Power Without Responsibility (JN 500)

Report
Power Without
Responsibility (JN 500)
Broadcast Journalism: History and
Issues
Case study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
Lecture Outline
 1. The BBC – History
 2. Principles of Public Broadcasting
 3. ITV and Competition
 4. The Rise of 24-hour News
 5. Case Study: Northern Ireland Broadcasting Ban
1. The BBC – History
 BBC introduced as
independent institution –
aim of freedom from
political and commercial
influence, unbiased (like
the press). Status partly
determined by limitations
of broadcasting spectrum.
 BBC also a national,
‘universal’ institution – like
education, health, welfare,
etc.
1. The BBC – History
 BBC also ‘hegemonic’
institution – promoting a
national ‘consensus’ where
“certain forms of expression
were preferred over others;
certain art forms regarded as
legitimate but not others;
and certain groups regarded
as ideologically suspect...”
(McNair 2009, p. 109).
 John Reith, the DirectorGeneral of the BBC 1927-38,
prioritised the educative and
‘civilising’ functions of
public broadcasting.
1. The BBC – History
 The BBC’s reputation was enhanced by its contribution
to the national wartime effort – helped to unify nation.
 Bureaucratic, ‘civil service’ ethos.
 Beveridge Report in 1947 recommended continuation of
BBC monopoly.
 Television regarded as poor cousin of radio: medium
regarded as conveyer of ‘light entertainment’.
2. Principles of Public Broadcasting
 Traditional idea of public broadcasting: “catering for all
sections of the community, reaching all parts of the
country regardless of cost, seeking to educate, inform
and improve, and prepared to lead public opinion rather
than follow it” (Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 343).
 1977 Annan Report abandoned ‘broad consensus’ about
the public good with liberal pluralism requiring diversity
of independent voices (See Freedman 2001). Prepared
regulatory way for satellite and cable broadcasting.
2. Principles of Public Broadcasting
 Public broadcasting under threat since rise of multichannel media environment. Attempts to defend public
broadcasting included Garnham’s (1990) equating of
public broadcasting with the public sphere.
 Collins (1992) drew on idea of negative and positive
freedoms to argue merits of mixed broadcasting system.
 “… public service is not a static or dated ideal, it is one
we need to redefine and develop” (Curran & Seaton
2010, pp. 341-2).
2. Principles of Public Broadcasting
 Contemporary defense of public broadcasting not about
hierarchy of ‘quality’ or ‘taste’ but more about
independence and expression of diversity of voices.
 I have defended public broadcasters as public
institutions that engender conflict and debate and argue
they must be preserved as a “dilemmatic space” (Honig
1996): “The ABC is not an old-fashioned ‘public’
monolith in a new multi-channel ‘privatised’ world, but
an institutional expression of a ‘publicness’ which is
necessarily multiple, contested and fragile. And this is
the real strength of the ABC” (Craig 2000, p. 113).
3. ITV and Competition
 Tory government in 1954
introduced commercial
television. The new service was
named ‘Independent Television’.
ITV companies formed a news
service ITN that was subject to
same programme and coverage
constraints as BBC: ITV licensed
for limited period, banned from
broadcasting its own opinions,
and impartiality imposed.
 Political struggle over
introduction of commercial
television: pro position argued it
would promote industry and
commerce, anti-position argued
it would result in declining
cultural standards.
3. ITV and Competition
 “It has often been claimed that ITV was a vulgar
debaucher of cultural standards. In the pursuit of profit
it merely pandered to the lowest common denominator
of public taste. More recently a far more subtle case has
been advanced which is not so crudely anti-commercial.
This claims that ITV was, rather, an energizing, populist
force which gave expression to working-class culture”
(Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 163).
3. ITV and Competition
 In initial years (1955/56) ITV had little effect on growth
of television audience and did not impact on BBC viewer
numbers but this changed in later years. Still, as late as
1960 fewer than 60% of licence holders had two-channel
sets (Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 158)
 Commercial television structure informed by Beveridge
report: recommendations of spot advertisements over
programme sponsorship, and regionalisation of
broadcasting.
 Drive for commercial broadcasting due to high costs of
production.
3. ITV and Competition
 “ITV’s most important
contribution to television was to
develop a format for the news”
(Curran & Seaton 2010, p. 160).
 “Before ITN there were no
newscasters. When an employee
of the BBC appeared on screen,
his or her name was not
revealed. … ITN changed all
that. Suddenly, bright young
men and women were standing
in streets or sitting in studios
reading the news or asking rude
questions of politicians” (Fraser,
cited in McNair 2009, p. 119).
3. ITV and Competition
 Channel 4 launched in 1982.
 Commercially self-funded but
ultimately publicly owned.
 Original remit to provide
programming to and for minority
groups. View that British
television did not reflect
nation’s cultural diversity.
Channel also provided strong
arts and culture profile.
 Subsequent move to more
mainstream programming.
 Publisher of programmes made
by independent production
companies.
4. The Rise of 24-hour News
 Late 1980s saw the rise of
24-hour, transnational
television journalism.
 Cable Network News (CNN)
launched in 1980. Came to
prominence with
Challenger disaster in 1986
and first Gulf War in 1991.
4. The Rise of 24-hour News
 “News on ‘real-time’ satellite and cable became a flow
medium, rather than a medium of record; a turbulent
river of journalistic data into which one dipped one’s
toes from time to time…” (McNair 2006, p. 109).
 Real-time satellite news brought into being a global
public (McNair 2006, p. 109).
4. The Rise of 24-hour News
 In the U.K. two satellite
broadcasting services started:
British Satellite Broadcasting
(BSB) and Murdoch’s Sky
television. In 1990 BSB and Sky
‘merged’ as BSkyB with majority
ownership by News Corp.
 Huge losses offset by News Corp
global profits – BSkyB announced
profit in 1992.
 Murdoch gave Sky comparative
editorial independence and
broadcaster’s reputation grew.
4. The Rise of 24-hour News
 The BBC started ‘World Service Television News’ (WSTV)
in 1991 – independent of BBC’s financial structure –
differentiated from U.S.-centric CNN. Now includes BBC
World News, BBC World Service and BBC Worldwide.
 BBC World News is the BBC’s commercially funded
international news and information television channel,
broadcasting in English 24 hours a day in many countries
across the world. BBC World News is available in more
than 200 countries and territories worldwide, around
300 million households and 1.8 million hotel rooms.
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 Political and media
background:
 1979 killing of Thatcher’s
colleague and friend Airey
Nieve.
 1984 bombing of the Grand
Hotel Brighton.
 http://news.bbc.co.uk/ont
hisday/hi/dates/stories/oct
ober/12/newsid_2531000/2
531583.stm
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 In 1985 Thatcher in America was asked by Sunday Times
reporter for her reaction to a programme that had an
interview with the IRA Chief Of Staff. She replied she
‘would condemn it utterly’.
 She spoke on that U.S. tour of the need to starve the
terrorists of the ‘oxygen of publicity on which they
depend.’
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 1985 - Real Lives series featured programme ‘At the
Edge of the Union’ examining both sides of the conflict
in N. Ireland through two politicians on the Derry City
Council: Martin McGuinness, Provisional Sinn Fein and
rumoured to be a leading figure in the IRA, and Gregory
Campbell leader of the Democratic Unionists.
 Both elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly and
routinely interviewed. As they were elected politicians
the producer did not refer programme up to DG level
and it was billed to be shown in the Radio Times.
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 Home Secretary Leon Brittan requested BBC withdraw
programme. The BBC Board of Governors, against
convention, saw the programme and withdrew it.
 Programme was eventually screened after editing. BBC
and ITN journalists went on strike for press freedom.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrWIbWMJCOg
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 May 1988 – the government requested the postponed
screening of programmes about the shooting by British
soldiers of an IRA bomb squad in Gibraltar: ITV
programme, “Death on the Rock” and BBC Northern
Ireland programme.
 Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe requested
postponement until after inquest warning about “trial
by television” but BBC chairman and Independent
Broadcasting Authority (IBA) Chairman refused.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7MBqTw2vl0
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 In October 1988 the
Thatcher government
announced a ban from the
airwaves of organisations in
Northern Ireland that were
believed to support
terrorism.
 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/h
i/4409447.stm
 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/h
i/northern_ireland/7674184
.stm
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 “The Government have decided that the time has come
to deny this easy platform to those who use it to
propagate terrorism.” With these words Douglas Hurd,
the then Home Secretary, imposed direct censorship for
the first time in Britain in peacetime. (Johnson 1998,
p. 49).
 Then BBC deputy director general John Birt said the ban
would damage “some of the most cherished elements of
a free society – freedom of expression and the
independence of the media.”
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 Voices were banned but not the words of suspected
supporters of terrorism. BBC and ITN bypassed the ban
by using actors’ voices which were dubbed over footage.
 ‘...the longer the ban went on, the issue became the
ban itself. When Gerry Adams travelled on fund raising
tours around America he was able to claim that he could
be heard there but not in Britain where he was a ‘non
person’ (Johnson 1998, p. 50).
 After 6 years ban was lifted.
5. Case Study: Northern Ireland
Broadcasting Ban
 “As a Government instrument of censorship it failed, and it
failed because it was inefficient. It banned the voices of Sinn
Fein but not their image, and for the medium of television,
the image dominates the verbal discourse. Although it
repressed argument, it failed to have any effect on acts of
terrorism (Johnson 1998, p. 51).
 Hurd admitted that in the short term the ban succeeded in
denying Sinn Fein a platform but over time the measure
became self defeating.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yqXeIYmtsc
 http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/aug/18/-sp-bbcreport-facts-impartial
References

Collins, R 1992, “Public Service Broadcasting and Freedom”, Media International Australia, No. 66: pp.
3-15.

Craig, G 2000, “Perpetual Crisis: The politics of saving the ABC”, Media International Australia, No. 94:
pp. 105-116.

Freedman, D 2001, “What use is a public inquiry? Labour and the 1977 Annan Committee on the Future
of Broadcasting”, Media, Culture & Society, vol 23: pp. 195-211.

Garnham, N 1983, “Public Service Versus the Market”, Screen, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 6-27.

Johnson, J 1998, ‘Censors in the undergrowth’ British Journalism Review, vol. 9: pp. 49-54.

McNair, B 2009, ‘Broadcast journalism in the UK’, News and Journalism in the UK, 5th edn, Routledge,
London.

McNair, B 2006, Cultural Chaos: Journalism, news and power in a globalised world, London, Routledge.

Seaton, J 2010, ‘The BBC under threat’ and ‘Broadcasting and the theory of public service’, in J Curran
& J Seaton, Power Without Responsibility: Press, broadcasting and the internet in Britain, 7th edn, Routledge,
London.

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