Section 3 – Regulation of the Media Sector

Introduction

In the UK, the media is a heavily regulated sector. In the media, regulation is where the government and other legal organisations control the media and the content posted. They guide it to make sure it is all conducted through legal methods and content, and enforce that the media is up to appropriate and suitable standard. Without media regulation, the media would be all over the place. Nothing would be protected, there would be no limits, and anyone could see anything regardless. So it’s a good thing media regulation is in place!

BBFC

One example of a media regulator is the BBFC. The BBFC stands for British Board of Film Classification. This regulator regulates the film and cinema side of media. What the BBFC do is regulate the ratings of films before release in cinema and on DVD. They decide on whether a film is Universal (suitable for all audiences), PG (can be seen by younger viewers but requires parental guidance/presence), 12A (parents can take a child younger than 12 to see the film in cinema if they deem it suitable for their child), 12 (can only be viewed and/or purchased by someone 12 or over), 15 (can only be viewed or purchased by someone 15 or over), 18 (can only be viewed or purchased by someone 18 or over), and R18 (‘To be shown only in specially licensed cinemas, or supplied only in licensed sex shops, and to adults only’).

The BBFC is effective and a necessary organisation. This is because without the BBFC, anyone could watch anything and be unaware of how impactful it could potentially be. It is effective because without the BBFC, a 12 year old could watch an 18 and be harmed mentally or emotionally from what they have witnessed.

An example of a regulatory decision the BBFC made was with The Human Centipede 2. The company that made The Human Centipede 2 took their film to the BBFC and the BBFC rejected it on ethical and legal grounds, saying it was far too graphic and emotionally distressing to be certified on any rating level. Ethically it was too much, it showed extreme violence and other distressing scenes that could ethically distress and potentially influence the audience. Legally it surpassed the borderline on acceptable grounds for film. When the company got rejected, they consulted the BBFC again and asked them to evaluate what must be removed in order to be approved. The BBFC told them to remove a few scenes from the film and from this they were able to publish it. The reason the BBFC and the company came to a compromise was for commercial reasons – it allows for more money and also provides both companies with profit.

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PEGI

Another example of a media regulator is PEGI, who regulate video games. PEGI stands for Pan European Game Information, and they regulate the ratings on video games. They decide on it’s level of appropriateness and what age category it should fall in, in the same way that the BBFC regulate films. It can fall into the category of Ok (suitable for everyone), 3 (suitable for those 3 years old and over), 7 (suitable for those 7 and over), 12 (suitable for those 12 and over), 16 (suitable for those 16 and over), and 18 (suitable for those only 18 or over). What they also do is analyse the game to see what kind of significant and/or explicit content each game contains. They will include symbols on each game signifying what it features:

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PEGI is a necessary company to the gaming industry, and is highly effective. It ensures that a gamer is aware of the kind of content they have invested in and are prepared for it – otherwise a gamer could purchase any random game and have no idea about the kind of content it features and how it will affect them. For example, a seven year old could invest themselves in Grand Theft Auto and have no idea about the violence it contains, which could then further cause them distress and influence their mentality.

An example of when PEGI have intervened and made a significant regulatory decision was with Manhunt 2 in 2007. They refused it classification of any sort due to the extensive amount of violence it involved and the attitude in the game which advocated the violence. The nature of the game was both a legal and ethical matter. Legally it pushed the boundaries of what was allowed in terms of graphic content in European law, and ethically it was far too distressing both mentally and emotionally to be an acceptable game to publish. After being rejected, Rockstar (the company who produced Manhunt 2) went away and censored and removed what they deemed was the worst parts of the game, such as the visual brutality and the score system of violence in the game. They re-appealed to PEGI who rejected them once again. After this Rockstar created another appeal and on commercial grounds it was finally approved with an 18 certificate. They gave in to this on commercial grounds, and the need and want for more profit.

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PCC

The PCC are the regulator for the press and publishing industry. PCC stands for Press Complaints Commission, and their job is to make sure the press do not publish anything inappropriate or harmful to anyone, and that the right actions are taken if this happens. They protect the rights of featured individuals and the public, and uphold ethical and legal standards. These rights are protected through the PCC’s Editor’s Code of Practise, which is a document stating all of the rules and conditions of what the press can and cannot conduct and release. If the rules on this document are breached in a publication and/or a someone claims that a publication has caused them harm, the PCC will sue or charge offence against the publisher.

Without the PCC the press could release anything and conduct their research in any way they like without it being deemed offensive or harmful. Unfair publications and methods would go untreated and nobody would have the right to claim privacy or that they have been negatively affected by the press. This could cause major harm and issues which emphasises why the PCC are a necessary authority and highlights how highly effective they are.

An example of when the PCC have made a regulatory decision was with Danni Minogue. The papers had published and shared information without consent about her pregnancy, and released details even before her 12 week scan. She gave complaint about this and the PCC upheld the issue and charged the papers for releasing sensitive material without consent. The issue was ethical and legal – ethically it was wrong of the papers to publish information without consent, and legally it breached the Editor’s Code of Conduct.

In recent years, the press complaints regulator has been replaced by a new regulator known as IPSO. IPSO stands for Independent Press Standards Organisation. They replaced the PCC because the PCC recieved extensive amounts of complaints and slander after a scandal in 2011. The scandal was a large phone hacking frenzy, involving companies such as News of the World and News Corporation hacking famous figures phones and accessing private information and publishing it. The PCC did very little to resolve the situation which caused a new system to be issued by Prime Minister David Cameron, and this new system was IPSO.

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ASA

The ASA are the Advertisement Standards Authority, and they are in charge of making regulatory decisions based on the appropriateness of advertisements. They decide on whether or not an advert is appropriate, and where and when it should be aired. For example, if a company tried to air their advert before watershed and it featured explicit content, the ASA would step in and ban the advert, or set it to be aired after watershed if this was deemed still appropriate. The public can also appeal to the ASA if they feel offended by an advert and ask for it to be removed. If there is enough public agreement and a justified reason to support this, then the ASA has the power to step in and ban or alter the advert.

For example, a few years ago the food company Rustler’s created an advert for their burger featuring a sexualised woman, comparing the two together to show the appeal of the burger in comparison. This was brought to the ASA’s attention because it breached their codes and in addition to this the advert was shown before watershed, in an advert break between a kids film. Ethically it was an issue as it presented women in a degrading light, and legally it breached the codes so it had to be altered. The ASA made the commercial decision to move the advert to after watershed, that way the company could still benefit from the advertisement.

If I applied the ASA to my own media texts, they would have to regulate my advert if I published it. Currently, as it is not in the public domain, I have used a song from another artist without permission. If I were to put this on TV in the public domain, the ASA would need to address my advert for copyright purposes. In addition to this, if my advert included spooky scenes such as if I included the wolf from Red Riding Hood (and the wolf was visually graphic or too menacing) the ASA would be likely to revise my advert to after watershed if I tried to publicly publish it.

The ASA is highly effective and necessary to the advertisement industry. If there was no regulator for advertisement, any advert could be shown at any time with any content. This could potentially cause a lot of mental and emotional harm, especially if the advert was distressing. The public do not choose what adverts they see they only choose the programme or movie, so for sensitive adverts to go unregulated could mean serious harm to different audiences if they are not prepared for that advert. The ASA ensure that all adverts are suitable for the particular audience and platform they broadcast on.

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OFCOM

OFCOM are a regulator who are the Office of Communications. They regulate ‘the TV, radio and video-on-demand sectors, fixed-line telecoms, mobiles and postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.’ They are a government body who look over the widespread media and have large control on how the media operate.

One sector they regulate are the video sector, which includes music videos. A regulatory decision that OFCOM have been a part of was the music video for Smack My ***** Up by The Prodigy. In the music video, which was broadcast on MTV, there were several explicit pieces of content that were highly inappropriate. OFCOM upheld this and told the band that the video was inappropriate, and they were made to cut some pieces out in order to be suitable for airing once again. This issue was both legal ethical. Legally it breached the law of what could be published publicly, and it was unethical to show some of the content it featured.

Without OFCOM the media would be heavily unregulated and there would be immense disorder, anyone could broadcast or publish anything leaving the media a potentially harmful place to be invested in. OFCOM makes sure that all media communications in the UK are as safe as possible and that it is a suitable environment for everyone.

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