Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Feargal Sharkey complains to the BBC

Having appeared on The Culture Show, speaking to Mark Thomas about the Digital Economy Bill, Feargal Sharkey clicked his little stopwatch and found that pro-DEB speakers were on screen for less time than anti-DEBites.

And, in his new role as someone who believes that the value of music is only measureable by the money expended by listeners, he concluded that the fairness of a debate can only be measured in seconds on screen, and so he complained. He complained, too, about rhetorical flourishes - there's no actual mention in the legislation of the number of complaints which will lead to special measures, there's no indication what those special measures might mean, so just because it's a copy of the 'three strikes and you're disconnected legislation' elsewhere in the world, there's no reason, says Sharkey, to describe it as such.

Of course, it's easy to see why Sharkey would feel this - the idea of people being thrown off the internet was incredibly unpopular, and UK Music had been doing their best to try and throw attention of the possibility of this happening under the DEBill.

The BBC admitted that the use of the word "criminalising" was unfair, and apologised for doing so - "treating people like criminals" would have been more accurate, although presumably equally upsetting to Sharkey.

And the BBC's Editorial Standards Committee, accepted some of Sharkey's arguments:

The ESC said the "section of the report on the likely effects of the new bill had given the audience an inaccurate description of how the process of disconnection would work", adding that in "attempting to paraphrase the legal complexities of the bill the report had not been sufficiently precise and had been inaccurate".

"Use of the word 'criminalise' in the introduction to the report was inaccurate but that this aspect of the complaint had been satisfactorily dealt with by the programme at the earliest opportunity," the committee added.
So, a partial, cautious upholding of some of Sharkey's complaints. But firm rejection of other aspects of it:
that, on the use of the phrase “three strikes” and similar by contributors, the
report had retained a respect for factual accuracy and was duly accurate.

that, while a contributor had twice referred to criminalisation within the report, it was clear in the context of the report as a whole that the most extreme remedy
under discussion was disconnection and that there was no overall impression given
that criminal sanctions would apply.

that with regard to references to criminalisation the report had retained a respect
for factual accuracy and was duly accurate.

that, while Mark Thomas had expressed strong personal opinions in his links to
camera, this was permitted by the guidelines on authored programmes.

that all the main views, including those that contradicted Mark Thomas’s, were

that bias on a controversial subject had been avoided and that impartiality had
been achieved in a way that was adequate and appropriate to the output.
The complaint was in part upheld with regard to accuracy and not upheld with regard to impartiality
Given that UK Music had complained about BBC coverage of the DEB was biased, exaggerated and inaccurate, they'll obviously take care to see their coverage of these findings are accurate, fair and balanced, right?
The only mention of the findings are on this ticker on their site, which suggests that "UK Music's complaints over misleading broadcast upheld".

Not "some of the complaints". No mention of the rejected complaints. Not "upheld in part".

But then it's difficult to convey complex ideas in a small space, isn't it, Feargal?