The Media in the Press 17.3.10

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

Condom adverts before the watershed? What is the world coming to? But says The Scotsman (page 23), the largest shake-up of advertising regulation in 40 years will also see a crackdown on adverts for violent video games. And with the inclusion of a new 'social responsibility clause', financial firms will be prevented, for example, from suggesting that people take out a loan to go on holiday. 

In seeking to provide greater protection for children, for instance, there will be a ban on collecting data from under-12s without parental consent. There will also be tougher rules on environmental claims. It is hoped that the changes will give consumers greater protection and ensure that all ads are 'legal, honest and truthful'.

While condom ads can be shown before the 9pm watershed – indeed, before 7.30pm on, specifically, Channel 4 – they cannot be shown around programmes popular with under-10s. However, despite the new changes, the Broadcasting Committee on Advertising Practice (BCAP) has delayed its decision on proposed advertisements for abortion clinics.

And in a parallel development, says the Guardian, the Advertising Standards Authority has banned two government climate change adverts for being “misleading, scaremongering and distressing”. The government is reported pledging to continue the £6 million campaign by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, which used nursery rhymes to push the message of man-made climate change and prompted almost 1000 complaints to the ASA.

Continues the Guardian, it was revealed, in February, that broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, had launched an investigation into the ads, after they received hundreds of complaints that it was being used as political advertising. In other words, the government may find themselves in breach of the Communications Act, whereby the government may run advertising of a public service nature, but may not run political advertising that tries to “influence public opinion of a matter of public controversy”.

In other media news, The Times (page 33) writes of a fake report of a Russian invasion of Georgia. Imedi Television is said to have claimed,  in a primetime broadcast, that Russian forces were advancing of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, had bombed the airport and that President Saakashvili had been assassinated. The report is alleged to have then caused widespread panic in the country.

Denis Keefe, the British envoy to Georgia, and Eric Fournier, his French counterpart, are said to have demanded apologies from the station, which showed them making statements in the programme as well as showing footage of Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia over South Ossetia. Mr Keefe is quoted accusing the company of “discourtesy to me as an ambassador”, adding that the report had reflected badly on Georgia’s reputation for independent media. Mr Fournier is also quoted, condemning the programme as being “very far from the standards of professional journalism”.

Imedi’s general manager, Giorgi Arveladze, is understood to be a close ally of the President and Mr Saakashvili is reported denying any advance knowledge of the programme while nevertheless defending it as an example of what could happen and “what Georgia’s enemy has conceived”.  

The Times (page 32) also reports a mass walkout and strike at influential Islamic news website, Islam Online. More than 300 employees are said to have walked out of the Cairo-based newsroom, angered by supposed ‘call interference’ from the site's new directors. Staff are said to be claiming that site is being forced to become more religious.

And finally, beware criminals! If you boast about your illegal activities you may get a message from a virtual friend that you didn’t expect: an FBI agent. The Guardian (page 14) reports that US Federal law enforcement agencies have been using sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to search for witnesses or evidence.