ICE blogs

August 6, 2014

Propaganda, the BBC and Gaza

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 4:00 pm

Richard Lance Keeble, Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, takes a critical look at the BBC’s coverage of the current Gaza conflict

All journalism is propaganda, as George Orwell argued. And, paradoxically, those who claim neutrality and objectivity are likely to be the most propagandistic. Let’s take one random sample from the BBC’s coverage of the current Gaza crisis.

On 3 August 2014, it reported: ‘Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin “dead”.’ There was a photograph of the 23-year-old and the accompanying video commentary highlighted Goldin’s ‘apparent kidnapping’ by the Palestinian group Hamas who were blamed for the collapse of the ceasefire (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28627888).

‘Kidnapping’ was the term deliberately used by the Israeli officials in their hyper-slick PR operation (see http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/israelgaza-conflict-the-secret-report-that-helps-israelis-to-hide-facts-9630765.html). Doesn’t this imply that Goldin was an innocent seized by opportunistic criminals rather than a member of one of the world’s most powerful militaries engaged in ‘the premeditated mass murder of civilians’, as described by the Asia Times journalist Pepe Escobar (see http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Others/Escobar.html). Did the BBC really need to mimic the Israeli deceit?

Moreover, the Western corporate media in general parroted the Israeli approach in blaming Hamas for breaching the ceasefire (thus leading to a stepping-up of the bombardment of Gaza and the deaths of many more children) when both sides were involved in the incident. Hamas was clearly responding to yet another attempt by Israeli troops to destroy a tunnel (see http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-08-03/how-a-kidnapped-soldier-illustrates-israels-deception/).

The BBC’s fourth paragraph reported: ‘Health officials in Gaza say 30 Palestinians died early on Sunday as Israeli air strikes continued.’ This is the cold, conventional language of militaryspeak that aims to convey the illusion of warfare. But this is no war: this is nothing short of a series of completely illegitimate massacres. There are no photographs of any of those 30 dead Palestinians.

Moreover, as I write (5 August 2014), I see no photographic galleries commemorating the 1,865 Palestinians killed and 9,400 others injured – most of them civilians. In the Western corporate media they are usually not even deemed worthy of being named. In contrast, the BBC report goes on to show an image of Goldin’s understandably grieving family speaking at a press conference after his death was announced. In fact, the whole of the report is framed within a dominant Israeli perspective. Thirteen of the story’s 23 paragraphs highlight the Israeli line: just five that of Hamas. Its denial of taking Goldin captive does not appear until par 10.

And how many homes, hospitals, schools, mosques have been destroyed as Israel’s ‘scorched earth’ policy eats up 44 per cent of Gaza’s territory; how many Gazans are now homeless or jobless, how many have been appallingly traumatised by the constant bombardment and the lack of basic facilities? On these crucial points the BBC’s report is silent.

Excellent photographs by the BBC’s Jon Donnison, in an accompanying feature under the title ‘Faces from Gaza’, are given captions – but no full names of the tragically suffering Gazans are provided: So we read of a ‘young girl and her mother’ sheltering in a UN school, ‘young boys giving victory salutes’ ‘three-year-old injured Aya’, ‘Ahmed’ being treated for burns, ‘Ali’ injured while playing outside his home, ‘a young girl picking fruit juice’, ‘a man in Beit Haroun’. And so on.

Too often, the BBC and the corporate media in its Gaza coverage has ‘balanced’ reports of Israeli bombardment with accounts of the Hamas missile attacks on Israeli – reinforcing the illusion of ‘warfare’. Yet the Israeli response (in which 64 soldiers and just three civilians have died) is totally disproportionate to the threat posed.

Moreover, the mainstream media has largely failed to indicate the massive global opposition to the Israeli action and its seven-year economic siege of Gaza. Go then to sites such as www.counterpunch.org, www.globalresearch.ca; www.wsws.org; www.boilingfrogspost.org; coldtype.net; www.johnpilger.com (supported by the University of Lincoln); www.zerohedge.com; http://peacenews.info/; antiwar.com; www.washingtonsblog.com and see some searching analyses and investigative reports on the conflict and the protests. They can only inspire further protest action against Israel’s criminal military aggression.

August 4, 2014

The slaughter of the innocents 1914-2014

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism, conflict — news_editor @ 10:26 pm

If war is to be reported ethically it must be shown it in all its brutality including the bodies of dead children and traumatised parents, argues Barry Turner

As the centenary of the Great War is now upon us the attention of the world’s press is drawn to the thousands of monuments to the fallen all over Europe and the rest of the world. Towns and villages across the combatant countries are almost without exception home to a war memorial to an event that is often said to have wiped out a generation. Now these monuments will be the solemn focal points for many pieces to camera over the next few months for local, national and international media.

The war memorials are often embellished with words such as ‘Our Glorious Dead’, ‘Pro Patria Mori’ and similar sentiments in all the languages of the combatants. They often feature heroic figures of soldiers and occasionally scenes of the fighting, as if commemorating those was as important as remembering the millions who died.

Apart from the haunting lists of names of people from the towns and villages that speak out from the stones there is often little sense of the loss or the suffering. One notable exception is the work by Kathe Kollwitz at the Roggevelde War Cemetery in Vladslo, Belgium. This has no inscription and shows no ‘heroic’ soldiers: just two figures in abject despair, the father with his arms crossed, shoulders hunched and the mother in total grief with her head held down. There is no ‘glory’ in the statues, no sense of a gallant falling for King and Country. Peter Kollwitz, Kathe’s son, died in the ‘Kindermord bei Ypern’, a reference to the biblical slaughter of the innocents. The parents received no consolation in it being for ‘Gott und Vaterland’.

We are now seeing the tragedy, captured so moving in the statue, played out on our TV screens every night as parents despair at the deaths of their children in a number of wars across the globe (such as Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya). There are now ethical debates about whether the broadcast media should show dead and injured children being dug out of their ruined homes and laid out forlornly in ramshackle hospitals. This is an absurd echo of the Great War censors themselves who thought it ‘improper’ to show the bodies of British soldiers killed in the fighting.

Our press still glorify war, images of tanks racing across the desert and princes in combat gear sell newspapers and draw audiences. The flag-draped coffins of ‘our glorious dead’ men and women are still paraded around our streets. It is quite remarkable that a century after the start of a war that was to ‘end all wars’ and during a 21st century slaughter of the innocents, in the very land where the biblical one took place, we still discuss the ethics of showing the consequences of war while the corporate media too often celebrate it.

The graphic and repeated images of Gazan children is not only ethical but essential. The images of the dead of flight MH17 and the haunting images of the toys of children killed in that horrible consequence of war need to be shown to us. That is what war is: our media is often too keen to show it in terms of what one side says followed by the other side’s version. War is not about TV interviews on who has a ‘right’ to defend themselves; it is about dead children, despairing parents and destroyed homes. We need to see those images far more than we need to hear politicians and the military justifying what they are doing.

As we enter this prolonged period of remembrance of World War One it is the consequences of that war that need to be reflected upon. In the Middle East just about every modern conflict today is a direct consequence of the imperialism that started the Great War. Our media should pause as it enters its period of mourning for the dead of a century ago to consider that tomorrow the slaughter of the innocents will continue there.

Perhaps if we (and, in particular, our leaders) had reflected more on the images of Kathe Kollwitz as a remembrance of war instead of triumphant monuments to militarism and our ‘glorious dead’ the Great War really would have been the war to end all wars.

Barry Turner is senior lecturer in law at the Lincoln School of Journalism, the University of Lincoln

July 26, 2014

The need for highest standards in brave new world exploding with social media

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 3:53 pm

William Morris reflects on the current state of media ethics on becoming Chairman of the International Communications Forum (ICF)

Few are old enough to remember the heady days before the newspaper revolution when computers replaced hot metal. But having been brought up in and around newspapers as a copy boy, I can remember the smell of the ink and the dirt and the clatter of the little presses and the deafening hum of the big monsters that rolled rivers of newsprint three stories into the air and back down again. For many of us those days are gone. Gone too are the great teams of investigative journalists. The Sunday Times’s ‘Insight’ team was, perhaps, the last of these but even they have long disappeared into the mists.

In those days who were the guardians of ethical journalism? The broadsheet proprietors cared about their reputations. And even the tabloid newspaper owners cared in some measure. Editors in chief took pride in the standards they adhered to. Even subeditors had a conscience, though then as now they could be staggeringly ruthless.

Have things changed? Well yes and no. Men and women of conscience still run some of our newspapers. Men and women of vision and mission still comprise many of our radio and television broadcasters and newspapermen. But the pressures are perhaps greater. For most journalists, spending a week working on a story is a luxury they can only dream of. Was it ever thus? Perhaps they always had to churn out copy but there was, I believe, more space for investigative journalism, if only because proprietors once had deeper pockets and more journalists to share the load.

Many Western papers have less than little time to sub copy anymore because of ever tighter budgets. There are the exceptions such as the Washington Post with its awesomely professional and well-staffed Foreign Desk (I must confess a bias because my daughter works for the Post) but such exceptions are rare.

What then does this mean for ethical journalism? It means that the journalist becomes the guardian of media ethics. It is a world in which we each take our own responsibility for what we do. We no longer have the moral conscience of the sub or the editor to fall back on. The editors themselves – for the most part – are still great women and men of conscience and principle. They still do heroic work shaping the overall vision of their publications. The great names are there. Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the London Guardian is a classic current example. But can Rusbridger even begin to read more than a small proportion of the vast quantity of copy the Guardian churns out in its online and print editions? Most modern editors are simply too busy to concern themselves on a day-to-day level with being the conscience of their junior reporters.

So, is xenophobia an issue? Sure it is. Media stories about classic pariah groups, the gypsies, the Romanians, the Arabs, the ‘Islamists’ and so forth, can descend into obscenity so easily and we don’t even notice. One Jewish writer I know wrote a whole opinion piece titled ‘LONDINISTAN’ and does not understand, to this day, that the mere headline (and it was of her choosing) was pejorative. She would be horrified to be called racist and, of course, she is not, just more than a little thoughtless perhaps.

In a similar vein, is desensitisation to violence an issue? Of course. Here in the West we think nothing of broadcasting images of brutality and torture if they are screened past the ‘9 o’clock watershed’, with little consideration given to the fact that many pubescent, vulnerable children are unlikely to head for their beds before midnight. And in the rest of the world things can be worse. The images of blood and violence on television sets in countries such as Israel and Iraq are breeding a generation desensitised to gore to such a degree that it is truly flabbergasting.

Is disinformation an issue? Absolutely. The current Syrian civil war has bred such a flood of intelligence agency feeds, as did the Iraq war little more than a decade ago, that it is near unbelievable. And most, I repeat, most, of these stories are published without serious qualm or question. My late father, a newspaper editor himself, had a maxim: ‘A story without a source is a source of trouble.’ This maxim we still use in our Media Ethics Code. He had a far better one too. It ran: ‘When in doubt, cut it out.’

So where do we go from here? Perhaps the key is that a number of prominent journalists make a public commitment to truth in Gandhiesque fashion. An affirmation that Absolute Truth is their standard. Or is that too extreme? Too fanatical? Undoubtedly we need to do something. If the editors can no longer always be our bellwethers we must find new heroes, new women and men we can point to and say: ‘They believe in fair play.’

Ethical journalism requires standards of vigilance that are unprecedented precisely because we are our own moral guardians and cannot lean on our bosses any longer. We should embrace that challenge with excitement. It heralds a better age. We are no longer children. We must stand up for ourselves. Gandhi once wrote (and I paraphrase slightly): ‘By experience I have found that people rarely become virtuous for virtues’ sake. They become virtuous by necessity. Nor is there anything wrong in becoming good under the pressure of circumstances.’ Raghvan Iyer, Gandhi’s main disciple, added: ‘Human life is an aspiration, a continual striving after perfection, and the ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses.’

Exactly! Herein lies a role for organisations like the International Communications Forum. We should extol virtue and excellence where we find it, through every means possible from the razzmatazz of the International Award to the private and personal accolade. And where necessary we should gently and respectfully cajole and criticise, through conferences and seminars if nowhere else. And we should support, nurture and foster media ethics, by doing everything from extolling the merits of media ethics codes to encouraging training in best practice.

Just as physicians and other health care professionals swear a Hippocratic Oath to practise medicine honestly, perhaps the ICF should promote our own oath of journalistic integrity which members of the trade could swear to in an effort to bolster internationally recognised standards of media ethics. After all, the world has changed. In a brave new world exploding with social media, demonstrations are called on Facebook, corruption is exposed in blogs, and reputations are destroyed by Twitter. In an era in which the internet provides an arena in which citizen journalists abound, it is the professional press that must adopt the highest standards of media credibility if they are to have a distinct place of their own, a territory that is truly theirs, in a world peopled with rumour and the viral tweet.

And it is exciting, truly exciting, that that should be the case.

The war of lies and deception

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 3:50 pm

The press have sunk to a predictable new low in their reporting of the air disaster in Ukraine - as Cold War rhetoric and misinformation returns, argues Barry Turner

The reporting by the world’s press of the destruction of a Malaysian airliner is a reminder of how nasty and manipulative the press can be when a tragedy arises from the current civil war in Ukraine.

Both sides of what has now become an entirely polarised debate about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine are equally to blame in producing the crudest of propaganda in the name of journalism. The Western press howls with moral indignation at the Russian president going so far as to blame him personally for shooting down the aeroplane. The Russian media and its international propaganda platform, RT, continually refers to the disaster as a ‘crash’ or at worse suggests the aircraft was a victim of the Ukrainian government’s actions in the Russian-speaking part of the country. The resignation this week of RT’s Sara Firth in protest at the coverage of the disaster is an embarrassment to the station perhaps as much as the sight of Sky TV’s news reporter Colin Brazier rummaging through a dead passenger’s luggage while the Western press howls about looting.

While the UK tabloids scream in horror at the treatment of the bodies and the alleged looting of passengers’ luggage and the Russian press blames Ukrainian military and air traffic control, the most obvious explanation for this tragedy is almost entirely missing from the popular press. The Western press continually insinuates that the use of a ‘sophisticated’ surface-to-air missile is evidence that the Russians were behind the attack. But this is nonsense. The system most likely to have been used is an old-fashioned but highly effective radar-guided missile. At least one of the vehicles carrying four of these is known to be in rebel hands. And, let’s remember, the rebels are not ‘farm boys’: the majority of them have served in not only the old Soviet forces but in the Ukrainian army too. There is no shortage of civilians in former Soviet republics with the knowledge of how to use this weapon.

The most likely explanation for this appalling tragedy is that an over-zealous rebel in charge of a powerful weapon system fired it at the commercial airliner by mistake. This does not seek to mitigate what is still a criminal act but it does place it in a proper context. What benefit would it have been for the rebels to have deliberately shot down a neutral civilian jet? At the time of the missile strike 478 civilians had been killed in the Donetsk region and 1,392 severely injured by bombing and shelling. On 15 July, a Ukrainian military aircraft bombed a civilian apartment building in the city of Snizhne. Little has been reported on these outrages with the exception of a very good article in the Economist (of 19 July)

In short, the reporting of the fighting in Ukraine has now descended into the pits of cynical propaganda – just as it was promoted by the press 100 years ago at the beginning of World War One.

• See also http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/06/propaganda-war-ukraine.html

July 3, 2014

Protests over moves to jail journalist for not revealing sources

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:33 am

Some 50,000 people have already signed a petition protesting at threats by the Obama administration to jail a journalist for not revealing his sources.

In State of War (2005), New York Times reporter James Risen revealed a bungled CIA attempt to set back Iran’s nuclear programme in 2000 by supplying the Iranian government with flawed blueprints for nuclear bomb design. The CIA’s tactic might have actually aided Iranian nuclear development.

Now five organisations – RootsAction.org, the Nation, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Progressive, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and the Freedom of the Press Foundation – have launched a campaign to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to end legal moves against Risen.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has condemned the administrations effort to force Risen to reveal a source ‘one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades’ while Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg comments: ‘The pursuit of Risen is a warning to potential sources that journalists cannot promise them confidentiality for disclosing executive branch criminality, recklessness, deception, unconstitutional policies or lying us into war. Without protecting confidentiality, investigative journalism required for accountability and democracy will wither and disappear.’

• The online petition can be read at act.rootsaction.org. See also http://zcomm.org/zmagazine/an-assault-from-obamas-escalating-war-on-journalism/.

June 27, 2014

Justice has been done, actually!

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 1:16 pm

Media legal expert Barry Turner reflects on the Hackgate verdicts

The verdicts in the hacking trial have already started to create a stir in the ‘street of shame’ and condemnation, counter-condemnation and innuendo are appearing in varying degrees in the corporate press. Before we consider the level of seriousness we should attach to any of the Fleet Street gossip, sniping and triumphalism it is important to remember one thing. The defendants were tried in a public court where they were entitled to a full and costly defence, they were tried by their peers sitting on a jury and it was by that time-honoured and fair system of justice that they were found either guilty or not guilty.

There are now two major issues both of a legal nature worthy of serious consideration: firstly, the trial judge has heavily criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for his comments about Andy Coulson (the former News of the World editor and communications chief at No. 10 Downing Street found guilty of conspiracy to hack phones) while the jury were still deliberating on two of the counts he was tried on. This is nothing short of contempt of court and the publication of his purely partisan comments should be referred to the Attorney General. Cameron is perhaps lucky that the jurors had been unable to reach a verdict on these counts rather than his intervention making such a verdict unsafe.

Secondly, the comments of Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of the Sun, represent a different kind of contempt for both our system of justice and for the high quality journalism that first brought these cases to light. Kavanagh has openly decried the Crown Prosecution Service for bringing the charges and compares the case to that of the failed celebrity sex cases of recent months. This is rather an odd comparison and indicates a scant knowledge of the law which seems to have afflicted rather too many of News International’s editors.

Significant evidence existed about the phone hacking and it was perfectly proper for the CPS to bring charges against those now acquitted. The evidential and public interest tests were more than adequately met and to suggest that the press has been subjected to a witch-hunt is absurd. Where crimes are allegedly committed and evidence is available, then it is in the public interest to prosecute in an open court.

The post mortem on these verdicts is likely to last weeks. Many are unhappy that several of the defendants were acquitted especially after their vilification by the media since the scandal erupted. The lawyers for the principal defendant frequently complained about this and suggested she was unable to get a fair trial. Yet it is a clear vindication of our criminal justice system that they were wrong about that. Rebekah Brooks, former Sun editor and chief executive of News International, was on trial for what she was alleged to have done, not for what she might be in the eyes of many. The jury were not convinced by the evidence against her and she is rightly acquitted.

We are approaching the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the jury system in English law. It is a system that is often criticised and often wrongly judged itself. It is, nevertheless, a system in which the accused is innocent until proven guilty to the highest standards of evidence. It is a system where the accused may face their accuser, where they may test the evidence of the prosecution to breaking point and it is one where ordinary people using ordinary judgment decide on guilt. Not governments, not presidents, not the army and certainly not the press.

Where the prosecution cannot come up to the very high standard of proof it is right to say that the defendant is not guilty. That should not, however, be the basis for the rather ludicrous position adopted by some in the media that because a trial fails it should not have been brought in the first place.

Parts of Fleet Street can now spend the next few weeks on the one hand gloating over the acquittals and carping on about heavy-handed policing and prosecutions and on the other hand suggesting (ever so subtly ) that the verdicts may be wrong. If they can spare a few moments away from their smug satisfaction or their ‘righteous indignation’ they may want to consider the verdicts in an Egyptian court just two days earlier. Then, two al-Jazeera journalists were jailed – one for seven years, the other for ten years – for allegedly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Such verdicts might make British journalists focus on what the word justice actually means.

Barry Turner is a Senior Lecturer in Media Law at Lincoln School of Journalism and the Centre for Broadcasting and Journalism at
Nottingham Trent University

June 23, 2014

Diversity deja vu?

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 2:11 pm

Barnie Choudhury, a former award-winning BBC network correspondent, welcomes the BBC’s latest diversity announcement - but remains sceptical about the corporation’s chances of becoming truly racially diverse

Picture this scene: a BBC director-general stands up to be counted when it comes to racial diversity. He wants to make sure his organisation truly reflects Black Asian Minority Ethnics (BAME). He will set targets, run training programmes and leadership courses. He will make challenging statements and ask pertinent questions such as:

You can have all the equal opportunities policies you like, but if actually, the gateman doesn’t let blacks through the gates, you’ve got a problem, haven’t you? I don’t believe the BBC is like that, but we are not saying: ‘What are we going to do about this?’

That man was Greg Dyke and the year was 2001. Of the five director-generals I worked for, he was the most inspirational who genuinely got it. It was not about the sound-bite, it was not about pleasing people or bowing down to public pressure. For Dyke it was, and remains, about doing the right thing. If only he had more time in office.

So last week, thirteen years later, the latest BBC director-general has his photo opportunity, surrounded by a bevy of black and Asian people outside a fictitious underground station to make his latest diversity pronouncement. ‘The BBC should be giving talented people a chance wherever they come from,’ said Lord Hall of Birkenhead. He was once Chief Executive of BBC News. Our paths probably crossed because he oversaw the launch of Radio 5 live when I first joined network news. I am sure he is a good man.

So there is no scintilla of doubt, his package of measures, how ever limited, is to be welcomed. When you are drowning, a line to a rescue boat is better than none at all. What I am disappointed about is the lack of ambition, the emphasis once again on recruitment and the missed opportunity to deal with the root causes rather than the symptoms. I say all these things with a sense of deep love for an organisation I gave almost a quarter of a century to and one which I would go to war to ensure it keeps a viable licence fee.

Lack of political will
So why do I think Hall is presiding over a failed venture? Organisations need capacity, capability and confidence to succeed. Things do not happen for two main reasons: the lack of political will and inadequate funding. So I echo the thoughts of Simon Albury, the former Chief Executive of the Royal Television Society and Chair of the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality. Some £2 million is nothing, he said, when the BBC has a content budget of almost £1800 million – it is just 0.1 per cent. Think about what change 1 per cent funding could make?

I am also not convinced about the targets for on-screen representation. Hall wants one in six people on-screen to be BAME within three years. This is an increase of 5 per cent, according to BBC News. An excellent suggestion but my research suggests that for the past fifteen years BBC News has not been able to break through the 12 per cent barrier.

An aside: the problem is that I do not trust the BBC’s own figures, even when offered under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. Unfortunately, the FoI Act does not prevent an organisation from spinning its data, as long as it is true. In the latest figures the BBC has given me under the FoI Act, it has cleverly not told me how many BAME senior managers there are in BBC News, despite my asking. Instead, it has lumped together Band 10 (editors and correspondents) with senior managers. The result? As of 31 March 2014 BBC News has a whopping, target busting 17.1 per cent. This is not untrue but it is disingenuous, at the very least. It is an old political trick countless governments have played on its unsuspecting citizens. Make sure the figures add up to say what you need them to say. Surely the BBC should be above this?

On-screen window-dressing
It is not just the figures. It is the fact this is about on-screen representation. On-screen representation is important. Of course it is. But it is window-dressing. It gives false hope and a false impression. We went through this during the Dyke era. If I had a pound for every person who said the BBC was diverse because we now see so many non-white faces on screen, I could afford to retire. No, we need to be more nuanced. What we need is a critical mass behind the screen in positions of real power. This is not necessarily about recruiting new staff. I think they may already be there in the organisation. This is about talent management which, if the BBC is honest, it has never really been good at that, except in a few cases. It has a tendency to create big beasts while the rest become minnows. Should we not think about retention? Should we not also be thinking about truly developing the talent within and focusing a little on succession planning and building a legacy? Who are the natural heirs to Jeremy Paxman, John Humphrys and David Dimbleby?

So what would I do? In my view, the BBC needs to do the unthinkable. First of all, it should hire an independent group of academics with a deep contextual knowledge of the creative industries. Not that I am touting for work, but I can help there. Ideally the first question to be considered by this group should be: Why has the BBC failed to produce a permanent BAME domestic news and current affairs sequence editor, controller of a radio or television channel, director of news, radio, television or director-general since its creation almost a century ago? As leaders, should we not be leaving a proud legacy? The same question can be asked of any major UK broadcaster, incidentally.

Also, ask these academics to audit the careers of every BAME in the BBC. It will not be more than 4,000 people. Ask them to look at how many years the BAME employee has been in the organisation; where they were educated; how they entered the BBC; plot a career path; whether they have progressed; whether they perceive barriers to their success; what development opportunities they have been given; whether they feel they have been properly led; and what they feel about their position in the organisation now. These are difficult questions but measureable.

The second stage would be to audit forensically the careers of the top 100 BBC leaders. Ask the same questions plus some others. How long did it take you to become a senior manager? Apart from your drive and ambition, what do you put that down to? What were the crucial steps to your success? Do you believe anyone or anything in particular helped you? What advice would you give to those wishing to become a senior and influential leader?

Need to identify workable solutions
The third stage is to draw out themes from both sets of data and then suggest genuine and workable solutions. My judgement tells me that, controversially, race, colour, religion, gender, disability and social class often have little to do with real progress. Yet unpicking this data will allow us to strive for a better, richer and more diverse workforce. If we do not do this, I fear we are doomed to repeat past mistakes. My fear is that we will have the same debate in another thirteen years knowing we did not dare take a creative risk, we were too scared to be different and we made the excuse that this was too difficult, not politically convenient and too expensive.

Finally, here is where the lack of ambition and the repetition of past mistakes concern me deeply. According to BBC News online:

Incorporated into the 2017 targets is also a new senior leadership development programme providing six people from BAME backgrounds with experience working at the top level of the BBC – including a placement with Lord Hall himself.

I hate to say this but this is the third iteration of such a scheme to my knowledge. I should know I was on the previous two. One was called ASCEND and the other was called the Mentoring and Development Programme. Different names but essentially the same failed strategy. Hall rightly says: ‘We’re not guaranteeing a job at the end of it. I’m certain they will get a job either at the BBC or elsewhere – but what I’m saying is we want to make a difference here to finding great talent and backing them. I’ve seen it work in the arts. If it doesn’t then we’ll look for other things.’

Raising and dashing expectations
But past schemes failed because they raised and dashed expectations. They failed because the gatekeepers did not buy into it. And, when it came to it, they failed because of the ingrained BBC culture of recruiting in its own predominantly white, middle-class, Oxbridge male image.

In my case, when I wanted to become a BBC leader, with a chance to use all my learning to influence and drive forward an organisation, I was told not once but three times by very senior managers: ‘Barnie, we see you as a very successful on-screen talent and are confused why you should want to stop doing that. Don’t be disappointed but we have people who’ve spent their whole careers on this path. Why should we risk giving you a chance?’

They do make an excellent point. Why should they take a risk? Perhaps I should gently point out something attributed wrongly to Einstein: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ Perhaps I should add that clichéd phrase: ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’ The more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps I should whisper in Tony’s ear: ‘Please DG, dare to be different.’ Surely we must do better?

Barnie Choudhury is a former award-winning BBC network news correspondent who is a consultant on pragmatic diversity and communications leadership. He is currently undertaking a Master’s by Research investigating diversity in BBC News. He is also a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Council for England and the Interim Director of Communications and Marketing at the University of East London. These are his personal views.

February 6, 2014

George Orwell’s adopted son to give talk at University of Lincoln

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, conferences — news_editor @ 11:35 am

Richard Blair, the adopted son of George Orwell and Patron of the Orwell Society, is to give a keynote presentation to a symposium at the University of Lincoln on 12 June. The symposium, which is free and open to the public, is being organised by Richard Lance Keeble, Professor of Journalism and chair of the Orwell Society, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the publication of Orwell’s famous dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Richard Blair’s talk is to be titled: ‘George Orwell: Who was he?’ Other leading international Orwell scholars are also expected to present papers.

Orwell remains one of the most studied and analysed writers of all time. And yet Orwell scholarship continues to explore new areas of his life, his ideas, his friendships, his politics and his extraordinary output of writings – which included essays, journalism, novels, letters, book and film reviews and diaries.

Abstracts of 200 words are invited from scholars in a range of disciplines: journalism, literature, politics, history, creative writing and intelligence studies for consideration. Please send abstracts to rkeeble@lincoln.ac.uk by 11 April 2014. Applicants will be notified by the end of April 2014. The papers will form the basis for a collection of essays, to be published under the title George Orwell Now!

• Further information and symposium registration details can be found online at www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/campuslife/whatson/eventsconferences/ or by contacting the conference office on conferences@lincoln.ac.uk

Call for Papers: Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 11:31 am

Sleepwalking towards Big Brother?: The Ethics of Communication in an Era of Mass Surveillance

Call for Papers
The unauthorised release of documents from the National Security Agency by dissident contractor Edward Snowden has raised a new set of ethical questions for the media, politicians, the national security state and the public. Snowden has revealed that, as a result of the pervasive nature of modern electronic communications, we have sleepwalked into the mass surveillance state, capable of documenting the citizens’ every electronic communication and much of their telecommunications and internet usage. This surveillance state is far more extensive that anything that could have been conceived by the Stasi. Yet the publication of Snowden’s material by leading news organisations has been challenged not only by the states concerned, but also others parts of the news media, the academy and the public in those countries. Some have found mass surveillance reassuring and others felt able to ignore the Snowden disclosures.

Ethical Space is planning a special double issue in the middle of next year to examine the ethical issues in this contested discourse. This could include ethical issues around mass surveillance, the secret state, privacy and the media publication of the Snowden revelations. Ethical Space’s editors believe the implication of Snowden’s revelations is so profound that it needs multidisciplinary response. In addition to the journal’s existing and established media-based community, the editors solicit papers from other disciplines including intelligence studies, political studies, criminology, psychology, international politics, history, law and computing on a broad range of topics. This could include:

• the ethical issues surrounding new concepts/activities such sousveillance [the surveillance of the state by citizens];
• the impact the collective knowledge of a mass surveillance state could have on citizens’ behaviour;
• the ethics of social engineering;
• the legality or otherwise of the collection of data by the NSA network for each country involved;
• the part played by ‘patriotism’ in media coverage of this global story. What are the ethics of patriotism?
• the special strategies (perhaps of ‘deep scepticism’) required by journalists dealing with information about the secret state whether from ‘official’ sources or dissident whistleblowers.

Editors Professor Richard Lance Keeble and Donald Matheson have invited Paul Lashmar, of Brunel University, who specialises in the relationship between intelligence agencies and the media, to be guest editor of this issue.

Expressions of interest in contributing to the special ES issue can be registered by submitting a 250-word abstract by the 1 July 2014 to paul.lashmar@brunel.ac.uk. Publication guidelines can be found at: http://www.communicationethics.net/espace/index.php?nav=guide

October 8, 2013

Professor John Tulloch: A Tribute

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 8:19 pm

Professor John Tulloch, former Head of the School of Journalism at the University of Lincoln (LSJ) and a key figure in the development of journalism in higher education both in this country and internationally over the last 40 years, has died after a long illness aged 67. John was also a key member of the ICE executive group, was books editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, and he gave many insightful, highly original and memorable papers to ICE annual conferences over recent years.

Dr Fiona Thompson, director of ICE, commented: “In ancient Greek writings, a term was used – dikaios – which means a just and honest man or, as Rudolf Bultmann translates it, ‘the quality and situation of being turned in the right direction’ – that’s what John did, turned us in the right direction.”

Under his leadership from 2004 to 2012, the LSJ rose to being one of the leading journalism schools in the country, launching, for instance, innovative Masters programmes in peace journalism, science and arts journalism and the country’s only BA in investigative journalism. He also played a crucial role in building up the LSJ’s close links with the internationally acclaimed investigative journalist John Pilger. Significantly, when Pilger was awarded the Grierson Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011, he asked John Tulloch to give the welcome speech, which was much acclaimed. John Pilger commented: “Whereas journalism is taught competently elsewhere, it was invested with its due ethical and inspirational quality by John Tulloch – both at Lincoln and abroad.”

John Tulloch had an enormous curiosity about life. He was a true polymath; indeed, his breadth and depth of knowledge never ceased to amaze: music (of all genres), films, history, literature, art, politics, war and peace journalism, travel, robots! – these were just a few of his interests. He claimed to own 20,000 books. His home in Finchley, north London, the small house he rented in Lincoln and his office at the university were certainly bursting with them. But John had read just about all of them in depth – and remembered what he read. So a conversation with John was usually an education in itself. He knew vast swathes of literature (much of Shakespeare’s plays, for instance) by heart.

India was a particular love. I once said to him: “Ideally you would like to spend half of each year in India.” “No,” he replied vigorously, “nine months.” He thus gained particular pleasure from 1994 to 2003 from his management of the Chevening Award Programme for Young Indian Journalists at the University of Westminster, funded by the Foreign Office and organised by the British Council, New Delhi,– and again at the University of Lincoln in 2007.

John was bought up in west London and went to Latymer Upper School where he formed life-long friendships, maintaining contact and crossing professional paths with former school mates for more than fifty years. John was representative of a generation that rode a meritocratic wave, securing a wonderful school and undergraduate education: tutored by able and broad minded teachers in the company of a stellar cohort of contemporaries. After completing a BA (Hons) in English Literature at York University from 1965-1968 and a short spell in journalism in London at the now defunct City Press and Building Design, he completed a postgraduate diploma in education at the University of Edinburgh in 1972 – moving on to do further postgraduate study in Leeds. In 1970 he had met Pat O’Callaghan, a PhD researcher, and they wed in 1975.

Though with impeccable form as a practising professional journalist, at heart John was an academic. But not only was he a researcher and teacher but he was able to cope with all the administrative chores (becoming expert, for instance, in writing out all the complex documentation needed for programme validations) whilst delighting in inspiring and supporting his colleagues and encouraging his students to achieve their best. Moving in to higher education, in 1974, at the University of Westminster (then the Polytechnic of Central London), where he later became Head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1995-2003, John joined the country’s first BA Media Studies programme.

PCL provided the base from which, during the late 1970s, he designed media courses for trade unionists in collaboration with the TUC and, in 1984, John led the first positive action journalism training course in the UK, backed by the Commission for Racial Equality, the BBC and the National Union of Journalists. In 1990 he designed the first part-time Master’s course in journalism and later launched the first MA in public communication and PR.

At the LSJ, he redesigned the undergraduate programme, created Lincoln’s first MA in Journalism and launched a unique Journalism PhD by Practice. Lincoln’s BA Journalism programme, under his leadership, gained awards and accreditation from all the industry bodies and was “Recognised for Excellence” by the European Journalism Training Association. But throughout his time in higher education John held a healthy suspicion of authority – a necessary attribute, one could argue, for survival.

His contribution to the development of journalism education nationally and internationally was vast. He was an external examiner at more than a dozen universities at both BA and MA levels in the UK – and he served as visiting professor or curriculum development consultant at a wide range of higher education institutions across the globe – including Sweden, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Yemen, France, Ireland and Malta.

His writings and research interests were both wide and innovative. He co-edited two major international collections of essays on literary journalism (New York: Peter Lang 2012 and forthcoming 2014) and Peace Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution (New York, Peter Lang 2010). He maintained a constant critique of the ethics of the corporate media but always loved the tabloids for their cheeky irreverence. As John Mair, chair of the Institute of Communication Ethics, commented: “I’m sure he will be scribbling away, wherever he may be.”

He leaves his wife, Pat, and three daughters, Katherine, Lucy and Isabel, two grandsons, Oliver and Henry, sons-in-law, Paul and Nicholas and a host of friends.

Richard Lance Keeble

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