The Media & Mrs May’s Manifesto Mayhem

It is already apparent the BBC are going soft on the Conservative/Mrs May manifesto.

  • No in depth questioning on what the level of means testing for winter fuel allowance.
  • No in depth grilling on why they’ve basically ditched the Dillnot report on social care funding.
  • No in depth attack over seven years of failed immigration pledges.
  • No mocking of the immigration job tax for those needing employees outside the EU (coz we were supposed to be welcoming these!)
  • No constant questioning as to why students are being included in immigration cap no numbers and promises
  • no dissenting voices over the cuts to pensions.
  • hardly a whimper about cutting free infant lunches.

And!

  • nothing about there being not one single costing in the manifesto whatsoever!!!

Nope. Instead, were hearing a lot about “difficult decisions”, “balancing acts”, “keeping brexit voters happy”, “being bold” and so on.

A little different to how the reporting and interviewing around Labour’s manifesto was conducted.

But then, I’m told I’m just a paranoid lefty for expecting even handed and impartiality from the BBC and media.

Student Radio Awards – Judges feedback on my entries

Last year I entered the Student Radio Association Student Radio Awards, for Best Male, Interview and live outside event. I thought I’d blog the feedback I got from the judges. Some interesting points and things to work on for 2013!

  • Good radio presentation style. Natural flow to links and conversation. Rich tone to the voice – sounds older and more authoritative than lots of student radio entries.  Nice rapport with other members of the team but would benefit with more listener interaction.
  • Great voice, great technically. You’ve got a lovely tone and nice style and manner. You sound relaxed and unpretentious but friendly and upbeat without being cheesy. The sound quality of the demo is excellent too. The entry has all the nuts and bolts – teasing ahead, good with music, all that stuff. But, it perhaps took a while to really get much personality – a lot of the links are relatively standard and nice and good, but not exceptional or stand-out. It didn’t grab my attention and hook me in. The latter part of the demo is actually probably the better half – the cup across studio, oatcakes, the lecturer and so on. There was a lot of telling people to text and get in touch, not sure I heard a single text read out. Once mention of you doing this is enough if you’re going to include it. Your written entry is really nice – you’ve got the balance just right in explaining some detail of what you’ve done, why you love it and how you go about it. Overall it’s great, but you’re competing in a field where the winner’s going to have some really stand-out moments in their demo – you’ve nailed the basics, now focus on content, anecdotes and so on to bring it to life.
  • This entry sounds slick, well produced, the presenter has a good voice and style and it seemed to have been packed with interesting content. Well done on all of those fronts.
  • Presenter has a nice voice and tone.
  • Peter has a great broadcasting voice and this is a great example of a local radio news interview. Peter’s journalistic skills are evident as he asked pertinent and engaging questions to the local butcher. … overall, professional and informative news and human interest story.
  • Very resourceful, went the extra mile to secure the interview which was impressive.
  • Very clear interviewing style, with the broadcaster staying firmly in control. Asked very insightful questions – very professional interview. Drew out an interesting debate from the interviewee, allowed his time to talk – with a solid conclusion.
  • An engaging listen with two very distinct voices -[the interviewee is] an absolute catch, so well done for getting him on.
  • … Peter was confident, in cotrol[sic.] and asked the right questions.

The Press and the Leveson Conclusions: Correcting the Media Distortion Field

Last Thursday the mind of Lord Justice Leveson was laid bare, on matters of the press at any rate. At nearly 2000 pages Sir Brian’s Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press (Leveson) is bigger than Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and for some Leveson delineates the state’s invasion of press freedoms.

I have read a lot of the Executive Summary of Leveson and what I understand seems to be a varied odds with many of the commentators in the press. There are so many arguments to bat, I am just going to have to take a tiny handful for this blog, based loosely around the main headings in the Summary of Recommendations. For the avoidance of doubt, and to declare my stance, I am in favour of Leveson.

Regulation, Complaints and Press Freedoms

Leveson recommends “an independent self regulatory body” (p32). The way it is appointed should be fair, open and transparent “without any influence from industry or Government”. Importantly it should not include any member of the Commons or Government, nor any serving editor.

Leveson makes it clear that this is not about controlling the press. Someone tweeted me at the weekend saying, “And when Leveson starts to interfere with the stories/papers …” This seems to be the first line of attack against Leveson. It’s a grade one Straw Man Fallacy that Leveson wants control over what the press says or how it is said. This is a line of argument that comes back over and over again, with no foundation, but it is a type of fallacy that the press are very good at using with regard to other stories, so it’s no surprise to see them rolling it out on this one too.

One of the functions of the independent regulator include making sure the press follow code for standards and requirements for governance.

The code must take into account the importance of freedom of speech, the interests of the public (including the public interest in detecting or exposing crime or serous impropriety, protecting public health and safety and preventing the public from being seriously misled) and the rights of individuals.  (p33)

The code must cover a complains procedure, powers, remedies and sanctions for breaching the code, including an arbitration service.

One of the interesting things about this code is that the press themselves get to decide what is in the code, so long as it broadly covers standards of conduct, respect for privacy “where there is no [sic.] sufficient public interest justification” and the need for accuracy – that is, “the need to avoid misrepresentation.”

Misrepresentation isn’t murky, it is quite straight forward. Don’t misrepresent what someone has said just to fit your organ’s tune. On 2nd Dec The Mail ran a story about Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty International and a key advisor to Lord Leveson, attributing to her the opinion that a ‘Leveson Law’ is illegal. That same morning, she had breakfast with Hugh Grant just before the BBC Andrew Marr show. He tweeted, as @hackedoffhugh:

Had croissants with Shami Chakrabarti at #marr. Her first words were “I was stitched up by Mail this morning, tweet that & pass the coffee”

And look who wrote the article, a ‘deep cover’ Daily Mail writer, David Rose – a pseudonym with an unclear foundation. One thing is clear, if a story needs a ‘fixer’, David Rose is wheeled out. Hot topics include:a viscous character assassination of Child Abuse Victim Steven Messham over the McAlpine story, denial of climate change science (see this Guardian article), and the revelation that the Jersey care home abuse police investigation was based on a fragment of skull which, two weeks in to the investigation, turned out to be just an “old coconut shell”. (There is a theory that David Rose is actually leaving a breadcrumb trail of evidence to follow.) So Shami’s assertion that she “was stitched up” should really come as no surprise.

More on the Daily Mail and press ownership in my next article, Do we have a ‘free press’ to even protect? [Coming soon.]

An effective complaints watchdog

The major part of Leveson’s recommendations are about an effective Press Complaints body, acting as a watchdog and a go-to for people with complaints against the press, papers or articles. It would make judgements about whether to uphold or dismiss complaints based on the code of conduct and the law, and act as arbiter in disputes.

What did Lord Justice Leveson mean when he said, “the press can’t go on marking their own homework”? He was referring to the current process of dealing with regulation and complaints against the press.

The current Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is “an independent self-regulatory body which deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines (and their websites).” It was set up in 1991 as a result of the Calcutt Report (June 1990) which had investigated a number of publications failing to observe what many saw to be the basic ethics of journalism during the 1980s.

The committee of the PCC is made of national and regional editors who produced and keep updated a formal Code of Practice which all editors and publishers were supposed to committee themselves to. Leveson noted that there were few consequences for breaches of the PCCs codes, even following successful litigation (Summary: para 37, p11). He recognised that, “although errors and inaccuracies will always follow in a fast moving and healthy press… there has been significant and reckless disregard for accuracy.” (Para 38, p11)

In an industry that purports to inform, all misinformation should be a matter of concern and distortion far more so. Where that strays into sustained misrepresentation of groups in society, hidden conflicts of interest, and irresponsible science scares, the risk to the public interest is obvious. (Para 38, p11)

All the leaders of the main political parties are in agreement: the PCC has failed and a new body is required. “Mr Cameron described it as “ineffective and lacking in rigour” whilst Mr Miliband called it a “toothless poodle”.” (para 41, p12) Leveson argues that this body has “held itself out as a regulator, … [but] is not a regulator at all.” (para 42, p12) Setting its own rules, with editors deciding how to enforce these rules (often deliberately not enforcing them as well), and there being no mandate for organisations to be part of the PCC.

In practice, the PCC has proved itself to be aligned with the interests of the press, effectively championing its interests on issues such as s12 Human Rights Act 1998 and the penalty for breach of s55 Data Protection Act 1998.  (Para 45, p12)  It has failed to monitor compliance with the code… (para 46)

Regulation by Law – Statuary Underpinning

This part of Leveson is the most misunderstood and misrepresented of all his proposals.  A new body to replace the PCC must be totally independent, but it must have powers to mandate compliance to a Code of Conduct and in respect of complaints and arbitration. Without this, it is simply another PCC, with no consequences and no powers.

The most frequent argument against ‘more Law’ is that ‘there are already enough laws.’ This is one of the major contradictions in the argument against any ‘Leveson Law’. Law already covers what can be printed and how it can be printed. Libel and deformation are two clear examples. Of course, the press will publish and fight for the right to have published, and mount their defences in open court. This is fair, proper and right.

Secondly, the rise in ‘super injunctions’ are of concern to the press too. Under law, a very wealthy individual can take out an injunction which prevents all mention of a story in the press and media. Completely. This exists now, and has been used in a variety of high profile cases during the last 12 months alone.

A further argument against a law is that the activities used by many to get their stories were already illegal too. But this didn’t stop those journalists using these methods. There has been the allegation that the Leveson Inquiry was caused by a failure in the operation of the criminal law, and that if the law (in relation to Mulcaire et. al. 2006) had led to arrests years earlier, the inquiry would not have been needed. But the PCC did not take complaints in to alleged phone hacking seriously, for what are now obvious reasons. Indeed, people have commented that as far back as 2001 they had mentioned to newspapers the ease at which voicemails could be hacked in to. Unsurprisingly the press never reported this or lobbied that phone companies tighten up their act.

Finally, the most powerful argument put forward by those against this part of Leveson is that any law would control the press and hundreds of years of a ‘free press’ would end in a single blow. I have seen plenty of headlines and comments over the weekend which echo with the sentiments of, “There must be no state control of the press!” or similar. Some have made out that they would have to get every story ‘checked’ by the regulator before publication. This is clearly wrong, Leveson clearly states there must be “press freedom” and it must be free from control; the fear mongers are dressing up regulation as censorship. Again, this is clearly a Straw Man Fallacy. Ireland and Denmark have similar arrangements in Law. These same newspapers have signed up to the Law in Eire, the world did not end for them, and they continue to print in a free and open way.

In his statement to Parliament, David Cameron said that a law would be impossible to draft. As far as I can tell, Cameron’s experience of drafting is consigned to his to job as a press PR man and he has no legal experience. In contrast, Lord Leveson is one of the country’s top judges and lawyers. I understand the argument many put forward that lawyers love law, and it is their answer to everything. “We need MORE law!” But in every other regard, it is also Goverment’s answer to everything too usually, so this accusation is a little hypocritical really.

Self regulation, underpinned by legislation

This is the essence of Leveson’s recommendations, and he is very clear on this:

It is worth being clear what this legislation would not do. The legislation would not establish a body to regulate the press: it would be up to the press to come forward with their own body that meets the criteria laid down. The legislation would not give any rights to Parliament, to the Government, or to any regulatory (or other) body to prevent newspapers from publishing any material whatsoever. Nor would it give any rights to these entities to require newspapers to publish any material except insofar as it would require the recognised self-regulatory body to have the power to direct the placement and prominence of corrections and apologies in respect of information found, by that body, to require them. (para 71, p17 emphasis added)

 

There is no statutory regulation of the press. But he does wish the legislation to achieve three thing:

  1. Enshrine a legal duty to protect the freedom of the press;
  2. Provide an independent process to recognise the self-regulatory body, and reassure the public that the basic requirements of independence and effectiveness were met and continue to be met;
  3. By recognising the new body, it would validate its standards code and the arbitral system sufficient to justify the benefits in law that would flow to those who subscribed.
[Summary, para 72, p 17]

In conclusion, Leveson recommends a law to underpin a regulator, not to control the press. Any law could be very narrow and constrained. It does not even need to mention anything about how the processes work, just that the body that oversees these processes has power and backing to work. In my mind it seems very straight forward, and by no means is anything even resembling state control of the press.

Very importantly, Leveson does not advocate control of the press! They get to choose their own rules and decide how the body will run. Then the law makes sure the body has some teeth. The law will not state in any way what they can’t print. There are laws already that control that, and the press will print anyway and face its day in court.

This is about making sure the press complies with the law, maintains a standard of ethics that can be trusted, and sets up a complaints procedure. This independent body can rule for or against a complaint, but importantly the law won’t dictate how it operates. The law merely ensures that whatever the body decides it has the power to impliment. Like the BBC Trust charter, or OFCOM, but with rules drawn up by the press themselves. In fact, the equivalent legislation in Ireland is just two paragraphs long.

This is a major part of what Leveson is about, and those in favour are justified in their full support of the proposals put forward.

For more information on the Leveson Inquiry or to download the Summary and Reports, please visit: www.levesoninquiry.org.uk

If you agree that Leveson should be implemented in full, the please sigh the petition at: http://hackinginquiry.org/petition or http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/42523 for HM Government petition.

Do You Prep Your Radio Shows?

Coming from student radio, I have heard too many people respond to the question of prep’ing their shows with, “Nah, I like to be spontaneous.” Fab.

Suckers.

Seriously, their thought seems to be, “I’ll just turn up and wing it for 2 -3 hours, and it will be great! I will love it. The listener will really love it!” Except, I’ll let you in to a secret: you won’t, and they won’t either. If you think being spontaneous is about just saying what comes in to your head, then your listeners will do the first things that comes in to their head and turn you off.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

This was the mantra taught when I did my teacher training. It’s a truism you can take with you everywhere in life. You need to plan. You need to prepare.

A well run station will have a play-out log scheduled well in advance of your show. Not even the play-out computer is just playing the first things it thinks off! If you want to make great radio, you need to put the time in to planning and preparation.

Now what does this really mean? Plan an hour for every hour your on air? Get a file of material? Well, there are as many ways that people plan as there are people; we’re all different. In one of his blogs, radio giant (quite literally  – have you seen the size of the man!) John Myers says:

“There is no myth about all this. What ‘prep’ is about is simply working through what is required to ensure your show can be the best it can be. What do you need to do, what do you need to prepare ahead of time or put in place so you can deliver the features, content and information to make it a winner.”

Real spontaneity comes out of your preparation. And good preparation is like money in the bank. You can go off on a tangent and if it works, go out with a bang by hitting it with a prep’ed ‘get out’, ending or audio item. However, if it doesn’t work or flops, you can still go out with a bang by hitting it with a prep’ed ‘get out’, ending or audio item!

Boom! Either way, good prep helps you make it a winner.

In my next blog, I’ll give you some tools and recommendations to get your prep started.

Introducing Peter Nicholls, local radio broadcaster?

It’s been sometime since I wrote a personal entry that was about me and not some cause or issue, but it’s about time isn’t it?

May 30th – June 23rd was our yearly community radio FM RSL projected at Staffordshire University, called Cre8 Radio. This was the longest FM RSL run we have done since Cre8 launched in 2009 and we had a fantastic time. I hosted a 2 hour afternoon show most days, including weekends, and during the week I had a fellow co-host in the form of Liam Maxwell.

On the back of this, I’ve finally plucked up the courage, pushed by my lecturer and former BBC Stoke producer Anne Duffell, to get a demo in to Radio Stoke. Having nearly 50 hours of live radio audio to choose the best from also helped!

So here it is, my radio broadcast demo for BBC local radio. Fingers crossed!

Is WorkFare making unemployment worse?

I said the work programme aka WorkFare wasn’t working, yesterday we had proof. 

Yesterday’s report by the Welfare to Work industry [the actual people running these programmes] reveals that only 22% of long term unemployed people put onto the Work Programme have got jobs. Of those many will be in temporary work.

Chris Grayling claimed that 36% of people on the Work Programme would gain sustainable long term employment. However the Telegraph today revealed officials would have expected 28% of long term unemployed people to have found work anyway without any help at all.

This means that the Government’s flagship Work Programme is not just under-performing, it appears to be making the problem of long term unemployment worse! The government are spending multiple-billions of pounds on a scheme carried out by experts in the Welfare to Work field like A4e, with less success than if you just left people to their own devices!!!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/9280002/Just-one-in-five-people-on-benefits-finds-employment-through-Coalitions-work-programme.html

It just beggars belief that they can waste so much money on private companies providing such awful service. The Sun said £5bn could pay for a lot of things, like nurses and teachers, shame they were targeting the legitimate benefit and muddying the waters with talk of fraud. However, I digress.

They consider £13,000 just about enough incentive for a company to help “find” someone a job (yes, they get that per person they find work for). Yet at the other end of the scale, a cut to the just over £60 a week Job Seekers Benefit is considered the acceptable incentive to get people to follow these ridiculous schemes.

They take £12m away from Legal Aid for benefit appeals, but pay billions to a profit making sector without even requiring how it is spend or what quality of service they expect. Yet qualified and experienced teachers and dictated to constantly about how they should teaching adding and multiplication!

If I knew the answer I’d offer one, but what ever the answer is, the government are still asking the wrong questions.

Student Radio Star 2012

The Hits radio in association with the Student Radio Association ran a competition ‘for the best student radio talent to appear on The Hits radio.’ The 1st prize is 4 shows and voice coaching, the runners up got one show and coaching.

I wasn’t sure if I should enter. But at the last minute last Monday I though, blow it, and quickly put together 5 mins of clips and 1 ‘best link’, and uploaded them to the site. And then I wondered if it was any good. Self doubt and wondering if I am any good, in fact I felt generally low afterwards for a few days.

However, 5 minutes ago I opened my email, only to discover an email from the competition containing the following paragraph:

Your entry has made it to the final shortlist of entries and is now with our expert panel of judges who will be select the final winner and two runners up.

I suppose you could say I am quite shocked and delighted to get to the final shortlist! Whatever happens, getting this far is an achievement. The overall winner, and the runners up, will be announced at the Student Radio Conference on the 3rd April in Bradford. I can’t be there, but I am sure I will know soon enough I am on that final list or not. Here’s hoping.