Tag Archives: ITV

The Facebook Beheading Videos Row


The university’s View from the North blog.

As the controversy about beheading videos on Facebook restarted this week, I wrote a post about it on the University of Huddersfield’s View from the North blog, on which academics write about assorted current events. I’ve reproduced the post below.

WATCHING VIDEOS of people being beheaded is not a pleasant experience.  I remember once mistakenly seeing unedited footage of a beheading in Iraq, as it came into the newsroom of a TV channel I was working for.  The main lesson I took from it was to do what I could to avoid seeing another one.

But if I really wanted to, I could now satisfy my curiosity by visiting Facebook.  The social network has quietly reversed its previous ban on the posting of beheading videos.  Quietly that is, until today, when the change attracted the full attention of the media.  David Cameron even used Twitter, Facebook’s bitter rival, to condemn the decision as “irresponsible”.

It’s not especially controversial to say that beheading videos are bad in general, and that watching them is probably bad for us too.  But the dilemma facing Facebook is more complicated than that.  It comes down to this: is Facebook a publisher, or a platform?  Or put another way: is it more like ITV, or a simple transmitter?

If ITV broadcast the beheading video currently being shared on Facebook, it would be subject to potential sanctions from its regulator, Ofcom.  But in Facebook’s case, there is no regulator.  Nobody can fine it or take away its licence, even though members of the public have accessed the video using Facebook as surely as a theoretical TV viewer might access it using a particular channel.

The argument made by social networks that they are merely platforms for others to post content is fine up to a point.  But where Facebook in particular gets on to crumbly ground is when it refuses to censor beheading videos on one hand, but steps in to enforce its own ‘Community Standards’ on the other.

It rules all sorts of things out of bounds, from fake accounts to pictures of self-harming. You can understand the reasons why. But Facebook knows the more it intervenes, the more it edges away from the transmitter towards the publisher.  That could mean extra responsibilities for proactively policing material across its one billion users, which would be extremely costly in time and money.  Facebook would much rather leave it to us.


Blackburn Lecture On Journalism And The Internet

I did some teaching at Blackburn College’s University Centre just before Christmas, including this lecture which I gave to a group of first and second year students.

It’s a quick introduction to some of the current themes surrounding the current state of journalism. I thought it was important to emphasise to the students that, although newspapers are generally in decline, there are many factors at work and it’s not just “because of the internet”. I also wanted to stress that the skills they are learning on their course will be useful to them regardless of what they end up doing, whether it’s working for a traditional media company, in some related industry such as PR, or doing their own thing.

Here’s the full presentation.

On ITV News

(picture: ITV Daybreak)

I was on the news this week. Since I became a stay-at-home dad three years ago, I’ve often been used as a case study by friends of mine in the media, to illustrate all kinds of stories. On Monday it was an old colleague who now works at ITV, keen to get my views about the latest changes to parental leave for Daybreak.

The slightly odd thing about the experience was that, while one video journalist came round and did the usual interview and filming-of-my-daughter-looking-cute on Monday afternoon, it ended up being used four times by ITV the following day, in four different packages, voiced by four different reporters (none of whom was the one who actually did the filming). It went out in the Daybreak Newshour, then again in Daybreak proper as a lead-in to their interview with Nick Clegg, who was announcing the policy (I taped the show and watched it later, I may have a young toddler, but even I’m rarely up at 6am unless I have to be).

A flurry of texts and tweets told me I was on again in some other report during the ITV Lunchtime News, then more messages alerted me to the fact that an extended piece based around my interview had gone out in Granada Reports. I caught it on ITV+1 (watch it here), and was most amused by the use of my wedding photo, rather as though we’d been killed in some hideous accident. It also featured my daughter eating a sandwich in a surprising amount of detail, but perhaps Granada was a bit light for material on Tuesday evening.

The full ITV News coverage of the story, on their blog-style website which I must say I like using, is here. I wrote about it on Like Father, Like Daughter too.