Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Rules and Regulations - I would have gotten away with it!

As with any job, profession anything there are always rules and regulations. Journalism is no different. Not only is it affected by the law, it is also closely scrutinised by other organisations that set rules about conduct.
There are a few different organisations that have different codes of practice but all essentially serve the same purpose, to ensure that journalists adhere to a correct code of conduct
The different organisations that enforce codes of practice are:

PCC - Press complaints commission - Editor's code of practice.
Ofcom Broadcasting Code.
BBC Producer Guidlines.

These organisations are in practice to regulate the media and enforce that the correct conduct is followed in order to carry out a job.

Ofcom is basically the regulatory body for the media. It has a stutory right to promote competitions and protect consumers of the media against output which may be seen as harmful or offensive material. It has the power to impose fines and even remove licenses. It is also responsible for the management, regulation, assignment and licensing of the media. It licenses any broadcasting output and sometimes the proces is more difficult than others.
PCC and BBC broadcasting guidelines are both systems of self regulation. The PCC, or press complaints commission is a self regulating system for newspapers and magazines or any form of print journalism. Unlike Ofcom it has no legal power, it cannot impose fines or punishments. Everything to do with PCC is volutary. Newspapers and magazines adhere to the conditions and pay for the body voluntrily, meaning they CAN go against them.

The PCC code of practice has calls for correct code of conduct on the following:
2.Opportunity to reply
5.Intrusion into grief or shock
7.Children in sex cases
9.Reporting of crime
11.Victims of sexual assault
13.Financial journalism
14.Confidential sources
15.Witness payments in criminal trials
16.Payment to criminals

The BBC editorial guideline is also a self regulating body of the media. Just like PCC it also covers many different sections about the code of conduct a journalist should use. It again has know legal power, hence the name, guidline. It can only boast to guide journalists in to exercising the correct conduct.
The most powerful of the three bodies is of course Ofcom. As that is the only one with statutory power. If their code is broken then they can enfore punishments. An example would be when ITV's Ant and Dec were fined £5.6 million for abusing a phone in competition in order to make money.
Ofcom calls for absolute accuracy and impartiality. If neither are present in a boradcast, story, report whatever, then there is a cause for investigation.

Just like any other form of law or rule breaking Ofcom is there to stop a journalist from stepping outside the area of being a normal everyday member of society. A journalist is not above the law or any human right act because they have the same rights as any other citizen. Just because they are on television doesn't mean they can use it to do what they want. This is why Ofcom and the other self regulatory bodies are there. To keep proper conduct in place and to remind journalists that they are merely 'the eyes and ears of the general public' nothing more.

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