Archive for the ‘edinburgh’ tag
I was surprised to see discussion of the Mediadem project in the Telegraph this week (picked up elsewhere although without additional information), which some of my Edinburgh colleagues have been involved in. I should say at the outset (as you can see from the previous post) that I have spoken at two Mediadem events. I’m not part of the project. I’ve benefitted to the tune of approximately £50 worth of food, biscuits and coffee from the two events I attended.
It’s always good to see the discussion of academic projects in the media. Here, though, I don’t think that the article gives a fair reflection of the relevant outputs. The author (Andrew Gilligan) makes a number of claims, which deserve further investigation. (This is my own opinion and not that of any of my colleagues, Mediadem or otherwise).
The EU has spent £2.3 million on the previously unpublicised “Mediadem” project to “reclaim a free and independent media”. In a “policy brief” co-authored by its lead British researcher, Rachael Craufurd Smith, Mediadem says it is “simplistic” to “see state influence [over the press] as inherently stifling”.
Dr Craufurd Smith, an Edinburgh University academic, said that it was also “simplistic” to believe that “market-driven media” were now “free and independent”.
It is simplistic to see state influence as inherently stifling. The debate on media regulation is a nuanced one. Very passionate at times – but even those in favour of limiting the role of the state can identify for the purposes of debate a spectrum of state responses (perhaps bad vs very bad in some views), but still worth talking about.
The ‘policy brief’ is one of a whole bunch of very interesting (and wide-ranging) briefs. Check them out here (there are not far off a hundred). The quote comes from one of the shorter ones, addressed to a wide audience. In any event, what the report actually says.
“Understanding free and independent media requires a move away from simplistic categorisations that see, on the one hand, state influence as inherently stifling and, on the other, market driven media to be free and independent.A media service may be independent in the sense of being autonomous from state control, yet still offer partial, biased or inaccurate information. Alternatively, a media service that is under state direction may be established with a clear remit to carry out and offer impartial reporting.”
This is mostly a descriptive statement. It recognises that an assessment of independence requires more work than just checking the ownership – as well as ownership, one needs to look at remit, autonomy, accuracy, etc. Remember that this is a Europe-wide project and that the high standards of the British press may not be present in the same way in every jurisdiction. Similarly, there is a wide range of types of state-directed media across Europe. I can’t see why someone interested in the media – even those very sceptical of state regulation – wouldn’t find that an interesting question.
Mediadem recently produced “recommendations for the UK” demanding the “imposition of sanctions beyond an apology or correction” on errant media outlets and the “co-ordination of the journalistic profession at the European level”.
The recommendations call for the press to be controlled by the same body and on the same basis as broadcasters, who are currently tightly regulated with statutory “balance” obligations that do not apply to newspapers.
Mediadem produced recommendations for lots of other jurisdictions too, by the way (see the link above). The recommendation in question (demand – really? I wish we of the ivory tower had that power) is worth reading.
On the paragraph itself, I think it is an unfair characterisation of the document. It omits the paragraph immediately before it, which explains that the point on sanction is part of a proposal for self-regulation. I don’t read the point as saying that newspapers should be regulated on the same basis of broadcasters. If anything, it suggests starting with the press system and folding other sectors into it. (Not sure I’d agree with it, but it’s a well-argued point and backed up by more thorough analysis of the existing regulatory systems in earlier, much longer papers on the site). What the report actually says (before making that recommendation) is:
“The first would be to create a self-regulatory framework open to all media sectors and players. As the PCC Code is substantively quite close to the content codes applicable to broadcast television, a framework broadly based on the PCC Code could be extended across all sectors, video, audio and text, to create a more coherent framework. The more detailed provisions in the broadcasting codes could, where relevant, be drawn on to develop the code further.”
The point on the co-ordination of the journalistic profession is taken from a completely different part of the document – an annex summarising recommendations directed at the European institutions. It appears to be copied across from the more detailed discussion on p. 16 of this document, which is a more general point about the different models of journalistic status across Europe, including its consequences for the protection of journalists. Again, not everyone’s cup of tea, but far from as scary as it sounds.
I should say that the UK brief contains quite a range of points. (Again, not endorsing all of them, but they are plausible, relevant assertions). For example, there’s discussion of using the taxation of ISPs to support journalism, and of clarifying statutory public interest defences for offences that restrict reporting. Or making the appointment of the BBC Trust more transparent. As it happens, some of these recommendations were discussed at a workshop I attended earlier in the year. Also in attendance as an invited keynote speaker was a representative from the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. Her presentation was extremely critical of the restrictions on press freedom in the UK. (Indeed, it sparked an interesting exchange as some of the audience argued in favour of greater protection of privacy – I call it a draw). It’s a strange sort of stooge project that invites people like that to speak.
Gilligan’s article goes on to discuss various other EU-funded projects. Erroneously, this is described as ‘coordinated’ and the responsibility of one Commissioner. However, Mediadem is funded under FP7 (i.e. as an academic project), whereas some of the other projects are work run by or directly commissioned by the European Commission for its current policy work. There are various suggestions made about the involvement of those supporting changes to media regulation (e.g. the “Hacked Off” campaign group). It’s hard to see how much of an influence UK campaigners (particularly in relation to Leveson) have had on a 14-country consortium of universities, particularly for a project that was applied for long before and started its public activities in early 2010.
I found it funny to see the point being made that Prof. Steven Barnett attended the final Mediadem conference. (I received an invite, but couldn’t attend). I don’t doubt that he did, but the conference report discloses a wide range of presentations, including the participation of representatives of journalists and media organisations, and a particular focus on freedom of expression. The list of attendees (again, an unusual way to hide a project, publishing such information) includes a lot of journalists, commercial and public service broadcasters, as well as academics from different countries and lots of regulatory bodies. Not unusual for this sort of event. Not unusual that a Prof of journalism like Barnett would be in the crowd.
All in all, I think those who disagree with the regulation of the media might find a lot to interest them in the Mediadem project. To suggest that it is part of the EU’s attempt to regulate the media is far off the mark – it’s an academic project with stacks of recommendations (which even contradict each other, so coordination is hardly the key), lots of people involved, various ideas floating around – fairly typical for this sort of project, in my experience. Looking in from the margins, I thought it a useful exercise and the amount of information that has been made available (for all on a very non-secret website) would, I think, actually assist campaigners on different sides of the argument. So while the article does raise some interesting questions about the overall EU approach to media regulation, and does highlight the work to a wider audience, I would advise the interested reader to check out the policy briefs, research reports and conference proceedings for themselves. It’s more balanced and engaging that the Telegraph suggests.
Note: I will be speaking at this event on the post-Leveson debate and the regulation of content on the Internet. So if you want to know my views on the whole ‘news-related material’ and ‘OMG regulating tweets!’ controversy, this is where I’ll give them (and follow up here on this blog with a summary).
The Future of Press Regulation in Scotland
The EU MEDIADEM project is hosting a workshop on Tuesday 26 March 2013.
The expert committee chaired by Lord McCluskey has been exploring the implications of the Leveson Report for press regulation in Scotland. This workshop will examine the findings of that committee, as well as the various models of press regulation, such as a Royal Charter, that have been proposed post-Leveson. Among the expert speakers at the workshop will be members of the McCluskey committee, representatives from the press and academics working in the field.
The workshop will also consider a number of findings and potential ‘gaps’ in the Leveson Report that have attracted rather less media attention to date, notably – data protection, statutory recognition of the public interest in investigative journalism and the regulatory implications of media convergence. Speakers will briefly introduce these topics before opening the floor to what we hope will prove to be a lively discussion.
The workshop will take place in the Ken Mason suite, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL from 4pm – 6pm, followed by a wine reception.
The event is open to the public and we invite students, academics, journalists, civil servants, representatives from civil society organisations, the legal profession and members of the public to join us in engaging with these topical issues. Places are limited, so please confirm attendance with the administrator for the conference, Ms. Yolande Stolte. For further information call: 0131 650 2094.
I am pleased to invite proposals to present papers in the Media and Communications subject section at the annual conference of the Society of Legal Scholars, which has the theme of “Britain & Ireland in Europe, Europe in Britain & Ireland” and takes place at the University of Edinburgh (3rd-6th September 2013).
If you would like to present a paper in this section, please send me your proposal (consisting of title, details of the author(s), and a provisional abstract or description) by 8th March 2013. Decisions will reach you by 22nd March 2013. My email address is here.
The media and communications section falls in the first half of the conference (Group A: 3rd & 4th). There are four 90-minute sessions available with two (perhaps three) speakers per slot.
Given the theme of the conference, I intend to facilitate one session on EU media and communications law. Please indicate if you would like your paper to be considered for this panel. However, papers need not be on the conference theme at all.
Academic papers are invited on any area of media and communications law, including (but not limited to):
- the regulation of broadcasting (in the UK, Ireland and/or elsewhere)
- defamation and reputation, including proposed legislative changes
- privacy / breach of confidence
- freedom of expression and information in the context of media and
- communications (for example, content regulation)
- telecommunications law and policy
- media ownership and pluralism
- responses to the report of the Leveson Inquiry
- competition and the media and communications industries
- the laws, practices and codes affecting journalism (e.g. contempt of
- court, subterfuge, court reporting, recognition/status of journalists)
- the control of marketing, advertising, and sponsorship
- contract and rights issues affecting the media and communications sectors
- (for example, television coverage of sporting events)
- universal design / access in relation to communications
- language and minority rights and the media
Please note the following important information:
1. Speakers are permitted to present more than one paper. However, if you are offering more than one paper to this Conference, please say so when you submit your proposal. This is to enable better planning of the programme.
2. Those presenting papers will be expected to provide a final abstract of their paper for the paper bank (on the SLS website). At the very latest, this will be required by the end of July.
3. There will be, as usual, a prize for Best Paper; a full paper must be uploaded by 5pm 26 August 2013 and not be published, accepted or under consideration elsewhere, in order to be eligible. Further information and full regulations can be obtained from the Society.
4. You are also reminded that all speakers and delegates will need to book and pay for the conference in due course.
I look forward to receiving proposals. Please feel free to forward this call to your colleagues and to appropriate mailing lists, and to contact me if you wish to discuss a proposal before you submit it.
The editorial in the December 2012 issue of SCRIPTed: A Journal of Law & Technology is written by me, along with Dr. John Sheekey (a mathematician who also happens to be my brother). In our piece, ‘All that glitters is not gold, but is it diamond?‘ (2012) 9 SCRIPTed 274, we respond to the proposals for open access academic publication in the UK and elsewhere. While you might expect that we would welcome proposals to make the results of research more widely available, particularly when so many articles require payment or a subscription, we argue that the current proposal in the UK, and similar proposals elsewhere, have the potential to cause serious harm to scholarship, particularly in the disciplines in which we work.
The biggest threat is the proposal that publicly funded research (and possibly work submitted to future research assessments) be published in open access journals, funded through the device of ‘article processing charges’ (APCs) paid to journal publishers. This system, where an author would need to come up with thousands of pounds in order to secure publication of her or his work, does not encourage early career scholars, and it raises serious questions about the incentives to accept submissions (in terms of journal editors). Instead, we argue for the ‘diamond’ system to be given more attention. This means journals which neither charge a subscription nor an APC, but may be funded directly by a research council or an institution. Indeed, this model, rather than the APC model known in much better funded disciplines, is already becoming significant in both law and mathematics. We suggest that it could form a part of a strategy towards genuine open access.
The EU MEDIADEM project is hosting a one day workshop in Edinburgh on Devolution & Independence: The Future of the Media in Scotland. Ms. Birgitta Jonsdottir (Member of the Icelandic Parliament & chair of the International Modern Media Institute) will give the keynote speech on the implementation of Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative and its implications for Scottish media law and policy.
Speakers at the workshop will include:
- Prof. Philip Schlesinger (University of Glasgow)
- Dr. Daithi Mac Síthigh (University of Edinburgh)
- Mr. Bart van Besien (Université Libre de Bruxelles)
- Dr. Sebastian Müller (University of Bielefeld, Law Faculty)
- Dr. Juan Luis Manfredi Sanchez (University of Castilla-La Mancha, Periodismo)
The workshop will address media regulation in Belgium and Spain where there are similarly live issues of devolution and independence; the role of the media in supporting language and cultural identity; and regulatory coherence in the media field in the UK.
The workshop will take place in the Lorimer Room, Old College, South Bridge, EH8 9YL from 11.30-5 pm. Lunch will be provided.
The event is open to the public and we invite students, academics, journalists, civil servants, representatives from civil society organisations, the legal profession and the general public to join us in engaging with these topical issues. Places are, limited so please confirm attendance with the administrator for the conference, Ms. Yolande Stolte at: email@example.com, by Thursday 3 January. For further information call: 0131 650 2094.