The Media in the Press 2.12.09

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

Until yesterday, Mike Russell's ministerial portfolio in the Scottish Government included the media; as the new Education Secretary, he wakes up to the possibility of facing three parliamentary investations due to a former aide, a Mark McLachlan, who is reported to have run a blog which smeared the SNP’s political opponents (The Times, page 23).

The blog, entitled 'The Universality of Cheese', is said to have included ‘vile defamatory smears’ against a Ronnie Nicholson, a Labour Councillor. The Daily Mail (page 6) and The Daily Telegraph (page 4) also report the story, saying that Russell has denounced his former employee’s actions and asserts that he had no prior knowledge of the blog.

Staying with politics, and the Conservatives, UK-wide, are demanding music and sports videos or DVD’s be given film-style ratings to protect children from violent and sexual content. The Daily Telegraph (page 12) and the Scottish Daily Mail (page 34) both report on a legal loophole which does not require music or sport videos to be rated. It has prompted Shadow Culture Minister, Jeremy Hunt, promising to push for legislation to include DVDs and videos in accordance with the new Digital Economy Bill, which will reform the Video Recordings Act and update the classification system of video games. Mr Hunt said he was pleased about the changes to the ratings of video games but it was “really worrying” that the Government had not done more to close other loopholes, which allow harmful content to be seen by children.

In international media news, The Guardian (page 15) reports the suspicious death of a Russian journalist, who plunged from a 14ft building, only a day after she won a legal battle to reclaim ownership of her television channel from regional bureaucrats.

Olga Kotovskaya, a prominent journalist in the western enclave of Kaliningrad, died on the 16th of last month but news of her death did not reach international human rights groups until earlier this week. Officials initially said that she had committed suicide but a criminal investigation into claims that she had been murdered opened last week. Kaskad, the regional television channel which Kotovskaya founded in the 90’s, had a reputation for critical news reporting.

Kotovskaya’s death is just one of a spate of murders and attacks of journalists in Russia. Seventeen journalists are believed to have been murdered, or have died in suspicious circumstances, since 2000 and many have been critics of the Kremlin regime. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Russia is the third most dangerous country to be a reporter, after Iraq and Algeria.

And finally, top media executives and newspaper editors from around the world heard calls yesterday to seek payment for online content (The Times, page 44). Timothy Balding, the chief executive officer of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, is reported saying that the move is essential due to sharply falling commercial revenues within the industry and that “unless we protect and commercially exploit our high value content, the journalistic standards so important to our readers and to society will no longer be financially viable”. Balding was addressing the World Newspaper Conference, in Hyderabad, India.

And finally, not quite media, but film: Scottish actor, Gerard Butler, has become an ambassador for the Glasgow Film Office and is supporting the organisation's bid to put Glasgow back on the 'big screen map', by attracting film makers and offering them easy access to the city – The Herald (Page 3).