Openness Vs. Privacy - Drawing New Journalistic Lines at the AOP Summit
Panel Moderator and BBC Technology Correspondent BBC Rory Cellan-Jones kicked off the Press Panel at the AOP Summit
by saying he has just celebrated his 30th anniversary at the broadcaster.
While technology and business have been constantly discussed over the past 29 years, any debate about journalistic ethics has been absent, at least until the last 12 months…
Has the definition of public interest changed?
Lewis Silkin Partner Jonathan Coad:
“The judges engage in what they say is an ‘intense focus’… they lick their finger and they put it up in the air… these are not really legal judgments, they are moral judgments.”
Heat TV and Reviews Editor Boyd Hilton:
“Steve Coogan says, quite rightly, that there’s nothing in my professional life I’ve done that entitles anyone to invade my privacy. But Mark Wright in the Only Way is Essex, when he’s on the cover of OK, talking about the abortion that his ex-girlfriend had – that’s it – I’m sorry, you’re living your life like an open wound. And we’re all entitled now to talk about your private life.”
As an example of just how difficult the judiciary finds making judgements on privacy, Coad cites the Naomi Campbell case
, which involved nine judges, who split 5-4, with 5 actually finding against Campbell. The reason she won the case was that 3 of the 4 judges that found in her favour were law lords.
On Hack Gate
“The MPs expenses story was a breach of criminal law in exactly the same way as Hack Gate.” Jonathan Coad, Lewis Silkin
Digital Spy Editor David Moynihan
- “It was the police that failed, the PCC also failed, but I don’t think you necessarily need to change the Editors’ Code
. Rather, there are questions about why the police didn’t investigate… there was all kinds of corruption out there, and journalism was just one small part.”
Coad adds that the law needs to protect good investigative journalism, with Cellan-Jones reminding him that “Good investigative journalism is almost never profitable, and almost always subsidised by bad investigative journalism.”
The debate then turns to the tabloid press, with Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts and Boyd Hilton disagreeing over their current standing – Hilton says: “The tabloids are not dead, and they’re not even dying.”
Press Regulation, the PCC and the ‘Desmond Problem’
Jonathan Coad: “Richard Desmond essentially has three platforms – I was the only person at Leveson to suggest maybe you should just treat him as a publisher, It doesn’t matter what platform he is publishing to… there’s no sense in [Desmond] being regulated differently to the broadcasters…”
He adds, with the amount of multimedia on newspaper sites, “What really is the difference?”
On Anonymity Online
The debate moves onto online anonymity, and how to regulate sites like Twitter, or whether that’s even possible.
Moynihan reminds the audience we have Twitter users calling themselves things like ‘super-injunction sleuth’, gaining hundreds of thousands of followers, and posting false information all the time.
The real problem, in regulation terms, Hilton adds, is not with major publishers or broadcasters, but in the ‘totally unregulated internet’.
Coad says: “In the American First Amendment, there’s nothing you can do about [libel]. We have to say as a society, whether we object to lies… Or do we say like the Americans there’s nothing we can do.”
Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts raises the issue of ‘vexatious litigants
’ - especially companies that don’t like what people say about a product – and the ‘chilling effect’ of such complaints, which regardless of the legal precedents, often result in Mumsnet simply having to take down content.
Watch the video above to hear the discussion in full.
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