Wednesday, 11 April 2012

the BSA on alisdair thompson

a quick post on the BSA decision regarding alisdair thompson's complaint against the campbell live interview last year. the BSA did not uphold the complaint, and one of the bits from their decision that i thought very appropriate was this:

"It is our firm view that if the item caused any harm to Mr Thompson's reputation and dignity, this was not a product of unfair editing on the part of the broadcaster but was the result of how Mr Thompson chose to conduct himself in the interview and was largely self-imposed,'' the BSA said.

their decision on the "off-the-record bit was also interesting:

The Thompsons had claimed his privacy had been breached because his request to speak off camera was ignored.

But the BSA said Mr Thompson was an "experienced public figure'' and would "know the care to be taken with `off-the-record' and the need to obtain agreement with the journalist prior to stopping and starting an interview''.

i don't know that i'm entirely comfortable with this finding. i was of the opinion, having watched the full 30-minute clip on the tv3 website twice (i know, glutton for punishment), that mr thompson had fully repeated everything he said "off-the-record" as soon as he asked for them to start recording again. therefore, the impact of airing the "off the record" bit was really nullified. his meltdown clearly happened after he said they could start recording again - that was the actual bit that caused damage to his reputation, and as the first quote stated, that was entirely his own fault.

the BSA finding on the "off-the-record" thing mirrors what i've been told in media training: that there is no such thing. we were quite clearly told to act as if everything is on record all the time, from the minute you say hello. after all, there was the guyon espiner bit with michael cullen, which dr cullen thought was not being recorded for airing, but which was aired by tv1 anyway. there were no BSA complaints about that.

however, there are implications for people who are engaging in whistleblowing type activities, or trying to get vital information across that they wouldn't otherwise be able to do because of their position or for some other reason. all of that tends to be "off-the-record", and i wonder how this ruling and the similar advice i was given impact on that.

in the meantime, the EMA continues to show it is no friend of women by opposing an extension to paid parental leave. i'm too lazy to check, but i'd expect they opposed the initial paid parental leave scheme too. yet somehow the world has not fallen apart by giving more parents the choice to be able to stay at home with their babies for the first three months of their lives. in fact the economy continued to do well.

as helen kelly points out, this relieves a burden on poor families, where childcare makes it expensive to go back to work and surviving on one income is difficult. there are plenty of arguments to show that the scheme won't end up costing so much - the reduction in childcare subsidies, the increase in tax take from people employed as replacement workers, and following from that the reduction in benefits as some of those workers get extra work.

but really, the economic argument is not any more important than the social and health ones. yet it seems we're not allowed to value anything beyond money, income and outlays. nor are we to try to quantify long-term gains, particularly for society as a whole. the grounds that the national party and business groups are using to argue against this show how clearly they devalue families and family time.

it seems that there have been no lessons learned by the EMA in any case, from the alisdair thompson episode.

1 comment:

Moz said...

Thanks stargazer.

I'm fairly comfortable with the decision, but I agree that the reasoning was a bit suspect. Also, "off the record" means little to anyone, and nothing at all to the police unless the journalist works for something rich who's willing to pay for a lawyer.

Whistleblowing/protection of sources is really quite different - usually the media want to hide you. But that doesn't mean I'd ever do it without doing as much as possible to protect myself. It comes back to the blunt fact that what the media don't know they can't reveal. If I can leak/whistle without revealing my identity I'll try very hard to do that. It's still relatively easy for the media to use personal ads (etc) to respond to an anonymous tipster without needing the tipster's contact details. Staying anonymous via the internet is much, much harder but can be done. Simpler and more reliable to buy a prepaid cellphone and use fake info to register it, then only put the battery in and turn it on in a local shopping centre (to stop anyone tracking it back to your house). (sorry for the length, but information included to help anyone who might need it)

The best leaks IMO are by tipping off someone like NoRightTurn to make a FOIA request, so that everything after the "what question to ask" can be public.