The Media in the Press 1.12.09

Second-year Journalism student, Alan Robertson, of Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories making it into the pages of today’s papers….

The BBC has hit today’s headlines after ordering a television production company to pay compensation to the Corporation because three daytime shows “routinely misled viewers”.

The BBC Trust ruled yesterday that there had been a series of “serious and repeated” breaches of editorial guidelines in a number of programmes produced by independent production company, Reef Television.

'Sun, Sea and Bargain Spotting', presented by Angela Rippon, was one of two shows in which production staff were passed off as members of the public while buying items and re-staging events for the cameras. The BBC was unaware of this deceit, the Trust found.

“The BBC is at the centre of a fresh fakery row after admitting producers posed as members of the public during daytime shows”, the Scottish Daily Mail (page 12) reports.

The Scotsman (page 12) carries news of the faked scenes also, quoting Richard Tait, chair of the BBC Trust’s editorial standards committee, saying: “The practices identified in Reef Television’s programming routinely misled the BBC’s audience and are totally unacceptable.”

The Herald (page 11) reports the breaches under the headline, ‘Production Firm Censured Over Fake Scenes on BBC Shows’, while the Daily Record (page 14), like many others, states the BBC Trust found the Corporation was not privy to the deception.

The Daily Telegraph (page 3), meanwhile, quotes the Conservative chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, John Whittingdale, saying: “It is extraordinary that this has been allowed to happen given earlier incidents over fakery.”

News that Reef Television will still have programmes commissioned by the BBC is the focus of the Scottish Daily Express (page 15). The paper reports that a suspension on working with the company has been lifted and that the BBC will continue to give airtime to Reef productions after the company has paid out compensation.

“The BBC has a responsibility to protect licence fee-payers’ interests, and that should mean dropping business partners who cannot be trusted,” says Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

The Guardian’s (page 9) report, however, contains a reassurance by BBC management that the Corporation “is now satisfied that the company has compliance procedures and training of an appropriate standard”.

In other media news, Scotsman publishers, Johnston Press, which owns more than 300 local newspapers, has become the first regional publisher to charge for online news. ‘Newspaper Group Tests Water with Online Charges’, reports The Times (page 21). 

The move means readers of three Johnston titles – the Northumberland Gazette, the Whitby Gazette and Scottish title, the Southern Reporter – will now pay £5 for a three-month online subscription, while three others will provide summaries and direct readers back to the actual newspaper. It follows a severe slump in advertising revenues, declining 42 per cent over the past two years.

The Daily Telegraph (Business, page 4) sheds light on the trial also with Paul Larkin, editor of the Northumberland Gazette, saying: “It is exciting to for us as journalists to be at the forefront of this venture. All eyes in the media world are on us.”

Elsewhere, the Herald & Times Group came out on top in four categories at the Scottish Magazine Awards (The Herald, page 2), while the Sunday Times failed to go on sale in Dubai over the weekend because it contained a photo-montage of the ruler, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, 'sinking in a sea of debt' (The Independent, page 39).