists across the globe.

The BBC Free to Speak Season


From 'Golden Balls' to 'Swollen Balls' - Beckham's latest pose causes upset

With ball action on the pitch somewhat deflated of late it may seem logical for Beckham to turn to his material assets off the pitch as part of the brand Beckham promotion trail. While many ball lovers may delight at Beckham's soft porn pose for a new Giorgio Armani advert, the sight of him in his pants has caused upset among the more discerning. As Sky reports, children's charity Kidscape says the ad demeans Becks and demeans soccer. In other words the message is that its not good enough to be a talented ball player on the pitch, you also have to be one off the pitch to succeed in today's world. In reality its just a case of cashing in on another opportunity to pose for money - or to be fair to Beckham follow up the opportunity of working with a designer he likes after Armani designed some snappy suits for the English soccer squad.

The Beckhams have gone for a more racy approach to fashion since trying to conquer the US market. This latest ad pic might cause some people concern but if consumers didn't want to see it then its unlikely Armani would risk his global pant sales with a controversial ad. Complaints about adverts go to the Advertising Standards Authority - so one will have to wait and see if any complaints wing their way in that direction. Their latest adjudications can be viewed HERE

Jonathan Creek cracks

Alan Davies - it's Alan and don't dare call me Jonathan or I'll bite your ear off - has replaced the conventional journalistic soundbite with a more dramatic ear bite according to reports in the Mirror and other media.

After either too little to eat or too much to drink at the Groucho Club Davies took exception to a homeless person's banter and decided to sink his teeth into his ear. The pictures were captured on cctv and posted on the Mirror's website So far Davies has not been charged with assault.

Tapas Nine reunited - why now?

With the media frenzy surrounding the McCann's easing off - even the Sky News website has dropped its 'Madeleine' menu tag - the unsolved mystery surrounding Madeleine's disappearance and the investigation into it raises more questions than it has answered. The latest is why the Tapas Nine have decided to have a get together at a hotel in Rothley - now. As Clarence Mitchell pointed out they've had email, the internet and mobiles to communicate and be in touch so any conspiratorial suggestion that this summit had been an exercise in getting their stories straight ahead of yet another round of questioning that the Portuguese police are reported to be preparing seems unfounded.

As the Times reports, Mitchell said: "It is the first time the nine have sat down face to face. It was really just a get-together to discuss where they are at" - yes but as any inherently suspicious journalist (such as Clarence himself) should know, the question is always 'why' not necessarily 'what' and that appears to be the case with the Tapas Nine's get together in an Alan Partridge style hotel.

It could be that the only inconsistencies in their stories relates to their inactivity - in terms of the diligence and frequency of the checks they carried out on the sleeping children as opposed to any active role in Madeleine's disappearance. Hopefully detective agency Metodo 3 can live up to its bravado and get the focus back on finding Madeleine.

In the meantime The Express is keeping the McCann's on the front pages reporting on Portuguese police suspicions over Tapas reunited.

More from:
Sky News
Times - Madeleine McCann: the key questions

Latest PCC adjudications

The latest PCC adjudications have been published this week with four cases being resolved following corrections and apologies. The Editors'Committee is also convening for its regular review of the code and welcomes submissions.

Link to:
PCC Code


Defiant Conrad Black canned

Former media 'mogul' and Telegraph owner Conrad Black has been sent down for six and a half years. Protesting his innocence he's escaped the 20 years prosecutors were looking for, gets to keep his house and payout and managed to get himself on BBC's Newsnight programme to protest his innocence and plug his book on Nixon. Six plus years may seem long but one senses Black will be back.

More from Reuters

Don't mention the 'C' word it'll get your ad banned

'C' is for not what you may be thinking but in the seasonal context of this post it is for 'crib' yes, crib as in manger as in the makeshift bed the baby jesus may have been laid in. Luckily this site is relatively free from censorship (Mediabeak hopes) and the word 'crib' and 'jesus' can still be published without causing too much offence. However if you use the word 'crib' or can possibly be seen to be promoting it as something people may be influenced to buy then beware. Ireland is, it is fair to say, often associated with christianity in the form of catholicism but times are changing. While there is scope for the politically correct guide to teddy bear naming, there is also scope for a new guide to celebrating the end of the year - formerly known as Christmas - in a non-offensive manner.

This will provide little consolation for Veritas, the publishing division of the catholic church who are outraged after their Christmas card ad was pulled from Irish State TV, RTÉ for potentially promoting the sale of cribs and this could be seen as being a broadcast 'directed towards religious ends'.

More from mediaguardian HERE

The relevant code in England is Section 4 of the Ofcom Broadcast Code that covers Religion - and Section 10 of the BCAP broadcast advertising code

BBC World Service scores own goal with accuracy survey

The results of a recent survey commissioned by the BBC World Service may not have produced the feedback they were hoped to elicit. Of just over 1,000 people polled on the accuracy of the BBC's reporting, only 29% volunteered a positive reaction. This seems like bad news especially as it put the venerable organisation behind its counterparts in countries such as Venezuela, Russia, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria.

The survey should be cause for concern but Mediabeak thinks we need more information on its context. Its angle was supposed to draw out views on press freedom and perceptions of the ability of publicly funded news organisations to deliver it. So to say only 29% think there is a free press at point of delivery in the UK is not the same as saying that which is delivered is inaccurate. Post the Hutton Enquiry and the BBC's subjection to political bullying and appointments its ability to stand up to incursions on press freedom in the UK has been compromised.

An organisation that prioritises paying Jonathan Ross a salary that could sustain 200 broadcast journalists has clearly got its priorities messed up so a public poll that thinks its accuracy is compromised is probably fair given that the corporations resources are being pumped into trying to upstage, fawn over or be buddies with people on a unimaginative chat-show format rather than frontline or investigative journalism that might actually tell stories that count and give a sense that we are willing to invest in a press that does its job and puts pressure on politicians rather than pimps celebrities.

See Mediabeak on Wossygate [1] [2] - his offending comment at the non-broadcast comedy awards.
The Independent offers an excellent comparison of what viewers' licence fee money can buy that exposes the shocking imbalance between show and substance - HERE

Defamation and press freedom: Azerbaijan urged to pass defamation law

The Council of Europe has urged Azerbaijan to introduce a workable defamation law to help clarify the legal boundaries of free speech and provide the media with a defensive framework against the incursions into free speech and human rights that have been witnessed of late.

With journalists regularly arrested or imprisoned for alleged acts of 'slander or insult' against the state and its officials the law used to prosecute (and persecute) them lacks the democratic checks and balances that provide for legitimate questioning while protecting against unwarranted attack on reputation.



Independent exposes the substance Jonathan Ross' overblown salary could buy

Thanks to Arifa Akbar, Arts Reporter at the Independent for doing some decent journalistic research to put Jonathan Ross' controversial salary into context.

It's a shocker. The analysis published in the Independent illustrates that:
"Jonathan Ross's salary is £18m over three years or £6m annually. Per annum, one Jonathan Ross equals:

* 200 broadcast journalists from London (at basic average salary £30,000).

* 400 regional broadcast journalists (at basic average salary £15,000).

* 315.8 library clerks/assistants (at grade three, basic salary £19,000).

* 227.7 producers and directors (at grade five, basic salary £26,353).

* 181.3 graphic designers (at grade nine, basic salary £33,094)."[SOURCE: Independent]

The point to make here is that its easy to take a pop at Ross over his salary but its not him one should be criticising - he, as any one else, will be getting his share of a market that creates the prices that are so disproportionate. Mediabeak stands by our previous analysis that the media sector is no different to sports where fees are set in relation to traded rights and what executives and media brokers think they can 'sell' on the back of performance. Such performance is media as medium to deliver entertainment as opposed to media that fulfils its part in a democracy as providing information and scrutiny. The political system has gots its overspun claws into the public sector so we could arrive at the situation whereby the public actually trust the private sector more to deliver unibiased and accurate news.

WHO DO YOU TRUST TO DELIVER THE NEWS? - mail Mediabeak a comment.

Mrs Tiger Woods gets damages for tasteless faked sex pics

The Dubliner has been put in its place over its pathetic attempts to spill its smutty editorial standards over the Ryder Cup. Its been hit with a £90,000 damages bill for deciding it was a good idea to place Ellin Nordgern Woods (Tiger Woods's wife) face on a partially clad porn shot.

More from Reuters


Sienna Miller wins privacy payout

Sienna Miller has settled her privacy action against the Sun and News of the World after securing a £37,500 payout from the papers' owners News Group Newspapers. She had sued them and the picture agency that supplied the intrusive photographs that were sneaked from a nude scene she had filmed for the movie 'Hippie Hippie Shake'. While she's settled with the tabs she's not finished with the photographer who took the actual snaps - a ruling is expected on this early next year.

The case is noteworthy as it is probably the largest settlement in relation to invasion of privacy based on purely the invasive element of the photograph itself as opposed to a photograph and its accompanying story (as in Campbell v Mirror).

More on Campbell v Mirror [1] [2]

It might help cover the cost of the necklace her boyfriend Rhys Ifans has supposedly bought her.


Strictly Come Pole Dancing upsets viewers

The BBC has been busy apologising for gaffes this week. The latest involves Arlene Phillips, one of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing. Over 32 viewers complained after she likened Ola Jordan and Kenny Logan's dance routine to a pole dance and for ignorant good measure added it "was like Poles from Poland".

While people could be proud of themselves if they are able to perform such an energetic routine, the fact it may be like pole dancing has nothing to do with the ethnic origins of its dances. Arlene seemingly forgot the subtle distinction between the capital and small letter 'P' or maybe thinks that its called pole dancing because it originates from Poland - just as line dancing comes from Lineland!

The BBC attributed it to the pressure of live television performance.


NUJ takes itself too seriously over Jonathan Ross's comedy awards quip

We know he sometimes thinks he's funnier than he is and that he gets paid an abscene amount of money by the BBC (footballers also get paid obsecene amounts of money by clubs and end up delivering comedy performances in return) but the NUJ is taking him and itself too seriously over his comments at this week's comedy awards.

For reasons best known to ITV, it decided not to screen the awards - for fear of another phone-vote scandal (that's compliance gone mad!)- and pay a massive fee to stop anyone else broadcasting the event. Ross who was presenting the awards, the audience, nominees and recipients were naturally not as moved by the decision to have an 'off screen' celebration of tv comedy as they were by the talent they had come to honour. So Ross had pointed out how ridiculous (or in his word wwwudiculous) the situation was as it deprived comedians of one of the key awards - the public one (as the public would normally phone in their vote).

Having pointed this out amid heckles over his huge BBC salary he quipped that he was worth 1,000 journalists - giving him the benefit of the doubt, the impact of him deriding ITV over the awards may have has the same coverage as numerous journalist by-lines but that's where it ends. No self-respecting journalist would take his comment seriously - especially within the context of a comedy awards ceremony where Ross may have been short on written script and improvised a joke or two. Yes, if the BBC paid him less they might have more to devote to serious journalism but unfortunately the administrative dictatorship running it would be unlikely to use any cut in pay to the likes of Ross for such sensible purposes when there are plenty of administrative, hr and consultancy projects they could waste it on.

More on the issue HERE

Save CBeebies - Ofcom quizzes Beeb on commitment to kids programmes

Ofcom is reported to be talking to the BBC about its commitment to kids programming. The regulator is keen to get assurances that cut-backs will not mean less commitment to quality programmes for kids as current regulations leave a loophole that could allow the corporation to cut back its output without falling foul of the rules.
Having seen the recent spate of phone-in scandals reach as far as kids tv in the form of Blue Peter its as important as ever to safeguard both the quality and quantity of programming available for children.

More from mediaguardian.co.uk


Robbie Williams says sorry for 'unintentional' mocking (and potentially libellous lyrics)

Robbie Williams has ducked out of a high court libel action after offering to pay undisclosed damages and offering an unreserved apology to his former Take That manager Nigel Martin Smith over a 'misunderstanding' over the meaning of the lyrics in the original version of his song The 90's.

The misunderstood suggestion was that management had ripped off the unsuspecting Take That boys in the 90's - perish the thought. Having been hit with a writ Williams decided to pay off Martin Smith with enough to make him go away. Martin Smith's lawyer issued a statement saying that his client did not want the case to get this far and if only Robbie had said sorry sooner it would not have come to this - well a substantial payout will probably help him get over it.

Williams has reissued the track with amended lyrics on his recent Rudebox album.

Mediabeak observes that when it comes to libel it reaches beyond the obvious headlines and transcends into lyrics and innuendo that if 'misunderstood' could well give cause for a trip to the High Court.

Ireland leads way with new libel laws

The Irish Parliament (Seanad) has been debating the 2006 Libel Bill which is likely to be broadly welcomed by the media and serves as a pragmatic pointer for a necessary update to the ailing 1996 Act in England.

Good news for the media comes in the form of a defence where there has been a "fair and reasonable publication on a matter of public interest", less so is the proposal to give apologies the same prominence as the originating offending piece - so if a tabloid plasters X shagged Y on its front page it will also have to print that it 'says sorry' for getting it wrong on its front page - an unusual sight that would be.


BBC apologises for tactless Muhammad jibe

As if the political and religious sensitivity of a teddy bear had not provided enough headlines a BBC radio presenter has demonstrated they, for one, gleaned nothing from the Gillian Gibbons saga. Presenting a show on BBC Radio Nottingham, Frances Finn decided to throw in a 'funny' aside saying that along with her family, Gillian Gibbons "dog, Muhammad is very pleased to see her as well". Stupidity of this magnitude undermines wider free speech debates and highlights the prejudices that arguably give those who expressed outrage at Gibbons innocent, yet badly informed, teddy naming exercise legitimacy for the argument that was overcooked by their reaction.

More from MediaGuardian

Jerry Springer the Opera not blasphemous

Its not what many militant Christians may want to hear and on the other hand there are probably plenty of people (notably within the BBC) with or without religious convictions who would be pleased to see Director General Mark Thompson prosecuted for something but the High Court has ruled that in respect of the blasphemy case before it there were not grounds for a blasphemy prosecution.

There was uproar when the BBC decided to screen Jerry Springer - The Opera in 1995 which was branded by many and lobby group Christina Voice in particular as "an offensive, spiteful, systematic mockery and wilful denigration of Christian belief".

Following an ealier hearing at which the magistrates court declined to issue a summons against Thompson for blasphemy, the High Court has this week ruled that within the context of the opera and programme it could not be seen as blasphemous and no prosecution was warranted.

More legal analysis from Timesonline - Free Speech v. Religion


Bigmouth strikes back

With writs flying and incensed by the NME's interpetation of his comments, former Smiths frontman Morrissey has lashed back at the NME's seemingly substandard attempts at music journalism. Writing on MediaGuardian's music blog, Morrissey has wielded his lyrical talents to much effect. While the question of how his comments were interpreted and published may be one for the high court, Morrissey has repositioned the debate into something wider and closer to home for the music press - the credibility and relevancy of the NME. A clever coup for if the NME and its journalist are deemed irrelevant then their view of his comments have little credibility. As things stand the quality of his argument seems to outweigh that of the journalism that lies behind the current dispute.

BBC - the price of trust

According to reports on MediaGuardian the BBC is to spend up to £500,000 in training its staff to produce more trustworthy programming. This follows recent scandals that have questioned the integrity of Blue Peter phone ins and misrepresenting our monarch. Surely the BBC should be 'trusted' to be trustworthy in the first place and where gross misjudgement and editorial error has occured on seemingly uncontroversial output such as Blue Peter or a programme about the Queen, surely it can sort itself out.

The scale and price tag of this training 'initiative'smacks of an overblown administrative reaction akin to civil service administrative gestures seen in other sectors such as the health service. If it sorted out its priorities and programme compliance and funding at the frontline then it wouldn't need to make political gestures of this magnitude that may seem like a confidence building PR exercise but are ultimately a waste of licence payers money. Its those who preside over the budgets and procedures who need training ahead of those who have to implement and deal with the shortcomings of the decision making above.

Heat mag follows Mediabeak's advice - issues apology and donates to charity

Atoning for its stupidity Heat magazine has resolved its dispute with Katie Price and Peter Andre over its imbecilic sticker of Harvey. As reported on Mediabeak Heat printed a tasteless sticker playing fun at Katie Price or Jordan's disabled son Harvey. Following complaint by Jordan to the magazine and the PCC, over 100 further complaints to the PCC as well as condemnation on its chat pages from its own 'readers'the magazine has come to its senses and printed an apology as well as making a donation to a charity Katie and Peter have backed in relation to Harvey's condition.