The Media in the Press 18.2.10

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 Press Complaints Commission has rejected a complaint over an article by the Daily Mail columnist, Jan Moir, on the grounds that censuring comment would represent “a slide towards censorship”.

Moir provoked outrage last October following an article on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately published under the headline, 'A Strange, Lonely and Troubling Death…'.

The columnist’s remarks sparked a record number of complaints with more than 25,000 voicing their upset to the press watchdog.

However, as the Guardian (page 10) reports, the PCC has concluded that, in spite of being “uncomfortable with the tenor of the columnist’s remarks”, it would not uphold the complaint made by Gately’s civil partner, Andrew Cowles, on the basis that it “would not be proportionate to rule against the columnist’s right to offer freely expressed views about something that was the focus of public attention”.

Under the headline ‘PCC: ‘Mail’ had a Right to Publish Gately Column’, the Independent (page 10) quotes the watchdog’s ruling. “The price of freedom of expression is that commentators and columnists say things other people may not agree, may find offensive, or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate: it can anger and upset,” said the commission.

Today’s Herald (page 2) features the decision and, unsurprisingly, so too does the Scottish Daily Mail (page 4) which reads: ‘Gately Complaint is Rejected by PCC’.

Elsewhere, the UK edition of world-famous Reader’s Digest looks set to shut up shop after 72 years. The magazine fell into administration yesterday, putting the jobs of 117 employees at risk.

“Once a staple of news stands and doctors’ waiting rooms, Reader’s Digest looks set to close in Britain,” says the Scottish Daily Express (page 22).

Circulation of the magazine has plummeted from two million in the 1990s to roughly 540,000 today, the Daily Telegraph (page 6) reports, while the Herald (page 5) quotes Marion Sinclair, chief executive of Publishing Scotland, who says the Digest’s demise looks like “the end of a much loved institution”.

Ian Burrell, media editor for the Independent (page 9), adds that the magazine “would be greatly missed by its British readers, who enjoy its monthly mix of real-life tales of derring-do and homely advice”. The Daily Record (page 35) and the Scottish Daily Mail (page 19) also refer to the possible loss of the publication.

Moving to the BBC now and its plans to launch its first applications for the iPhone. The new apps, which will be available as of this April, will allow audiences to catch up on news, sport and iPlayer video content on their mobile phone.

Says Erik Huggers, director of the BBC’s future media and technology division, in today’s Times (page 55): “It’s been 12 years since the launch of BBC Online, but as media converges and technology accelerates, license fee payers are increasingly using sophisticated handheld devices to access information. They tell us that they want to access the digital services that they have paid for at a time and place that suits them.”

The move features in the business pages of the Daily Telegraph (Business, page 8) and in the Independent (page 44) where Paolo Pescatore, the director of applications and services at CCS Insight, says the service could fill the “missing piece of the jigsaw for the BBC’s digital strategy”.

Keeping with the Corporation, and BBC chiefs are keen to have the Pope present Thought for the Day – the religious slot on Radio 4’s Today programme – during his visit to Britain later this year.

“Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said the Roman Catholic leader’s involvement was on his wish list,” says the Herald (page 9), while the Times (page 17) contains a comment from the Pope’s spokesman who said the proposal was “interesting and worthy of consideration”.

Secular groups have, however, hit out at the notion of the Pope delivering the three-minute broadcast. “It would be much better if he was on the mainstream Today programme under the scrutiny of (presenter) John Humphrys rather than just giving the Catholic church an opportunity to promote itself,” said the National Secular Society president, Terry Sanderson, in the Independent (page 10).

And finally, BBC presenter, Ray Gosling, has been arrested on the suspicion of murder after admitting to television viewers that he had carried out a mercy killing. ‘BBC Presenter in Custody after ‘Mercy Killing’ Arrest’, reads the Scotsman (page 10) – one of several papers to feature the news.

Other media stories:

* SeeSaw, a new video-on demand website, has been launched with 3,000 hours of BBC, Channel 4 and Five programming now available to users – The Guardian (page 3).

* Scottish broadcaster, Kirsty Young, has faced fierce criticism from critics over the quality of her guests on her BBC Radio show Desert Island Discs – The Herald (page 10).

* The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled eight adverts broadcast on ITV3 were too loud – The Daily Telegraph (page 8).

* Denise Van Outen was dropped from a BBC talent show because she was pregnant, says the Scottish Daily Mail (page 5).