Self-contradictory messages on Ofcom code
The Daily Mail responded predictably to the new Ofcom Broadcasting Code with an article entitled “TV free-for-all as sex and violence curbs are ditched”. Equally predictably, “Massah” John Beyer is wheeled out to provide a few choice quotes on the matter. Branding the new code as “a recipe for ever-declining standards” he says,
We had hoped Ofcom would be more in favour of the rights of viewers and listeners not to be offended by what is on. Instead, they’ve given the broadcasters what they want – they can show whatever offensive material they like as long as they warn audiences about it.
Tsk, giving adults the information necessary to make their own choices? Bad Ofcom.
Beyer also expresses concern that the prohibition of programmes that “offended good taste and decency” is replaced by guidelines on “harm and offence”:
There is no real definition of ‘harmful content’. It is very vague and elastic and will confuse the general public.
However, the official Mediawatch-UK press release gives a wholly positive reaction to the new code:
The new Code will end some of the uncertainty and speculation about the regulation of Television and Radio. We particularly welcome Ofcom’s snub to the pornography industry by its maintenance of the prohibition on ‘R18’ material, which has just been reinforced in the High Court, and the requirement that broadcasters should not include material that condones or glamorises violent or seriously anti-social behaviour
“After taking into account the context”, he pointedly did not add.
The onus is now very much on broadcasters to comply with the Code and stop screening violent and pornographic programmes. In the interests of media literacy Ofcom must make the terms of the Code widely known to the viewing and listening public.
So the one hand we have outright condemnation, and on the other a rather desperate attempt to put an upbeat pro-censorship spin on what is essentially a pro-freedom of expression document.
Anyone else think this double-talk has a negative impact on Mediawatch-UK’s reputation for providing “independent and principled opinion”?
UPDATE When I asked Beyer to clarify Mediawatch-UK’s position, he replied that the Mail “did not report my remarks in their entirety”. However, this does not address the blatant contradiction (ie, the new code is a licence for a free-for-all v. the new code prohibits the screening of violent and pornographic shows) . If anyone has better luck getting a straight answer out of him (his email address is on his website), please let me know.
UPDATE Beyer has now apparently “synthesised” the two statements, and will publish a new press release soon.