The Media in the Press 10.11.09

Complaints seem to be the dominant theme of today’s media stories in the press, with the Government, BBC, ITV and the Sun newspaper coming under fire today for a myriad of reasons and broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, commanding several column inches over impending investigations and complaints held by viewers….

Second-year Journalism student, Alex McConnell, of Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories that are making into today’s papers….

Firstly, the humble handwritten letter has entered the limelight following Prime Minister, Gordon Brown's apology to the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan after misspelling her son's name in a letter of condolence. Today, the Scottish Sun has published the 13-minute transcript of the phone conversation between Mrs Janes and the Prime Minister where Mr Brown said that he was sorry that his poor handwriting caused misunderstanding (Pages 4, 5 and 6).

But some papers have criticised the Sun for its handling of the story, with The Independent editorial (page 30) claiming its tabloid rival has launched an “vicious and unfair personal attack” on Brown, who has impaired vision. The Guardian, meanwhile, reports Labour accusing the Sun of a campaign against the PM and “exploiting” the grief of Mrs Janes (page 7 and page 30).

The BBC is in the headlines today over a number of issues: Top Gear has been criticised by Ofcom for a spoof Volkswagen advert showing a man shooting himself and which resulted in 50 complaints for the images being too violent to be shown pre-watershed (page 3, The Herald and page 7, the Sun) and Stephen Poliakoff, the BAFTA-award winning writer has accused the BBC of being run by “Kafkaesque committees” (page 13, The Daily Telegraph).

Poliakoff claims that dramas are becoming victims of “extreme” rules and regulations under Safeguarding Trust, an in-house scheme set up to restore the BBC’s reputation after two years of scandal following the Andrew Sachs prank calls furore.

In another article on the same page of the Daily Telegraph, the BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, encourages BBC presenters to keep taking risks in their jokes, despite being accused of creating a “climate of fear” and an atmosphere of “retrenchment”.

On page 20 of the Times there is also an article about Ofcom postponing publication of a report into the investigation of a BBC documentary that exposed the poor health of pedigree dogs. Tthe Kennel Club says it has lost confidence in the regulator.

ITV haven’t escaped the eyes of Ofcom, either; the broadcaster has received over 3000 complaints by viewers over Simon Cowell's decision to keep twins, John and Edward or “Jedward” as they are more famously known, in the X Factor despite having limited singing ability. The decision has sparked allegations of the show being fixed (page 7, Scottish Daily Express) and that keeping the twins, who Cowell himself has deemed “vile creatures”, was a ploy to attract viewers. A record 16.6 million people watched the show on Sunday night and the decision has caused 11,000 people to join a Facebook group called 'Boycott the X-Factor' (page 7, the Scottish Sun).

Other media stories:

* More than 40 academics have put their names to a report, The Impact of Media images on Body Image and Behaviours: A Summary of the Scientific Evidence. The report is part of a Liberal Democrat campaign to ban airbrushing being used in adverts aimed at under 16’s – page 8, The Herald and page 25, The Scotsman.

* The influential editor of a Chinese magazine resigned yesterday after a spate of conflicts with its backers over issues reportedly including coverage of sensitive current affairs stories. Hu Shuli founded Caijing 11 years ago and has tackled issues including pollution, political corruption despite being subject to the tightly controlled Chinese Media – page 15, The Guardian.

* Modern Warfare 2, a violent video game, is expected to bring £150 million revenue in first week sales and is poised to be bigger than Harry Potter which has led to some believing that this year could see the games industry beating the film industry for in global revenue generation for the first time – page 3, The Guardian and page 25, The Scotsman.