Task 4 Understanding

Regulatory and Professional Bodies

Regulatory bodies are essentially the authority who are responsible for regulating what is released to the public in the media. They help protect an audience from offensive material to avoid complaints or uproar. Examples of regulatory bodies are:

  • BBFC
    • The BBFC are responsible classifying films in the U.K. The BBFC are an independent, non-governmental body and is made up by members of a council and examiners who provide the classification for movies. Any movie shown in a cinema or due to be released on DVD has to be reviewed and given a rating. They help protect the public from viewing anything too indecent when they go to watch a movie. They also give reasoning for their ratings and give information on what people could expect to see when they are watching the Movie. Their main area of concern is what is being shown in the movie making sure that there is nothing obscene or unsuitable for the age that it is aimed at. An example of the BBFC’s more infamous ratings is the Clockwork Orange case.
      • Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ was a film about violence and how the future of England would be influenced by it. It shows the story of Alex, who begins as a violent individual, with the story ending with Alex suffering from the comeuppance of his own actions. Though there are many misconceptions about this film’s release in Britain, the BBFC never rejected the film and rather controversially accepted it giving it an X rating (viewable for 18+ only) saying:
        • “Disturbed though we were by the first half of the film, which is basically a statement of some of the problems of violence, we were, nonetheless, satisfied by the end of the film that it could not be accused of exploitation: quite the contrary, it is a valuable contribution to the whole debate about violence” – Stephen Murphy, then BBFC Secretary

      • In 1973, two years after being accepted, the film became more controversial when reports began to flood in of ‘copycat violence’ and, rather ironically, threats jeopardising the safety of Kubrick and his family were made, causing Kubrick to withdraw the film from the UK. It wasn’t until after Kubrick’s death that the film returned to Britain, thanks to Kubrick’s family’s permission in 1999.


  • Ofcom (Office for Communication)
    • Ofcom regulate communication services and they also regulate broadcasting licences. Ofcom is run independently and has a main decision making board which meet at least once a month. They also have a policy management board, Content board and committees. They have annual reviews of the board to ensure that they are representative of the public. Ofcom make sure people in the U.K get the best out of their communication services whether it’s from phones, internet, television and Radio. Ofcom help protect the general public from things like scam calls, making sure a range of different programmes are shown, that there is no harmful or offensive material in programmes on the radio or television and there’s a wide range of electronic communication services. The rights and interests of the consumer are protected well as they make sure that nothing obscene is broadcast especially anything before the appropriate watershed. They are most concerned about scam calls and offensive programming being broadcast. An example of Ofcom’s work would be the Russell Brand/Jonathon Ross fine on the BBC.
      • Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross released a large amount of explicit, intimate confidential information about Georgina Baillie on the  25th October, 2009. This was all offensive, humiliating and demeaning material which should not have been aired. Therefore the action taken was fairly severe.
        • “A fine of £70,000 was imposed for the breaches of Rules 2.1 and 2.3; and a fine of £80,000 imposed for the contraventions of Rule 8.1.” – Ofcom

        • The presenters’ shows were taken off air on BBC frequencies for a period of time following this too.
  • PCC (Press Complaints Commision)/IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation)
    • The PCC is the press complaints commission and has been replaced by IPSO. IPSO is the Independent Press Standards Organisation and is responsible for monitoring standards in the news. The reason they exist is to uphold professional standards of journalism in the UK. They do what is possible to address complaints made by the public who believe that a journalist has broken what is called the Editors’ Code of Practice, which was originally put in place by the PCC. In short, the code ensures that journalists must be accurate, respect privacy of individuals, avoid harassing individuals,  be mindful of children in all cases, particularly in sex cases, be mindful of hospitals and their non-public nature in areas, be mindful when reporting on crime and other regulations which tend to spread across the whole of media (including regulations on discrimination and etc.). An example of the work of the PCC, before it was replaced, is their response to reports by the Scottish Sunday Express in 2009 making an article about the Dunblane School Massacre in 1996.
      • The Express wrote a front page article following the survivors of the shooting, scrutinising them for ‘shaming’ the memory of the deceased with “foul-mouth boasts about sex, brawls and drink-fuelled antics”. The paper ripped photos from the survivors’ social network account and used them in the paper, despite there being no real need to write the article, humiliating the survivors, in the first place. The PCC stated the following, after upholding the complaint, expressing the failure to respect the teens’ private lives:
        • “[The survivers had done] nothing to warrant media scrutiny, and images [from social networking sites] appeared to have been taken out of context and presented in a way that was designed to humiliate or embarrass them” – The PCC

  •  ASA
    • The ASA regulate Adverts across all forms of the media in the U.K. The ASA is built up of a senior management team and a council, which deals with complaints about advertising. The ASA review thirty thousand advertisements every year and these ads, if considered inappropriate have to either be amended or withdrawn. The ASA continuously help protect audiences from indecent things that may be shown in Adverts their main goal is to ensure that adverts are responsible and appropriate. They look into every complaint that gets made and out of the 31,136 complaints made in 2013 4,161 either had to be amended or withdrawn. Although acting largely based off complaints, they try to be as proactive as possible by taking action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements. They work very closely with Ofcom. A noteworthy case of the ASA’s work is their work with a complaint for an atheist bus campaign.
      • In January 2009, the ASA ruled judgement onto a bus campaign  launched by the British Humanist Association which read “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The advert, largely due to the earlier section of the quote and I’d imagine somewhat due to the fact it is larger than the text that follows below (although clearly a more stylistic, typographic choice than a ploy to offend), caused over 326 people to complain. The ASA assessed these complaints and questioned the potentially offensive wording to those who follow religions. The ASA concluded that the ads were unlikely to mislead or cause widespread offence and the cased was closed. The complaints in question were about the adverts being offensive and misleading, with the company no being able to substantiate the claim that God does not exist. The word “probably” is used in said claim, completely invalidating this argument as they are not claiming to know 100%. The word “probably” is essentially a successful loophole, while getting across the point and not attempting to mislead. The word “allegedly” is another popular choice of word here. Due to the “Stop worrying and enjoy your life”, the ASA ruled that it was not trying to offend and more get across a happy, friendly slogan. (source)Atheist advertising campaign launched 
  • The Gaming Industry
    • There are many companies within the gaming industry which help regulate and improve the business. These include
      • TIGA (The Independent Games Developers Association)
        • Launched in 2001, TIGA was created in order to represent the interests of video game developers in the UK. They were a founding member of the European Game Developers Federation (the EGDF) who are a federation who ensure the stability, vibrancy and creativity of game developers in the EU. They provide a platform for collaboration and discussion within the community.
      • IGDA (The International Game Developers Association)
        • The IGDA are a non-profit organisation who are very similar to the EGDF, except on an international level. They work hard to identify and speak out on issues in the industry, connect members with peers and expand the reach of the developer community.
      • PEGI (Pan European Game Information)
        • The main regulatory body for the gaming industry, currently would technically be the ISFE, the Interactive Software Federation of Europe. They set up what is known as the PEGI rating system, which is now a legal requirement in the UK. PEGI ratings are put in place in order to regulate games and rate them for their appropriateness for specific age groups.
  • BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
    • The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is an independent charity organisation which does its best to promote, support and develop the television and film industry by rewarding creators in the BAFTA Awards. They offer members workshops and classes across the world to inspire creators and benefit the public.
    • “BAFTA identifies, rewards and celebrates excellence at its internationally-renowned, annual awards ceremonies whilst providing opportunities for the public to find information and inspiration through its year-round programme of events” – BAFTA Mission Statement

  • CRCA (Commercial Radio Companies Association)
    • The CRCA is a trade body for commercial radio within Britain. They manage the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre, which regulates advertisements before they are broadcast. They work hard to aid advertisers whilst also criticizing work which may breach any codes set by Ofcom. (source) It also jointly owns Radio Joint Audience Research Ltd (with the BBC), which researches into radio broadcasting as an industry (source).

Regulatory Issues also exist and are problematic. These issues include:

  • Control of Ownership
    • Ownership is regulated thoroughly in the media industry. The reason for this is not to limit success, but more to stop a monopoly (see below) occurring. A monopoly is where one person or business gains so much power over an industry that it is all powerful over certain aspects. When a company has this much power, it then has sway, not only over the industry but over the public. For example, all newspapers would have the same view and there would be no competition, as all of the media would be owned by the same company.
    • What a monopoly means for the audience is that the same type of stories and alike would be told across all aspects. Similar films, TV shows and newspaper reports and alike would start to crop up. This would cause a level of uncertainty, as the public would be unsure on what to believe, as the endless streams of the same stories could all be bias.
  • Taste Vs. Decency
    • Taste and decency are keywords when referring to censorship. They divide a line between obscenity and appropriateness. Anything can be seen as morally wrong by anyone in a given audience. Taste and decency implies that censorship must be done tastefully but also must ensure that the media stays decent. For example, when rating a film, the BBFC may choose to cut certain elements of the film. Take that the film depicts scenes of a very sexual nature. The BBFC must chose whether this is done tastefully, in the sense that it helps move the story along, and if cuts need to be made, to ensure that the scene is cut to be decent – i.e to censor anything that is quite clearly not tasteful, in order to be decent to the audience. It is all up to personal opinion and therefore becomes a big problem in regulation. Many disagree on taste and decency arguments.

One thing that we can all agree on, however, is that there were far too many acronyms in the media industry.

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