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.

he projects.

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.

8 Responses to “Self-contradictory messages on Ofcom code”

  1. Andy L says:

    Must be said though, Ofcom’s code allowing 15 rated movies on pin protected channels, while at the same time restricting R18 movies on the basis that kids can apparently easily find out pin numbers (wonder if there’s anything to back that assumption up), is just plain nonsensical.

    The code is completely contradictory.

  2. Christopher Shell says:

    Does it show that they have the ability to see both sides of the issue?

  3. Dan Factor says:

    The Daily Mail’s reporting of the new Ofcom code is agenda biased moral hysteria typical of this appaling rag.
    As for John Beyer and Mediawatch UK.. they should ask themselves how much they want Ofcom to protect viewers from being offended. Even the most innocent thing can be offensive to some viewers (like the black and white Minstrels for instance), should Ofcom really be regulating against anything which could possibly offend anybody?
    It’s job is wider than to investigate trivial complaints about programmes shown at gone 1 in the morning.

  4. Christopher Shell says:

    Why see it as an emotional matter at all? ‘Offence’ is nothing but an emotional reaction. Why not see it as a rational matter: excluding material associated with negative statistical patterns, which could serve no conceivable positive purpose, leading to doubts about the programme-makers’ motivation.

  5. Dan Factor says:

    What motivation? What motivation do programme makers have in producing material that may offend someone?

  6. Christopher Shell says:

    As I mentioned, offence is not the point. Offence is merely a subjective reaction. The issue is, rather, whether things which are negative and produce negative statistical patterns are presented in such a manner as to be glorified, or to be mistakenly identified as positive.

  7. Steve says:

    “Anyone else think this double-talk has a negative impact on Mediawatch-UK’s reputation for providing “independent and principled opinion”?”

    We can but hope!

  8. Garry says:

    MW have the Daily Mail and the press release on their site.
    Do they get many of their ideas from MWW, do you think?