The Media in the Press 10.3.10

Second-year Journalism student, Alex McConnell, of Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories making the headlines today…

The internet has provided us with a great many opportunities and social networking sites have helped us to keep in touch with people, no matter how far away they are. However, the dark side of such technology has become painfully clear in the past couple of days and it is time that such sites began to take more responsibility…

The Times reports that public bodies have been banned from signing contracts with internet providers that do not actively block paedophile sites (page 13). The decision has been made amid heightened concerns about the exploitation of the internet by sex offenders.

The Office of Government Commerce has announced that all departments, agencies and quangos should only deal with contractors who have agreed to block a list of sites known to carry abusive images. The list is maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation and updated twice a day. This decision from the Government could cost some telecom companies millions of pounds.

This news comes after senior police officers heavily criticised the social networking site, Facebook, after yesterday's conviction of Peter Chapman, a convicted rapist who used the site to groom a 17 year-old girl who he then raped and murdered (The Guardian, page 7). Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Unit (Ceop) has urged Facebook to add the Ceop panic button to their site. The button is already in use on Bebo and MSN allows children to alert Ceop of suspected abuse and led to 334 arrests last year.

The criticisms follow conviction of Paul Bristol, who killed his ex-girlfriend after seeing her pictured on Facebook with another man and flew from Trinidad to confront her. The story and the issues surrounding it are also covered in the Scottish Daily Mail (page 6), the Daily Telegraph (page 8) and The Scottish Sun (page 13).

In other news, the front page of the Guardian reports the News of the World being accused of ‘buying silence’ after agreeing to pay more than £1 million to celebrity PR agent, Max Clifford,  to drop a legal action over alleged interception of his voicemail messages.

The paper quotes Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, saying: “This is a clear attempt to buy the silence of people who had their phones hacked by the News of the World’s reporters… The trouble with cover-ups like this is that they give no reassurance that the guilty parties have really changed their ways.” – Guardian, page 1 and 2.

Says the Guardian: “It brings to more than £2 million the amount paid by News International to victims of phone-hacking to secure their silence: in a separate case the paper paid more than £1 million to suppress legal actions brought by Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, and two others who had sued the paper over the interception of their voicemail. The paper had always denied all involvement but paid for a secret settlement after a judge ordered disclosure of paperwork which implicated some of its journalists.”

Clifford is reported to be pleased with the outcome of proceedings: “I’m now looking forward to continuing the successful relationship that I experienced with the News of the World for 20 years before my recent problems with them,” he is quoted, saying.

Elsewhere, and Sir Bob Geldof has launched a furious attack on the BBC World Service over a story claiming that 95 per cent of the $100 million raised by Live Aid to combat famine in Ethiopia was diverted by rebels and spent on weapons (Guardian, page 8). 

Geldof has accused the World Service of a “total collapse of standard and systems” and called for Martin Plaut (the author of the story), plus Andrew Whitehead (the BBC World Service news and current affairs editor) and Peter Horrocks (BBC director of global news) to be fired. He also said that an immediate investigation should take place over “baseless” allegations and is threatening legal action against both the journalist in question and the World Service. 

Geldof also voices his criticism in today’s Guardian and in its Comment is Free website (page 31) over an opinion piece by journalist Rageh Omaar, which defended the Corporation's story and its right to investigate the fate of aid money in humanitarian interventions.

And finally, BBC presenter, Libby Purves, has launched a scathing attack on the Corporation, claiming that there had been failures of “nerve and taste” in relation to programmes such as ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid?’ which concentrate on getting more viewers instead of maintaining the quality of programmes. 

She has called for the Corporation to define its function as a national resource and not dumb down the news or copy existing formats: “The license fee need not be an embarrassment but a spur to exploration and risk.” – The Herald, page 7.

Other media news:

* Scotsman Publications has 22 shortlisted entries for this year’s Scottish Press Awards, taking place on the 22nd of next month. The Scotsman’s political editor, Eddie Barnes, has been nominated, while Alice Wyllie is in the running for Young Journalist of the Year. The paper also has three nominations in the Multi-media Journalist of the Year category as well being shortlisted in features, magazine writing, arts and entertainment, columnist and sports feature writing categories. – The Scotsman, page 5.

* It hasn’t all been bad news for Facebook today with the launch of a new application by charity WeQuit to help people quit smoking. The application will help people and their friends challenge each other to give up nicotine, as well as create awards for success and forfeits for failure. – The Scotsman, page 14.

* The Herald also reports on the events at Glasgow’s Aye Write! Festival which yesterday, saw senior media figures warning of an “emerging generation gap” in the debate over the future of the news industry in Scotland. Asked how the industry would cope with new technologies – such as iPhones and Blackberries which are overtaking newspapers as the place where young people get their information – media analyst, Douglas McCabe, predicted radical change would happen overnight. But Herald managing director, Tim Blott, said he believed that print media could weather the storm caused by these upheavals. – The Herald, page 5.

* Former newspaper editor, Max Hastings, is reported to be refusing to travel 'up north', to appear on the BBC’s The Culture Show, which is filmed in Glasgow. Hastings has also criticised BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, for outsourcing programme making to regional centres. He is quoted, saying: “Like it or not, London is the national hub. In every walk of life, redeployment north is the equivalent of a French Foreign Legion posting to Fort Zinderneuf.” – The Herald, page 7.