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2020: April-June

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Offsite Article: Challenging Ofcom's conspiracy to deny free speech...


Link Here25th June 2020
Toby Young's Free Speech Union files a lgeal challenge to Ofcom's censorship of David Icke

See article from spectator.co.uk

 

 

A conspiracy to deny free speech...

Ofcom acknowledge that David Icke has a right to express silly theories about 5G and decide not to fine London Real


Link Here14th June 2020
Full story: Coronavirus...Internet censorship and surveillance

Ofcom has decided not to impose any further sanction on ESTV Ltd after an interview with David Icke on its local television channel London Live included potentially harmful content about the coronavirus pandemic. It has already been required to broadcast a summary of Ofcom's findings

Our investigation found David Icke expressed views which had the potential to cause significant harm to viewers in London during the pandemic. We were particularly concerned by his comments casting doubt on the motives behind official health advice to protect the public from the virus.

These claims went largely unchallenged during the 80-minute interview and were made without the support of any scientific or other evidence. While we acknowledge that David Icke has a right to hold and express these views, they risked causing significant harm to viewers who may have been particularly vulnerable at the time of broadcast.

Ofcom stresses that there is no prohibition on broadcasting views which diverge from or challenge official authorities on public health information. However, in broadcasting David Icke's unsubstantiated views without sufficient challenge or context, ESTV failed in its responsibility to ensure that viewers were adequately protected. As a result, we directed London Live to broadcast a summary of our findings on 22 April 2020 at 22:00.

Ofcom subsequently considered whether imposing any further sanction in addition to the direction would be appropriate in this case. Ofcom concluded that the direction it had already imposed on ESTV to broadcast a statement of its findings was sufficient in remedying potentially significant harm to viewers and that any further sanction would not be appropriate in this case. Ofcom's decision not to impose any further sanction on ESTV was published on 8 June 2020.

 

 

Offsite Article: Ofcom shouldn't be allowed to censor harmful opinions...


Link Here 7th June 2020
Full story: Coronavirus...Internet censorship and surveillance
Toby Young writes to Ofcom about free speech and coronavirus conspiracy theories

See article from spectator.co.uk

 

 

Offsite Article: Ofcom needs to butt out of the Covid debate...


Link Here28th May 2020
The broadcast regulator is punishing channels for questioning public-health policy. By Andrew Tettenborn

See article from spiked-online.com

 

 

Ofcom fires some pepper pellets...

TV censor finds that Chinese propaganda news channel CGTN broadcast biased news about Hong Kong protests


Link Here27th May 2020
It seems strange that a TV censor should get involved in a very tense global situation with China vs the western world. One would have thought that this should be better handled by diplomats and the Foreign Office. Perhaps Ofcom have been working with the government behind the scenes.

Anyway Ofcom has published a series of decisions against news reports from China's propaganda channel CGTN. Ofcom said that news reports broke thier rules with biased coverage of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Ofcom said it was minded to formally sanction CGTN, the English-language rolling news channel owned by the Chinese government, for a serious failure of compliance after it failed to represent anti-Beijing viewpoints as protests raged across Hong Kong in late 2019.

Ofcom noted that CGTN often focused on violence by protesters against police officers, while downplaying attacks by the authorities on the public. Its output also parroted the views of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government without giving sufficient airtime to people with alternative views, while focusing on economic disruption to businesses rather than the reason they were being disrupted.

It remains to be seen how China will respond to the sanctions. In March, Beijing revoked the visas of many American journalists after Donald Trump restricted the activities of CGTN and other Chinese outlets in the US.

CGTN said viewers understood it was representing a different view and the channel was simply serving its purpose to inform our international audiences of the Chinese perspective, which is often alternative to the mainstream western media.

 

 

On the wrong wavelength...

Ofcom sanctions religious channel for 'potentially harmful' beliefs


Link Here18th May 2020
Full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check

Ofcom has today imposed a sanction on the licensee Loveworld Limited, which broadcasts the religious television channel Loveworld, after a news programme and a live sermon included potentially harmful claims about causes of, and treatments for, Covid-19.

Our investigation found that a report on Loveworld News included unsubstantiated claims that 5G was the cause of the pandemic, and that this was the subject of a global cover-up. Another report during the programme presented hydroxychloroquine as a cure for Covid-19, without acknowledging that its effectiveness and safety as a treatment was clinically unproven, or making clear that it has potentially serious side effects.

A sermon broadcast on Your Loveworld also included unsubstantiated claims linking the pandemic to 5G technology; as well as claims which cast serious doubt on the necessity for lockdown measures and the motives behind official health advice on Covid-19, including in relation to vaccination. These views were presented as facts without evidence or challenge.

Ofcom stresses that there is no prohibition on broadcasting controversial views which diverge from, or challenge, official authorities on public health information. However, given the unsubstantiated claims in both these programmes were not sufficiently put into context, they risked undermining viewers' trust in official health advice, with potentially serious consequences for public health.

Given these serious failings, we concluded that Loveworld Limited did not adequately protect viewers from the potentially harmful content in the news programme and the sermon, and the news reports were not duly accurate. We have directed Loveworld Limited to broadcast statements of our findings and are now considering whether to impose any further sanction.

 

 

Censorship on Demand...

Ofcom appoints a new TV censor with responsibility for Content Standards, Licensing and Enforcement.


Link Here18th May 2020
Ofcom has announced that Alison Marsden has been appointed as Director of Content Standards, Licensing and Enforcement.

Alison will be leading the team with responsibility for setting and enforcing content standards for television, radio and on-demand services and Ofcom's broadcast licensing programme. She will also sit on Ofcom's Content Board, a committee of the main Ofcom Board, which has advisory responsibility for a wide range of content issues.

Alison joined Ofcom in 2007 as a broadcasting standards specialist. Since 2016 she has worked as Director of the Standards and Audience Protection team, responsible for setting and enforcing Ofcom's Broadcasting Code.

Before joining Ofcom, Alison worked in television production, firstly at the BBC producing and directing specialist factual and factual programmes, and later for various independent production companies.

Alison takes up her new roles with immediate effect.

 

 

Right speak...

Ofcom mandates the use of self proclaimed pronouns for trans people and a radio presenter's resignation is accepted as an appropriate penalty for transgression


Link Here11th May 2020
Paul Ellery in the Morning
Sunshine Radio
16 September 2019, 07:45

Sunshine Radio is a local radio station serving Hereford and Monmouthshire with music, speech, local news and information.

Paul Ellery in the Morning is a daily light-entertainment programme that includes discussions of news of the day.

Ofcom received a complaint that a presenter talked in a mocking manner about singer Sam Smith coming out as non-binary. After playing a Sam Smith track during the programme, the presenter Paul Ellery said:

I can't get over this that he [Sam Smith] says he doesn't identify with being male or female, so in future we have to call him 'they'. And I heard somebody on -- I think it was on BBC News Channel over the weekend -- saying, the easiest way to find out, Sam, if you're male or female or they, is to take your clothes off -- there we go you're definitely a boy!.

We considered Rule 2.3:

In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context...Such material may include, but is not limited to, offensive language, violence, sex, sexual violence, humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation, and marriage and civil partnership). Appropriate information should also be broadcast where it would assist in avoiding or minimising offence.

Sunshine FM described the programme as a live, unscripted one man show and stated that there was no production team or backroom staff involved in its broadcast. In response to Ofcom's Preliminary View, which was to record a breach of Rule 2.3, the Licensee said that the presenter had resigned from Sunshine Radio.

Ofcom Decision: Breach of rule 2.3

In this case, the comments made by the presenter about Sam Smith were brief, which may have limited the potential for offence to some extent. However, they did not form part of a serious or considered discussion about issues related to gender identity and, at no point were his comments challenged, scrutinised or otherwise contextualised. Furthermore, the tone of the presenter’s comments was mocking, dismissive and flippant towards Sam Smith's announcement that they were identifying as non-binary.

Noting that we only received one complaint from listeners about the presenter's comments, we considered that the above factors established the potential for the comments in question to cause offence.

Given the strength of the presenter's views on gender reassignment which had the potential to cause offence to listeners, and in particular, to members of the trans community, we considered that these comments were likely to have exceeded listeners' expectations of content on this local radio station. We therefore considered that there was insufficient context to justify the potentially offensive references to Sam Smith's gender.

We acknowledged the Licensee's position that the comments were not intended to offend listeners, and the presenter's acknowledgement that they were misjudged. However, regardless of the intent, in our view the comments had the potential to cause offence for the reasons set out above.

Ofcom was concerned by Sunshine FM's submission that other than the presenter, no other members of a production team or backroom staff were involved in the broadcast of the programme. We acknowledged the steps the Licensee has taken to improve compliance prior to the presenter's resignation, including the presenter undertaking compliance training and attending daily meetings to review content.

However, given all of the above, our Decision was that the content exceeded generally accepted standards, in breach of Rule 2.3 of the Code.

 

 

Crowds have been silenced so now players have to be silenced too...

A Premiership behind closed doors causes issues for Ofcom as players' strong language will no longer be lost in the noise


Link Here 9th May 2020
Full story: Coronavirus...Internet censorship and surveillance
Premier League matches could be shown without pitch-side atmosphere after Project Restart, as broadcasters must find a way to block out players' swearing.

Games are set to be played behind closed doors but with no fans in stadium, pitch-side microphones, which add sounds of the ball being kicked and normally muffled instructions, would also broadcast footballers' foul-mouthed shouts.

OFCOM enforces pedantic censorship rules against the likes of Sky and BT Sports allowing obscenities in their coverage, forcing TV bosses to consider removing pitch-side microphones.

 

 

Hateful religious TV...

Ofcom fines former broadcasters of Peace TV Urdu and Peace TV for hate speech


Link Here5th May 2020
Full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
Ofcom has fined the former licence holders of Peace TV Urdu £200,000 and Peace TV £100,000 for breaking our broadcasting rules.

Peace TV Urdu and Peace TV were international satellite television channels which broadcast religious programmes from an Islamic perspective.

Our investigations found that programmes broadcast on Peace TV Urdu and Peace TV contained hate speech and highly offensive content, which in one instance was likely to incite crime.

We concluded that the content represented serious failures of compliance with our broadcasting rules, which warranted fines. The former licence holders, Club TV and Lord Production, must now pay £200,000 and £100,000 respectively to HM Paymaster General.

After further breaches, Ofcom moved to suspend Peace TV Urdu's licence in November 2019, and both licences were surrendered.

 

 

Updated: The Evil of 5G Technology...

Ofcom censures David Icke interview in which he waves his hands to explain 5G conspiracy theories


Link Here20th April 2020
The UK TV censor is looking into a TV network's broadcast of an interview with conspiracy theorist David Icke about supposed links between 5G transmitters and coronavirus.

Ofcom said it was assessing this programme as a priority, following London Live's screening of the programme on Wednesday evening. The London Live interview appeared in part on YouTube titled The Evil of 5G Technology.

The conspiracy theory is more about the dangers of 5G than coronavirus. It is based on noting that 5G uses the high frequency end of the radio wave spectrum which is up there with microwaves, which when transmitted at high power, can indeed sizzle your sausage.

It is hard to believe that David Icke will have convinced many viewers about these theories as Icke doesn't seem to be very knowledgeable about the claims. He is just passing on a Chinese whispers style rumour waving his hands and embellishing it with a few unconvincing analogies.

The coronavirus extension seems to be that the virus is doing most damage in big cities. Rather than the more obvious correlation with high density and multi occupancy housing, the conspiracists are claiming that the correlation is with the recent introduction of 5G.

The government has expressed concern about the programme with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden saying:

I would be expecting Ofcom to take appropriate action. Clearly they are independent but I will be in touch with them to understand what action they are taking in respect to that.

Ofcom has now received 19 complaints about the programme.

 

Update: Why we shouldn't censor Covid conspiracy theories

11th April 2020. See article from spiked-online.com by Tom Slater

David Icke must be free to air his nonsense about 5G.

Update: Ofcom is about as unconvincing as David Icke when censuring London Live without offering any of their own evidence

20th April 2020. See article from ofcom.org.uk . See also Ofcom decision  [pdf] from ofcom.org.uk

Ofcom is a censorial organisation tainted by its frequent censoring programmes on grounds of 'wrong think' based on its own moralising politically correct view of what is 'truth'. So when they censure someone for an opinion, it comes across as an Orwellain rebuke for a 'wrong' opinion. Therefore in cases of scientific truth, Ofcom needs to make a point of actually linking to the science explaining exactly why the conspiracy theory is false. Otherwise, just like in antivaxx, an unevidenced official denial ends up adding credence to the conspiracy.

Ofcom has demanded that London Live broadcasting a statement explaining Ofcom's opinions about the programme. Ofcom writes:

Ofcom has today imposed a sanction on ESTV after an interview with David Icke on its local television channel London Live included potentially harmful content about the coronavirus pandemic.

Our investigation found David Icke expressed views which had the potential to cause significant harm to viewers in London during the pandemic. We were particularly concerned by his comments casting doubt on the motives behind official health advice to protect the public from the virus.

These claims went largely unchallenged during the 80-minute interview and were made without the support of any scientific or other evidence. While we acknowledge that David Icke has a right to hold and express these views, [...BUT...] they risked causing significant harm to viewers who may have been particularly vulnerable at the time of broadcast.

Ofcom stresses that there is no prohibition on broadcasting views which diverge from or challenge official authorities on public health information ...HOWEVER... in broadcasting David Icke's unsubstantiated views without sufficient challenge or context, ESTV failed in its responsibility to ensure that viewers were adequately protected. As a result, we are directing London Live to broadcast a summary of our findings on a date and form to be decided by Ofcom.

We are also now considering whether to impose any further sanction.

Update: Ofcom fails to clear up the myths around 5G and the coronavirus

20th April 2020. See article from telecoms.com

Telecoms industry commentators telecoms.com were also unimpressed by Ofcom's response to 5G conspiracy theories. The group writes:

UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has published an announcement that claims to rebut the conspiracy theories regarding 5G and coronavirus, but barely mentions them.

The piece, entitled Clearing up the myths around 5G and the coronavirus, starts promisingly. There is a conspiracy theory that claims 5G is connected to the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), it states. This is wrong. There is no scientific basis or credible evidence for these claims. But then it goes on to note that burning down phone masts can reduce connectivity and then address the persistent does 5G give you cancer? question.

Those two topics are definitely important, but they don't in any way address the mistaken belief that 5G is in some way contributing to the spread of coronavirus. The very simple fact is that physical particles cannot be transmitted over electromagnetic waves. That piece of fundamental education should be front and centre of any fact-checking campaign, and yet Ofcom chose not to mention that at all.

If, for whatever reason, Ofcom was disinclined to consult scientific experts in the preparation of its announcement, it could at least have linked to other sources that put a bit more effort into debunking this silliness.

 

 

Board of censors...

Ofcom internet censor promoted to the board


Link Here17th April 2020

Ofcom has appointed Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom's Content and Media Policy Group Director, to its Board.

Kevin joined Ofcom in 2016 and has overseen its important work on content standards and policy, including taking on regulation of the BBC and preparations to become the regulator for video sharing platforms in the UK. He will join as an Executive Member of the Board from this month.

Kevin Bakhurst said:

I'm looking forward to joining the Ofcom Board at a time when protecting audiences has never been more important.

Kevin joined Ofcom from RTÉ, the public service broadcaster in the Republic of Ireland and before that had a long career at the BBC.

 

 

Eamonn Holmes quizzed by Ofcom after noting that an argument isn't just contradiction...

Does dogmatic and unevidenced refutation help to debunk 5G conspiracy theories?


Link Here14th April 2020
TV censor Ofcom has said it is assessing comments made by ITV's This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes about 5G technology and coronavirus as a priority.

Ofcom received 419 complaints about remarks not quite toeing the dictated line on refuting 5G/coronavirus conspiracy theories.

Holmes made his remarks in a segment with the programme's consumer editor Alice Beer, who dismissed the theory as not true and it's incredibly stupid. Holmes told her:

I totally agree with everything you are saying but what I don't accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don't know it's not true.

No-one should attack or damage or do anything like that, but it's very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative. That's all I would say, as someone with an inquiring mind.

But of course Holmes was making a valid point. The conspiracies are being widely dismissed by those in the media simply by claiming 'wrong think' and calling out people who don't agree. It seems clear that the media types following this line don't even know what the conspiracy theorists claim, let alone offer some sort of reasoning as to why they are wrong. The refutations therefore become no more convincing than the conspiracy theory itself.

Holmes 'clarified' his comments on the following day after being widely criticised. He said:

I want to clarify some comments that some of you may have misinterpreted from me yesterday, around conspiracy theories and coronavirus and this involved the roll-out of 5G.

Both Alice Beer and I agreed in a discussion on this very programme on fake news that it's not true and there is no connection between the present national health emergency and 5G, and to suggest otherwise would be wrong and indeed it could be dangerous.

Every theory relating to such a connection has been proven to be false and we would like to emphasise that. However many people are rightly concerned and are looking for answers and that's simply what I was trying to do, to impart yesterday.

But for the avoidance of any doubt I want to make it completely clear there's no scientific evidence to substantiate any of those 5G theories. I hope that clears that up.

 

 

A combative dynamic...

Ofcom warns Piers Morgan about his combative style on Good Morning Britain


Link Here8th April 2020
TV censor Ofcom has decided not to pursue complaints about a Piers Morgan joke on ITV's Good Morning Britain but has taken the opportunity to give ITV a warning about the show.

A recent episode attracted 1600 complaints about a joke targeted at both Chinese people and the royal family. Piers and co-host Susanna Reid were discussing the Queen's eldest grandson Peter Phillips appearing in a TV advert for state milk in China. Morgan went into a rant about the ad saying:

Oh Peter, for god's sake man! before accusing him of exploiting his royal status.

At the next royal event, can you imagine Christmas at Sandringham is like - 'I'm sorry your majesty, but I only drink yang yank yong ying ming milk.

A month later, ITV issued a statement on the incident, claiming that the comments were not intended to mock or denigrate Chinese people, their language or accent but were intended to mock a member of the Royal Family.

Ofcom said if the incident:

Having carefully considered the context within which the comments were broadcast and the action taken by ITV, including discussing these complaints with Piers Morgan and making a public apology, Ofcom concluded overall that this programme did not warrant further investigation under the Code.

However, they did say in their report:

We remind ITV that there are compliance risks in relying on a 'combative dynamic' between presenters as a way to provide challenge and context for the broadcast of content which may cause offence.

 

 

How to Steal Pigs and Influence People...

Ofcom supports Channel's 4 broadcast about vegan activists stealing pigs which didn't impress the farming community


Link Here7th April 2020

How to Steal Pigs and Influence People
Channel 4, 14 January 2020, 22:00

Summary

How to Steal Pigs and Influence People followed vegan and ex-vegan influencers who used social media to spread their message to a mass online audience. One of the people featured in the programme was shown stealing pigs from farms and then uploading self-shot video footage to his social media channels.

Ofcom received 388 viewer complaints about this programme 203 377 of which objected it condoned criminal activity and had the potential to encourage crime and disorder. Several complainants specifically objected to the title of the programme and its pre-broadcast publicity, describing it as glamorising illegal activity.

While the programme showed scenes which contained criminal activity, we considered its overall narrative neither glamorised nor condoned this activity. In our view, the actions taken by those featured and their motivations were not portrayed positively. In our view, their behaviour was challenged by the narrator, or by the inclusion of other points of view, and the programme depicted the negative consequences of the criminal activity.

We therefore considered the portrayal of criminal activity was editorially justified by the context of this programme. For these and for the other reasons set out in detail below, we have concluded that the complaints do not warrant further investigation.

Ofcom Decision

While criminal activity was shown during this programme, we considered the overall narrative was to explore the possible motivations of the influencers, rather than focusing on the criminal activity itself. The programme highlighted these individuals' desire to gain wealth or online fame from their activism. For example, Wes was shown attempting to earn a living from being an influencer and motivated by a desire to get donations.

The programme also made clear that, to achieve fame online, influencers had to generate increasingly controversial content. When Wes decided to steal a newborn piglet, the narrator explained it was to up the ante. These actions were presented negatively and portrayed to be escalating in extremity to increase likes or followers on social media, rather than solely being motivated by their beliefs or to further their cause.

In our view, there were also several instances where the individual's criminal activity was challenged or portrayed as antisocial either by the narrator or through the inclusion of other points of view. For example, the narrator challenged Wes immediately after his theft of a piglet: What gives you the right to take this baby away from its mum? Prem, the former vegan, also strongly criticised the activists' behaviour. The programme also depicted the negative potential consequences of carrying out these crimes, particularly on the animals, through the inclusion of several videos which showed piglets had died as a direct result of being removed from farms. The programme raised the prospect that the piglet Wes stole might have also died as a result of being removed from his mother. This was reinforced by the unidentified farmer who pointed out the piglet would die in six months without its mother. Similarly, the farmer who was the victim of the activists' criminal activity, robustly challenged and condemned the activists' behaviour, explaining they had caused the animals significant distress. We considered the inclusion of this narrative highlighted the stark reality of the potential consequences associated with these criminal activities and the negative impact on both the people and animals involved.

For all the reasons outlined above, in our view, the overall narrative and context of the programme did not condone, glamorise or encourage the crimes which were shown. Given the programme sought to explore and to question the motivations of activists who believe their criminal acts are justified on moral and public interest grounds, we considered there was a strong editorial justification for showing these people carrying out their criminal activity.

While the programme showed Wes successfully stealing pigs, the fact that this behaviour was antisocial and criminal was made clear throughout. There was a warning that the programme contained criminal activity and the offence of stealing pigs was referred to as a crime throughout the programme. The inclusion of archive news footage also showed the activist had previously been convicted and served a community sentence for similar offences.

We acknowledged the programme suggested the actions taken by Wes had inspired other activists to undertake similar offences, but it was made clear this had been prompted specifically by Wes' social media activity. As the programme showed other pigs had died after being stolen, we considered it reiterated the potential negative consequences of copying these offences and did not describe them in a way which condoned them.

 

 

On the wrong wavelength...

The government calls in social media companies for a meeting about quashing rumours about a link between coronavirus contagion and 5G


Link Here5th April 2020
The UK culture secretary is to order social media companies to be more aggressive in their response to conspiracy theories linking 5G networks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oliver Dowden plans to hold virtual meetings with representatives from several tech firms next week to discuss the matter. It follows a number of 5G masts apparently being set on fire.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told the BBC:

We have received several reports of criminal damage to phone masts and abuse of telecoms engineers apparently inspired by crackpot conspiracy theories circulating online, Those responsible for criminal acts will face the full force of the law.

We must also see social media companies acting responsibly and taking much swifter action to stop nonsense spreading on their platforms which encourages such acts.

Several platforms have already taken steps to address the problem but have not banned discussion of the subject outright.

It is not really very clear what the rumours are based upon beyond a correlation between big cities becoming SARS 2 hotspots and big cities being selected for the initial roll out of 5G. But surely denser housing and the larger households found in big cities provides a more compelling reason for big cities being the hotspots. One could ask why western countries seem too being hit hardest when the housing density argument would seem to make mega cities in the developing world more logical centres for the largest contagions, which doesn't seem to be happening so far.

Ofcom's unevidenced refutation

5th April 2020. See article from ofcom.org.uk

Ofcom has imposed a sanction on Uckfield Community Radio Limited after a discussion about the causes and origins of Covid-19 on its community radio station Uckfield FM was found to have breached broadcasting rules. The broadcaster must broadcast a summary of our findings to its listeners.

On 28 February 2020, Uckfield FM broadcast a discussion which contained potentially harmful claims about the coronavirus virus, including unfounded claims that the virus outbreak in Wuhan, China was linked to the roll out of 5G technology. Ofcom's investigation concluded that the broadcaster failed to adequately protect listeners and had breached Rule 2.1 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

Given the seriousness of this breach, Ofcom has directed the Licensee to broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings on a date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom.

 

 

The audience expects...

Ofcom to carry on censoring TV (and the internet) but perhaps to care more about discrimination and supposed harm rather than nudity and swearing


Link Here4th April 2020

Ofcom commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct research to help them understand how audience expectations of audio-visual content are evolving in a digital world. The research explored participants' changing attitudes towards content standards and their experiences of programmes across platforms including: TV, radio, catch-up, subscription and video sharing services.

Participants thought people should be largely responsible for deciding what they watch and listen to. They wanted regulators and broadcasters to ensure content is in line with people's expectations, so audiences can make informed choices.

There was limited awareness of the detail of current regulation and some confusion about how this applies, particularly for catch-up, subscription and video sharing sites. There was also confusion about whether UK rules applied to channels that broadcast content produced outside of the UK or not in English, including among some participants from a minority ethnic background.

Having been introduced to the Broadcasting Code including definitions of harmful content, offensive content and freedom of expression1, participants thought all the rules were important and there was little appetite for changing them:

• Participants overwhelmingly agreed it was essential to protect children from inappropriate content and wanted rules to cover this. However, parents were seen as having primary responsibility for the content accessed by children.
• Participants felt there were challenges around applying the rules for offensive content given its subjective nature. They focused on people knowing what to expect so they can make informed choices, for example, by having access to clear information about the content in programmes.
• Despite this, there was widespread agreement across participants that societal norms around offence have shifted in recent years and this should be reflected in the way Ofcom regulates offensive content. Participants prioritised addressing discrimination aimed at specific groups over other types of offensive content.
• Harmful content was considered more serious than offensive content, with strong concerns about the impact of harmful content on attitudes and behaviours. As discussions progressed, participants increasingly felt that adults (specifically vulnerable adults) and society overall could be affected by audio-visual content. This challenged their initial view that adults should decide for themselves what to consume.
• The potential for harm was often discussed when considering the different rules in the Broadcasting Code. In particular, rules around crime, disorder, hatred and abuse were very important to participants and strongly linked to potential harm. They emphasised how content which incited hatred or crime should be prioritised by Ofcom, even if this was on smaller channels or stations.

There was some acceptance that different rules could apply to different platforms. Attitudes were influenced by the extent to which participants felt in control:

• There was a strong desire to maintain the current rules for TV and radio because participants felt audiences were more likely to come across content by accident on these platforms.
• Many participants were more comfortable with catch-up and subscription services having fewer rules than broadcast TV and radio. This was because they felt they had an active choice in selecting content and were therefore more in control on these platforms. However, they assumed that if a programme had previously been broadcast on TV or radio, it would follow the same rules when accessed online.
• There were concerns about a perceived lack of rules on video-sharing sites, where participants were worried about accidentally coming across inappropriate or upsetting content. Rolling playlists, pop-ups, and unchecked user-generated content were common worries. However, there was concern about the feasibility of increasing regulation online.


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