Friday, April 03, 2009

Spot the Difference: Dunblane vs Playboy

From the news yesterday:

'Media regulator Ofcom has fined Playboy TV £22,500 for "serious and repeated breaches" of the broadcasting code after it aired sexually explicit material unencrypted. The broadcaster, owned by Benelux Limited, was sanctioned over seven programmes on its Playboy One service between September and December 2007, after Ofcom received five complaints. Playboy One aired as an unencrypted channel until September 2008.'

Now, remember that story about the Dunblane survivors? The one where the Express newspapers group broke the rules about press intrusion? Here’s the link. Take a moment to read it. The Express did print an apology, albeit a half-hearted apology that consisted mostly of praising their own newspapers. No member of staff was reprimanded and no personal apology appeared from editorial staff or the 'reporter' who wrote the story. The Dunblane story generated public outrage that resulted in a petition that amassed over 10,000 signatures. Now read on (thanks to Graham Linehan for the following) ...

Matt Nida, who drafted the petition, set out to deliver it to Express Group Newspapers, the PCC and Downing Street so as to show the strength of feeling that this story has induced in over 10,000 people in a single week:

'On Monday, I delivered the Sunday Express petition to the Press Complaints Commission and the Express Group itself (Downing Street will receive their copy next Thursday). Surprisingly, we received the frostiest reception at the PCC - we were refused entry into their building on “security” grounds (presumably because 250-odd sheets of paper could cause someone a very nasty paper cut), and the security guard who we eventually left the petition with was very insistent that we couldn’t film or photograph the building.

In the PCC’s defence, I received a letter less than 48 hours later acknowledging receipt of the petition and explaining that it has been passed to the person carrying out their investigation into the Sunday Express article. Nevertheless, I continue to be surprised at the barriers the Press Complaints Commission puts up against people who want to, erm, complain about the press.'

It's staggering that there's such a marked difference between regulation of the television and the newspapers. The PCC certainly doesn't seem to have the teeth or the balls of Ofcom. Playboy TV upset a handful of accidental visitors to their channel. The Express printed an intrusive, insulting article that directly affects individual people's lives. Something is skewed somewhere.

We need an Ofnews for the newspapers. And we need it soon.

Post Sriptum: Since I wrote this a day or so ago, Ofcom - the TV watchdog - has fined the BBC £150,000 for the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand prank phonecall business. Now, remember, this was a prank that upset a handful of viewers (until the tabloids turned it into a rant about celebrity wages and the TV licence fee) and for which everyone involved apologised. I rest my case. Are you reading this Mr Desmond?

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