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Ofcom Watch


2024: Jan-March

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Categorised as a mountain of suffocating censorial red tape...

Ofcom proposes definitions for which websites will be subjected to the most onerous censorship rules defined in the Online Safety Act


Link Here 31st March 2024
Full story: Online Safety Act...UK Government legislates to censor social media
Ofcom writes:

Ofcom is seeking evidence to inform our codes of practice and guidance on the additional duties that will apply to some of the most widely used online sites and apps -- designated as categorised services - under the Online Safety Act.

Under the new laws, all in-scope tech firms must put in place appropriate safety measures to protect users from online harms. In addition, some online services will have to comply with extra requirements if they fall into one of three categories, known as Category 1, 2A or 2B.

These extra duties include giving users more tools to control what content they see, ensuring protections for news publisher and journalistic content, preventing fraudulent advertising and producing transparency reports. Different duties apply, depending on which category a service falls into.

The Act requires us to produce codes of practice and guidance outlining the steps that companies can take to comply with these additional duties. We are inviting evidence from industry, expert groups and other organisations to help inform and shape our approach. A formal consultation on the draft codes and guidance will follow in 2025, taking account of responses to today's call for evidence. Advice to Government on categorisation thresholds

Alongside this, we have also today published our advice to Government on the thresholds which would determine whether or not a service falls into Category 1, 2A or 2B. We advise that:

Category 1 (most onerous): should apply to services which meet either of the following conditions:

  • Condition 1 - uses a content recommender system; and has more than 34 million UK users on the user-to-user part of its service, representing around 50% of the UK population;

  • Condition 2 - allows users to forward or reshare user-generated content; and uses a content recommender system; and has more than 7 million UK users on the user-to-user part of its service, representing circa 10% of the UK population.

Category 2A: should apply to services which meet both of the following criteria:

  • is a search service, but not vertical search service

  • has more than 7 million UK users on the search engine part of its service, representing circa 10% of the UK population.

Category 2B: should apply to services which meet both of the following criteria:

  • allows users to send direct messages;

  • and has more than 3 million UK users on the user-to-user part of the service, representing circa 5% of the UK population.

Taking our advice into consideration, the Secretary of State must set the threshold conditions in secondary legislation. Once passed, we will then gather information, as needed, from regulated services and produce a published register of categorised services.

 

 

Ofcom political censors...

Ofcom twists its rules to censor right leaning comment programmes on GB News


Link Here19th March 2024

Ofcom has tried to explain how it twists its rules to try and claim that politicians commenting on news are somehow 'newsreaders'. Ofcom writes:

This document sets out Ofcom's Decisions on five cases involving politicians acting as newsreaders, news interviewers or news reporters on television.

Our Broadcasting Code requires that broadcast news, in whatever form, must be presented with due impartiality, and that a politician cannot be a newsreader, news interviewer or news reporter unless, exceptionally, there is editorial justification.

Ofcom recognises that, in accordance with the right to freedom of expression, broadcasters have editorial freedom and can offer audiences a wide range of programme formats, including using politicians as presenters. Politicians can present current affairs programmes and they may appear in broadcast news content as an interviewee or any other type of guest, provided they are not used as a newsreader, interviewer or reporter (unless there is exceptional editorial justification), and the programme otherwise complies with the Code.

Ofcom considered that five programmes raised issues warranting investigation under our due impartiality rules. These were two editions of Jacob Rees-Mogg's State of the Nation and Friday Morning with Esther and Phil, and one edition of Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil, broadcast on GB News in May and June 2023.

Ofcom found that these five programmes breached the Code for the reasons set out in full in each corresponding Decision. Politicians acted as a newsreader, news interviewer or news reporter in sequences which constituted news for the purposes of Section Five of the Code, without exceptional justification, and news was therefore not presented with due impartiality.

Ofcom considered that the programmes in question were both news and current affairs programmes. Programmes can feature a mix of news and non-news content and move between the two. However, if a licensee chooses to use a politician as a presenter, it must take steps to ensure they do not act as a newsreader, news interviewer or news reporter.

We are also publishing our reasons for deciding that a sixth programme, a separate edition of Jacob Rees-Mogg's State of the Nation, did not raise issues warranting investigation under these rules, in order to provide broadcasters with an example of what constitutes exceptional editorial justification as allowed by Rule 5.3.

The rationale for the restriction on politicians acting as newsreaders, news interviewers or news reporters is clear 203 politicians represent a political party or position and are therefore inherently partial on topical issues. Ofcom's Decisions also recognise the special status of broadcast news, which is afforded additional statutory protections because of its fundamental importance in a democratic society.

GB News has not previously breached Rules 5.1 or 5.3. These five programmes were broadcast in May and June 2023 and we have only had reason to open one further investigation into GB News' programming under these rules since we opened these investigations1. GB News is on notice that any repeated breaches of Rules 5.1 and 5.3 may result in the imposition of a statutory sanction.

 

Offsite Comment: Ofcom's patrician war on GB News

See article from spiked-online.com by Andrew Tettenborn

The Ofcom ruling is perplexing, not least as the shows in question actually tried very carefully to separate their news and current-affairs output. News bulletins were delivered by a news anchor, always deadpan, at fixed intervals and in a dedicated studio. This was then followed by free-wheeling discussions of the day's stories, led by the politician presenters.

This didn't matter, according to Ofcom. A presenter repeating the facts of the news or mentioning a breaking story was apparently enough to make him or her a newsreader. What's more, whether these politicians actually expressed biased views on air or not was deemed immaterial. As politicians, they would have been perceived as biased, and that's what counts, says Ofcom.

This ruling will have profound repercussions for broadcasting, well beyond GB News. Ofcom won't admit it, but any shows about current affairs that tend to be heavy on opinion will in practice now count as news and hence be liable to vetting for their perceived partiality.

See full article from spiked-online.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Age/ID Verified by Google...


Link Here14th January 2024
Ofcom speaks of behind the scenes discussions for international age verification

See article from ofcom.org.uk


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