News bulletin: Reporters’ Charter, Women in Journalism and the BBC

Posted on: January 19, 2022 by admin

-News Bulletin-
Society backs calls for Reporters’ Charter in letter to MOJ

The Society of Editors has this week written to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and lent its support to the introduction of a Reporters’ Charter. Proposed by John Battle, Chair of the Media Lawyers Association (MLA)  and Head of Legal and Compliance at ITN during a justice committee hearing last week, the charter would enable greater recognition and respect for the rights of journalists to report from courts. 

Dawn Alford, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “Many of the elements called for in the charter are recognised by the Society as areas in which our members have reported challenges for some time. In particular, the difficulties around access to hearings and timely disclosure of court orders and documentation remain an ongoing challenge to accurate and responsible reporting in this area. 

“A Reporters’ Charter which recognises the right of reporters to be in court, to take notes, to have a specific place in the court, the right to Wi-Fi and the right to be told what the specific court restrictions are in place would not only ensure that the rights of journalists to attend court are better recognised and applied in practice, it would also encourage and facilitate rather than deter reporting in this area.”

Catch up on the evidence session here

Need for Women in Journalism “never been greater” says chair

Thirty years since its formation, the need for Women in Journalism (WIJ) has “never been greater” says its chair.Welcoming in WIJ’s 30th birthday year, Alison Phillips (pictured), Editor of the Daily Mirror and a board member of the Society of Editors, said that while women in more leadership positions had meant news had finally “been able to escape from the prism of the all-male gaze” more still needed to be done to build an industry better reflective of society.

She said: “There are now women editors at The Sun, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Mirror and myself at the Mirror. Deborah Turness has just been appointed as CEO of news and current affairs at the BBC, joining a raft of women in the most senior positions in British broadcast journalism. On screen there has been huge focus on ensuring gender balance.

“With women in more leadership positions women viewers and readers have stories written and edited by people like them. Our concerns, passions and furies have found their way into the public arena because women journalists have taken them there. News has finally been able to escape from the prism of the all-male gaze.”

Despite considerable progress, women are still more likely to lose out, be on insecure work contracts and find it more challenging to get to the top, said Phillips. In addition to this, social media bullying and trolling is heavily targeted at women.

She added: “Journalists who are black or from minority ethnic groups have had an even harder, longer fight for representation in our industry. They are also frequently subjected to the online attacks which seek to silence them.

“These are now, as there always have been, many people who want women and their stories to be silenced.

“We’ve done so much 30 years on from our founding, but there is still much more to do. Women in Journalism want to continue to support and inspire, to campaign and promote the work of women and all those who are underrepresented in the media so together we can build an industry which fairly reflects our readers, our viewers and our society.”

Read more here.

NMA writes to BBC over plans to expand local news provision

The News Media Association (NMA) has this week written to the BBC urging the broadcaster to withdraw its plan to expand its local news provision across the country.In an open letter to the corporation on behalf of the NMA board and its members, chief executive Owen Meredith (pictured) said that it was apparent that the BBC’s plans to expand its local news output represents “a direct threat to the economic sustainability of independent local news media.”

Meredith said: “While the BBC has an understandable desire to fulfil its purpose, set out in its Charter, to ‘provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them’, this provision should include ‘content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers.’ The BBC must consider how its services affect other media organisations and minimise any negative impact on the wider market.

“It is increasingly evident the BBC’s proposals, funded by taxpayers through the Licence Fee, represent a direct threat to the economic sustainability of independent local news media, in turn undermining media plurality, diversity and consumer choice.

“In the BBC’s centenary year, as it searches for relevance in a digital world, it is unthinkable that it should seek – intentionally or otherwise – to undermine the viability of commercial news providers and the many diverse community voices these publishers represent, leaving the BBC a monolithic provider of news in the UK.”

Responding to the letter, a BBC spokesperson said: “There is no evidence the BBC crowds out other providers and no reason to think we will in the future. Industry analysis and international comparisons show it is the decline of advertising revenues that is the biggest challenge to local commercial journalism – not the BBC.

“We spend up to £8m a year supporting the local commercial news sector through our Local Democracy Reporting service. We pay for 165 journalists across the UK who produce stories used by a range of local media providers every day. We offer this support because we believe audiences value having a real choice of local news provision.”

The letter came ahead of the announcement this week by the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries that the BBC licence fee would be frozen for the next two years. Reported on Monday (17 January 2022), Dorries confirmed that the fee would remain at £159 until 2024 and then rise in line with inflation for the following four years. Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday (18 January 2022) BBC Director General Tim Davie warned that the “£285m funding gap” will see the corporation forced to axe some of its programming. 

Iliffe expands Google Showcase partnership to cover more titles

More Iliffe media titles, including the Cambridge Independent, are to receive money from Google for their content, the local news publisher has announced.Expanding its partnership with Google News Showcase, which saw 120 of its titles sign up to the programme in February 2021, Iliffe has said that more titles are now set to benefit including the the Newark Advertiser, Stamford Mercury and Grantham Local.Speaking to HoldTheFrontPage, Ian Carter, Editorial Director of Iliffe said: “We are pleased to be expanding our relationship with Google, and view Showcase as a really important initiative.

“It’s important for publishers to work with platforms on initiatives that can ensure a sustainable future for independent journalism.”

Mullen takes over as News Media Association Chairman

Jim Mullen, Chief Executive of Reach plc, has taken over as Chairman of the News Media Association (NMA).Succeeding Henry Faure-Walker, Chief Executive of Newsquest, who completed his two-year tenure as NMA chairman in December 2021, Mullen has started his new position by reiterating the call for a level playing field between news publishers and tech platforms.

Mr Mullen said: “Trusted news and information has never been more important than it is now and the NMA has a central role to play in helping to secure a truly sustainable future for journalism in this country.

“Fundamental to this will be working with government and regulators who must take the swift and decisive action needed to level the playing field between the tech platforms and news publishers.

“I look forward to continuing the excellent work that Henry has done to champion our sector during his time as NMA chairman.”

Former SoE President publishes ‘You Can’t Libel the Dead’ memoirs

A past president and former long-standing board member of the Society of Editors has released his memoirs looking back at more than four decades in journalism. The book, entitled ‘You Can’t Libel the Dead’ was published last month by Neil Benson, former Editorial Director of Reach plc’s predecessor Trinity MIrror, and looks back at his journalism career – from a rookie reporter at The Sheffield Star to the editorship of the Coventry Telegraph and Newcastle Chronicle. 

Benson served as President of the Society from 2003 to 2004 and served on the Society’s board for a number of years alongside serving as chairman of the Society’s parliamentary and legal committee. Since leaving Reach in 2019, Benson has worked as a media consultant and he continues to chair the Editors’ Code Committee

Details of how to purchase the book can be found here