Media Law: Codes of Conduct and Important Cases

Codes of Conduct

The main bodies responsible for regulating the professional conduct of journalists are:

  • NUJ Code of Conduct
  • PCC Editors’ code of practice
  • BBC Producer Guidelines (“standards and values”)
  • Ofcom Broadcasting Code (sections 5,6,7,8)

Under Ofcom rules there is an absolute requirement for accuracy and impartiality. Ofcom code has statutory power and can impose large fines and remove broadcasting rights.

Examples include fines on the BBC for the Sachsgate scandal, £400,000 for fake phone ins and ITV’s Ant and Dec fined £5.6 million for abusing phone-in votes to make money.

NUJ Code of Conduct:

(1)  uphold  and defend the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed

(2)  information must be honest, accurate and fair

(3)  no inaccuracies

(4)  differentiate between fact and opinion

(5)  obtain material by honest means

(6)  no intrusion of private life

(7)  protect identity of sources

(8)  resist threats or any other inducements to influence

(9)  publish no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination

(10)  no endorsement by advertising

(11)  seek consent of appropriate adult when interviewing or photographing children

(12)  avoid plagiarism

Some Important Cases

Confidentiality/privacy: Princess Caroline of Monaco: (https://brackenstockley.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/media-law-confidentiality/)

Qualified Privilege

The Clegg case:

This was the first significant case where reference to the Human Rights Act was introduced.

What happened?

At a public meeting a group of anti-IRA activists in Northern Ireland, it was claimed that a firm of solicitors (McCartan Turkington Breen) were prosecuting a soldier (Clegg) who was accused of shooting innocent youths, in order to further the aims of the provisional IRA and that the lawyers were in effect ‘helping terrorism’ or were even (by innuendo) terrorists themselves.

When the allegations were reported the lawyers sued for libel. The law firm won £145,000 damages, but the papers appealed and the decision was overturned. On appeal (in 2000) the lawyers lost, and the papers won, because it was deemed to be in the public interest that the allegations were made and discussed, so long as the lawyers’ own denials were properly reported and ‘correct’ within the 1996 defamation act.

This case is important because:

(a)  it was the first case in which the provisions for freedom of expression in the Human Rights acts were used to protect newspapers

(b) it extended the protection of Qualified Privilege from the courts

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About brackenstockley

Contributor to the JusticeGap and WINOL. Currently studying journalism at the University of Winchester (Year Three).
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