Saturday, July 21, 2018

Consultant on board

The BBC Board went to Belfast in March, and discussed future strategy for News. Also present for that item was Jean-Paul Petranca (King's School, Chester and Balliol), Managing Director of the London branch of the Boston Consulting Group. Jean-Paul was last spotted by The Mail at the elbow of Director of Radio & Education, James Purnell.

Here's the statement of the problem Jean-Paul is working on: The Board noted that although BBC News was the largest news organisation in the UK, ahead of competition on TV & Radio and online, consumption was dropping among some segments of the audience, particularly the young and lower income households. Notably, within 16-24s, time spent with BBC Radio and TV news had dropped by approximately 20% compared to 2013, whereas online consumption was flat. This was in line with market trends across the industry. However, given the BBC’s mission and public purposes, and its strategic priority to reinvent BBC services for a new generation, there was a need to re-consider how BBC News could do more to reach those audiences currently underserved by the BBC, including those on lower incomes, the young, and audiences outside of London and the South East.

Then and now

From the minutes of the BBC Board meeting held on 26th April...

3.3 The BBC had concluded giving evidence in the Cliff Richard trial. Directors were clear that an important issue was at stake and one that it was right to defend robustly.

Mmmm. Let's see if that position holds. Here's the advice on appeals from the Government's website. 

Check you have a good case 

You usually only get one chance to appeal, and in almost all cases you must ask for the judge’s permission to appeal against their decision. The judge will only let you appeal if you have a real chance of success or there’s another very strong reason why the appeal should be heard. You must explain why the decision was wrong or unfair – for instance there was a serious mistake or the court didn’t follow the right steps.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Two doors of separation

BBC News sleb-spotting, Great Titchfield St: Nick Robinson taking posh coffee in Gitane, Orla Guerin similar in Kaffeine....

Carriage wars

If you were to say there's more going on than meets the eye in the flare-up between UKTV and Virgin Media, then I wouldn't demur.

From Sunday, customers of Virgin Media could see ten broadcast channels from UKTV - W, Dave, Gold, Alibi, Drama, Yesterday, Eden, Really, Good Food, Home - disappear from their electronic programme guide. UKTV says Virgin is trying to pay less for the channels. Virgin Media says the UKTV side (50% owned by BBC Studios, nee Worldwide) is cutting on-demand access to programmes in the BBC archive.

Both could be true. But in the background, the BBC is trying to establish an alternative to Netflix with ITV and C4, and probably needs to hang on to more good stuff than it used to 'give away' through UKTV.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Moving forward

The BBC needs an extra pair of hands for eight months, to work on internal communications for the "Terms and Conditions Review".

The successful candidate will be "Experienced in refreshing and updating existing intranet or web sites, including knowledge of Content Management Systems (preferably Immediacy and Wordpress), Photoshop or similar picture manipulating software".

The owners of the software that drives the Immediacy Content Management System stopped supporting it in 2010. Eight years ago.

What next ?

Sarah Jones (Sutton High School and Lincoln College, Oxford) will be leading the BBC conclave in Broadcasting House, working out the pros and cons of appealing against Mr Justice Mann's judgement in the case brought by Sir Cliff Richard.  The BBC, with a team led by Gavin Millar, QC of Matrix Chambers, took a bullish line throughout the proceedings, even when South Yorkshire Police decided to cave in and settle.

Sarah (seen here at the elbow of Director of News Fran Unsworth) is styled Group General Counsel. She earns £255k p.a. from Auntie, and £503 a day when sitting as a Deputy District Judge on the South-Eastern Circuit.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Appealing ?

Sir George Anthony Mann - better known in court as Mr Justice Mann - has made it very difficult for the BBC to appeal against the decision he's handed down against them (and South Yorkshire Police) in the case brought by Sir Cliff Richard.

The BBC's Director of News, Fran Unsworth, says the judgement, in what was a civil case, 'effectively makes it unlawful that anyone under investigation can be named, unless the police do so'. 

I think the judge is being more ring-savvy than that. He explicitly says he is not making new case law, but applying a balance between Section 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (incorporated into UK law) which talks about privacy rights, and Section 10, which protects freedom of expression, whether or not founded on public interest. In the case of Sir Cliff, he found there was no public interest in knowing it was Sir Cliff's flat that was being searched, except to 'gossip-mongers'.  He's not making publication of the names of those under investigation 'unlawful'; his decision means that hacks wishing to name individuals will have to produce a public interest defence, if they get sued.

In his full judgement, he found that the BBC asserted it was in the public interest to name him, but didn't really make a strong case to support it, or tie the decision to name Sir Cliff back to their own editorial guidelines.

His judgement makes several references to precedents in Gulati v MGN, when a certain Mr Justice Mann awarded punitive damages to a number of celebrities whose phones had been hacked at the behest of Mirror Group papers. Among the celebs - Alan Yentob. 


Those who thought Mr Justice Mann called it wrong (so far)

Tony Gallagher (Editor of The Sun)
The Society of Editors
The BBC's 'legendary' World Affairs Editor John Simpson
The Guardian
The Guardian's Roy Greenslade
The Voice of The Mirror
The Telegraph

Those who think Mr Justice Mann might be right or wrong

Roger Mosey, Master of Selwyn College, and former BBC Editorial Director

Those who think Mr Justice Mann is right

Richard Bacon, recovering TV presenter
Steve Richards, former BBC Political Correspondent
Former BBC Chairman Lord Patten
LBC's Iain Dale
Janet Street-Porter

More updates as we get them....


Mr Justice Mann's balancing act.

"I have come to the clear conclusion that Sir Cliff’s privacy rights were not outweighed by the BBC’s rights to freedom of expression. This is an overall evaluative exercise which is not a precise scientific measuring one.....

"Last under this head I deal with a very broad point raised by Mr [Gavin] Millar[BBC QC]. He submitted that the case against the BBC raised “issues of great, arguably of constitutional, importance for the freedom of the press in this country.” If Sir Cliff’s claim were successful it would undermine the long-standing press-freedom to report the truth about police investigations (respecting the presumption of innocence), and if that freedom is undermined then that should be a matter for Parliament and not the courts.

"I think that Mr Millar may have been overstating the constitutional importance of this case a bit. I agree that the case is capable of having a significant impact on press reporting, but not to a degree which requires legislative, and not merely judicial, authority. The fact is that there is legislative authority restraining the press in the form of the Human Rights Act, and that is what the courts apply in this area. That Act will have had an effect on press reporting before this case because of Article 8, and the balancing exercise between Articles 8 and 10 is done by the courts under and pursuant to the legislation. The exercise that I have carried out in this case is the same exercise as has to be carried out in other, albeit less dramatic, cases. If the position of the press is now different from that which it has been in the past, that is because of the Human Rights Act, and not because of some court-created principle."

On the £190k general damages: "I have borne in mind that awards of damages are not to be such as to have a chilling effect on the right of freedom of expression. I do not consider that an award of that amount should have a chilling effect of the kind which is to be avoided. A claimant is entitled to proper compensatory damages and the figure I have specified is a proper figure for that purpose. I do not consider that it requires any modification on the footing that such figures would have a chilling effect on the exercise of a newspaper’s right of freedom of expression. It is not an excessive figure; there is no punitive element; it is a genuine compensatory figure; the reason that the story existed as a story was because information was acquired in breach of a right of privacy in the first place, and then confirmed by less than straightforward means by the BBC’s reporter; and it was entirely the decision of the BBC to present the story at all, and then to present it as it did. One of the main motivations of the BBC was the excitement of its scoop. None of that requires any modification of damages otherwise properly payable to Sir Cliff on the basis that responsible journalism would be disincentivised (chilled). "

On the extra £20k: "The submission of the broadcast for an award (which it did not win) does properly fall for separate treatment. It is quite understandable that a broadcasting organisation which first infringes privacy in this way, and then promotes its own infringing activity in a way which demonstrates that it is extremely proud of it, should cause additional distress (which it did), both by demonstrating its pride and unrepentance and to a degree repeating the invasion of privacy with a metaphorical fanfare. Ms Unsworth expressed the view that it was not a good idea to have submitted the broadcast, and she was right about that (she was not asked for her views at the time), and I think it right that this very unfortunate event should be treated as aggravating the damage caused (which it did). It should attract a claim for aggravated damages which I treat separately and in respect of which I award an additional £20,000."

Invasion of privacy 'in a big way'

Mr Justice Mann really didn't like the coverage of the South Yorkshire Police raid on Sir Cliff's apartment in Sunningdale....

"The coldly stated facts of the content and form of the broadcasts appear in the narrative set out in this judgment. That narrative does not really do justice to the quality of the broadcasts. They were, as I have said, presented with a significant degree of breathless sensationalism. The story was the main point in the news - there was nothing wrong with that in itself, but it did lend a certain urgency to the report. In some broadcasts it was accompanied by a ticker running across the bottom of the screen emphasising the story and maintaining its presence throughout the bulletin. Mr [Dan] Johnson, and in some broadcasts another journalist, were broadcasting from outside the property. There was an attempt to lend drama to the broadcast by showing cars entering the property, and the helicopter shots added more, somewhat false, drama. In evidence there was an attempt by Mr [Gary] Smith to justify the use of the helicopter as providing evidence as to what was going on inside, as if some form of verification was necessary or appropriate. I find that that was a spurious justification. The helicopter shots did not verify or evidence anything particularly useful or controversial that needed evidencing. They were moving pictures of the property, of seven or eight people in plain clothes walking to a building, the same people walking back to their cars and fuzzy shots of two or three people in Sir Cliff’s flat. It may have made for more entertaining and attention-grabbing journalism. It may be justifiable or explicable on the footing that TV is a visual medium and pictures are part of what it does. It did not, however, add any particularly useful information. Mr [Jonathan] Munro also referred to the helicopter shots as being justifiable on the basis that it enabled the public to see a police operation going on, in relation to which there was a genuine public interest. That is more of a justification, but I still consider that the main purpose of utilising the helicopter was to add sensationalism and emphasis to the scoop of which the BBC was so proud. The BBC viewed this as a big story, and presented it in a big way. This was also manifested in other aspects of the coverage - the coverage from Portugal, pointless though it turned out to be, lent an urgency to the presentation of the story.

"In short, and insofar as it is relevant under this head, the BBC went in for an invasion of Sir Cliff’s privacy rights in a big way."

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