The Media in the Press 24.3.10

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

As the row over censorship between the world’s most populated country and world’s largest internet search engine continues, there is much speculation over who will suffer more: the country or the business? 

It's the broadsheets mainly that are still covering the Google censorship dispute with China, with The Times (page 2) offering a leader comment on the possible implications for China in both economic and diplomatic terms: “China has put short term self-interest before winning friends or fulfilling its promises to the World Trade Organisation.” The article also touches on China underestimating the importance of free information in a “knowledge-based economic future” where companies like Google will be only too crucial.

The Guardian (pages 18 and 19)  also devotes considerable column space to the story, exploring the extent of China's crackdown on 'sensitive information' – such as ‘Tiananmen Square’ or ‘Dalai Lama’ – which first led to Google shutting its mainland search engine. The report also reveals the Google’s moral decision to leave, following widely reported cyber-attacks and censorship crackdowns.

The Guardian website also carries an article on Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, urging the US to act over China’s alleged behaviour, saying that President Obama should make the issue a “high priority”. He also suggests that if more companies become accessible only outside the so called ‘Great Firewall’, the more pressure there will be on China to change its stance.

In other media news, Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has announced a new raft of libel reforms should Labour win the General Election – The Times, pages 2 and 4 and The Guardian, page 10. These include a new 'public interest' defence for 'responsible journalism' amid concerns that current libel laws in England and Wales are hindering freedom of expression.

As well as measures to protect investigative journalism, there are also plans to restrict overseas libel claimants in UK courts – or 'libel tourism' – whereby overseas litigants can seek redress in UK courts and can bring libel cases forward with relative ease. Straw is said to be also proposing a ‘single publication rule’ so that claimants cannot sue every media outlet or internet download that repeats the alleged libel.

It is being hoped that sufficient parliamentary time is made available to have the proposals on the statute book ahead of the General Election.

The Herald (page 3) and The Scotsman (page 9) both cover the BBC Trust delaying a decision on whether to air Gaelic TV on Freeview. The Trust was expected to announce the results of a consultation this month, but this has since been pushed back until autumn.

The reason for the delay lies with the widespread changes taking place at the Corporation – including the proposed axing of 6 music and Asian Network, which have higher audiences than BBC Alba’s 220,000 – and because, were BBC Alba to move to Freeview, it would mean a host of BBC radio stations dropping off Freeview between 5pm and 11pm every night.

And finally, an advert featuring Lenny Henry parodying the axe-wielding psychopath in The Shining has been banned during children's programming. The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints from viewers of children’s channel, Nick Jr, over its suitability. The ad for Premier Inn shows Henry attacking a door with an axe -The Scotsman, page 24.