Creative Media Task 3

Legal and Ethical Constraints in Media

Just like with any industry, there are many constraints which have been put in place to protect the audience and stop any issues arising against creators. These constraints are set by regulatory bodies, who ensure the codes aren’t broken, stopping any obscene content reaching and harming an audience in any way.

Legal Constraints

  • Legal constraints are laws that you have to follow, with no alternative, that regulate what is emitted in the creative media sector. If broken, fines and investigations from the police ensue as a consequence.
    • Legal constraints include:
      •  The Broadcasting Act, 1990
        • The Broadcasting Act was an act to reform British Broadcasting, in the sense that it would sort out the public’s issues with Television and Radio.
          • Effects on Television
            • The act prompted the creation of Channel 5, the fifth terrestrial channel in the UK and aided the growth of multichannel satellite TV. It also forced the BBC into an agreement, breaking their ‘all in-house’ production scheme, pushing them to source at least a quarter of its output from independent production companies. It also allowed the companies behind the ITV franchises to expand into other businesses, which led to the foundation of the ITV PLC. that we all know today.
          • Effects on Radio
            • The act meant wonders for radio, sparking the launch of three independent national radio stations, two using AM band channels on medium wave frequencies previously used by the BBC and the third using FM broadcasting channels on frequencies previously used by the emergency services. It also allowed plans to be made for local and regional commercial radio stations using untouched areas of the FM band.
        • This also brought in the Independent Television Commission and Radio Authority, which today have both been replaced by Ofcom.
      • The Obscene Publications Act, 1959 (and 1964)
        • This act made it an offence to publish content which will “deprave and corrupt” the audience. This includes any form of pornography before a certain time and any extreme sexual activity at any given point.
          • Effects on Television
            • No content deemed obscene through the Miller Test of Obscenity for audiences which can be shown on television. Any pornography must only be aired after a watershed and warnings before programmes are required to ensure the viewer is completely aware of what the program may involve.
          • Effects on Radio
            • No obscene content is allowed to be aired on the radio.
        • One of the most recent cases of the Obscene Publications Act being put into effect was in 1991, with the release of ‘Lord Horror’, a graphic novel set in World War 2, depicting the extreme anti-semitism of the age through it’s main character. The book was labelled obscene and was banned, with police confiscating all 350 books in storage at Savoy Books. The case was then overturned due to an appeal in 1992, yet the police continued to confiscate copies of it despite this, due to another book in the same storage which hadn’t had it’s case overturned. (source)
      • The Race Relations Act, 1976
        • The act was a law that attempted to abolish racial discrimination.
          • Effects on the Media in General
            • The media now had to be incredibly careful that discrimination did not occur in any form. For example, on television and radio, it is important that any racial discrimination is cut or avoided in the first place to evade offending anyone.
              • One example of a kerfuffle with this legislation is from 2008, when the BBC launched an inquiry into an advert, where they sought out a “young, zany Oriental or Asian person with a science background” to front a series. This caused somewhat of a squabble due to fact that the Race Relations Act states that job requirements leading to one or more racial groups being favoured over others is classed as indirect discrimination.
                • The BBC responded with “The wording of the messages was inappropriate and they should not have been sent out. It is now an internal matter.”
              • (source)
      • The Copyright and Intellectual Property Law
        • This law is put in place worldwide to ensure that the creator of a piece of art, video, literature, music, etc. is always known as the creator. The creator owns the copyright to something, which they can distribute licenses, for people to use the work with, but all follow strict guidelines. Apart from few cases, close to all uses of another person’s work must be permitted in writing by the copyright holder and the creator must be credited appropriately.
          • Effect on Television
            • Music or clips cannot be shown without correct permissions
          • Effect on Radio
            • Music cannot be aired without correct permissions. Music is protected by PRS and PPL, meaning a license from both of these are required to play copyrighted music on the radio, or anywhere for that matter.
      • Libel Law
        • Libel Law is legislation that states that false information cannot be conveyed in order to give impressions not intended, for example, falsely quoting someone to portray someone in a negative light.
          • An example of this is a battle between The Daily Telegraph and the British model Naomi Campbell, where it was falsely claimed that she organised an elephant polo match in India. This not being true, The Telegraph were brought into court, where Campbell won substantial damages and received a public apology.

Ethical Constraints 

  • Ethics in media are taken very seriously in order to defend the audience from offensive material. Although not taken lawfully as seriously as legal constraints, they are still, morally, just as important. There are so many people in the world that it’s important to stay within society’s guidelines of political correctness, in order to avoid angering or offending anyone. This can be caused through misrepresenting topics like gender, race and religion, for example if a company were to portray one religion as better than all others, this would of course run into some complaints. Although not officially regulated, for example by law, the producer of the piece has to make a moral judgement call in order to ensure the safety of their audience and face any consequences which may arise.
    • Example:
      • In Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 the infamous shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown was plastered all over the news. The shooting was committed by Police Officer Darren Wilson and was reported on by many news agencies, namely KSDK and The New York Times. In August KSDK, while reporting, showed a video of Wilson’s house, but did not release the address publicly. This was an ethica
        l issue that stumped many, as Wilson’s privacy was legally maintained, as his address was not disclosed, however some found it a violation of his privacy, in a sense morally, as his home was broadcast publicly without his permission. This obviously caused a stir as to whether it was ethically acceptable to air this.

      • When reporting on the death and upcoming funeral for Brown, the Times worded descriptions, to some, incredibly inappropriately, stating that Brown was “no angel”, implying the idea that Brown was a bad kid, which caused a huge backlash. The editor of The New York Times had to judge whether the public would read this as a dig at Brown or read it literally as the play on words it was intended to be (referring to a vision Brown had earlier in the year about an angel), to emphasise that he was not the ‘perfect human’ an angel would be, due to his background, dabbling in drugs and alcohol and having scuffles with neighbours. This ethical conundrum caused many to be angered by the wording, however unintentionally it was.
  • The TV station later apologised saying it was a “mistake”.
  • The Times officially apologised, claiming that it was poorly worded – with writer John Eligon saying “I wish I would have changed [the phrase]”

The way producers now deal with such ethical issues is through what are known as the ‘Editors’ Codes of Practice’, which are ground rules in order to stop any offensive material reaching and offending the public. In the BBC, for example, all producers have to follow strict guidelines. In brief, they have to:

– Be Objective (Impartiality)

– Be Accurate

– Be Fair

– Give a full and fair view of people and cultures

– Have editorial integrity and independence

– Respect privacy of any individuals



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