In this question, I will be exploring how effective the regulation of newspapers is in Britain, specifically of ‘’The Sun’’, ’’The Guardian’’ and ‘’The News’’. Britain has free press, meaning that newspapers are not regulated by the government nor is there firm legislation on publishers or editors. As the British press is self-regulated, editors and journalists can choose whether to abide by rules or not, as there are no laws on what ideology papers can practice or promote.
However, it is important to note that despite the lack of firmly grounded laws in the field of journalism, there are some ethical codes that papers are expected to follow; as they do not want to upset their target audience. In order to ensure that newspapers and journalism are kept to the highest of standards, a non-statutory body was created back in 1991, called ‘’The Press Complaints Commission’ ’. The P. C. C has administered the Code of Practice made up of 16 clauses that cover issues such as harassment, privacy, discrimination, misrepresentation etc.
However, as it is a voluntary and non-statutory body, its codes of regulation have been repeatedly broken, as there is no formal punishment for such wrongdoings. In this right, the P. C. C has been widely refuted and called incapable and ‘’well-meaning but a joke’’, as described by members of the House of Commons. If some of its rules are broken, the P. C. C will file complaints to the guilty party, however most of the time apologies are never made and if they do take place they come in a brief paragraph with small font that most people miss.
Other than the P. C. C, another body that seeks to promote media freedom and ethical journalism is the ‘’National Union of Journalists’’ – N. Y. J. The N. Y. J administers its own Code of Conduct for how journalists should disseminate the news and how they need to be objective and not discriminate, having codes very similar to that of the P. C. C. ‘’The Sun’’, as the popular press it is, has broken the P. C. C’s Code of Practice multiple times, causing disgust, chaos and havoc, which are some of the problems with free Press.
The positive approach is how with free press , politicians can be held to account for their actions, connoting a democratic society where everyone is equal in the public eye, despite status or class. However, as with ‘’The Sun’’, this lack of statutory laws has caused the press to become uncontrollable, breaking the codes of Discrimination, Misrepresentation and Privacy multiple times for the sake of sales. Perhaps one of the most well-known press scandals in Britain is the News of the World phone hacking scandal which saw the ending of ‘’The News of the World’’, a subsidiary of ‘’News Corporation’’ under the possession of Rupert Murdoch.
Due to how the paper used private investigators to intercept email accounts and phone conversations of thousands of people including celebrities and politicians, they broke the ‘’Clandestine Devices and Subterfuge’’ clause of the Code of Practice. Notable cases in the Sun include breaking the ‘’Discrimination’’ clause in 2012 with their front paper, starring Jessie J and Simon Cowell, portraying homosexuality as negative. This shows that in the case of the Sun, which has conventions of ‘’Red Tops’’ and is a sensationalist paper focusing on celebrity gossip, the P. C. C is ineffective in regulating the press. ‘’The Sun’’ writes stories for the public and not in the public interest, which is fundamental to the Leveson Inquiry and should be promptly regulated and punished for promoting illegal actions and ethics as unimportant. ‘’The Guardian’’ is the binary opposite of ‘’The Sun’’ with conventions of Serious Press, focusing on national and international news on politics, technology, environment etc. It has a higher picture to text ratio than ‘’The Sun’’ and it provides facts and figures, making its online version one of the most popular worldwide.
In keeping with such conventions, this paper is very careful to disseminate the news without bias, honestly and accurately as the P. C. C states in its codes of regulation. In fact, while the phone hacking scandal was taking place, ‘’The Guardian’’ made informative articles on the situation and kept updating them so as its target audience (mostly graduates) would have an objective source of news to update them on the situation. ‘’The Guardian’’ has a loyal readership and would never upset them by discriminating or promoting gender inequality as it is popular exactly because it abides by rules and promotes liberal journalism. ’The News’’, a regional paper coming from Portsmouth shares some of The Guardian’s conventions as it is inclusive to other races, does not discriminate and disseminates the news honestly and accurately. It is known for having a real community spirit for which it is loved and respected.
Therefore, it is only reasonable that the editors of The News would be very cautious not to upset the readers by disclosing something negative to the community or portraying any violent or racist behaviour in Portsmouth. Other than abiding by the P. C. C code of practice, it has its own self-regulation must, which is not to upset its audience as it has a much smaller readership than other papers and would not recover from a boycott. Overall, I believe that the P. C. C is ineffective in properly regulating the newspapers in Britain as there are loads of escape routes such as adding ‘’allegedly’’ to an article to make it seem as it is not promoting what it says as facts. Moreover, as evident by the Sun it is not taken seriously and has no legal advantage over newspapers which makes it insufficient in carrying out what it preaches.
With new regulation laws being created now, it is very likely that such freedom of speech will be depleted in the near future, however it is important for the press to maintain a certain freedom for the sake of Democracy. One of the things argued is that the P. C. C should and will be succeeded by an independent regulator, most likely controlled by politicians a. k. a the Government which would go against the very notion that the press can hold politicians to account.