05 December 2011

Should there be a Media Watchdog for Jersey?

Deputy Trevor Pitman will be asking a question
about  media in the States this week
Following on from the Theme of Media in Jersey, I am pleased to publish here part 2 of my interview with Team Voice. Part one can be seen here

Tomorrow Deputy Pitman will ask the following Question of Deputy Tracey Vallois, who is the President of the Chairman's (Scrutiny) Panel: 'Will the President clarify whether she intends to pursue the recommendation of the [previous] Education and Home Affair's Scrutiny Panel to include scrutiny of the media under the remit of the Scrutiny panels?"

More on this after tomorrow's response.

But for now, here is part two. Enjoy


  1. May I suggest an idea? I have had a number of very productive meetings with the UK Press Complaints Commission, I have suggested that as you would with an umbudsman have a written advert piece from the UK Press Complaints Commission in the JEP say every month, as a reminder to people in Jersey that should they feel an article is not fair in its content that people feel they can go directly to the UK Press Complaint Commission. It's a start, it does something, it lets the JEP and its journalists know that checks and balances are there and this can only be a good thing.

  2. I have just looked at the JEP for Wednesday 30 November which is a quite large edition at 56 pages.
    However, a quick count shows that Island news appears on only 7 pages and Island news focus on 3 more and these pages include large areas of adverts and pictures. So the written copy is a small part of the overall in this so called "newspaper".
    Evidently the local "political" content is only a small part of those 10 pages and is but a tiny part of the whole paper. So, we should probably moderate our critical comments and focus more on the reality of what this publication is really about.
    World news (syndicated from elsewhere) appears on 3 pages. Sport (mostly local) on 5 pages. Editorial comment and readers' letters 2 pages.
    Notice board and diary occurs on 2 pages. Comment 1 page. Community (a school photo) half a page. Under the Clock/Temps Passe 1 page.
    Local business 1 page. International business 1 page. Weather and Tides 1 page. TV guide 2 pages.
    Advertising pages are 23 (plus the other part pages throughout the paper). These 23 whole pages include Jersey Gazette and Classified 4 pages. Property adverts 9 pages. Employment 1. Motor sales 1 page.

    Our apparent obsession with Jersey political matters is evidently not shared with the people who buy the JEP. The Jersey blog sites (not the ones that I look at anyhow) are not filled with comment on sport or property sales or tv programme reviews.

    Obviously, the JEP knows how to turn out the right political message when it needs to. Besides which the general theme of the content supports the political status quo and regular special advertising features (on finance, wealth, lawyers or property) are hardly critical of anything happening in Jersey's government.

    But, at the same time, it does seem a bit silly to keep on complaining that the JEP is biased - of course it is. Where is the surprise?
    If bloggers and politically minded people in Jersey want to expose defects or read critical comments about Jersey and its political or social shortcomings, then we can hardly expect the JEP to make this its business.
    We can, if we choose, do so ourselves, but have to be prepared to do a great deal of journalistic hard work. For the most part, I see more tittle-tattle than seriously researched comment on most blogs.

    The BBC is another matter altogethr of course since this is a dedicated public service broadcaster. The standards achieved in Jersey certainly do fall very short of an acceptable standard. But it is rather more difficult to opt out of supporting it financially, without breaking the law, because we are obliged (more or less) to buy a TV licence.

    Those who call for local regulation of the media are treading on very dangerous ground. I would hesitate to entrust the Jersey States to give any restrictive powers to anybody in this Island but the discussion on this and related matters, does need to take place.
    Tom Gruchy says

  3. Previous: You raise a legitimate concern that the freedom of the press is sacrosanct and you are quite right that there should not be undue interference. However, this is a qualified right. Regulation and watchdogs do exist already. The JEP is theoretically supposed to abide by the UK Press guidelines and is answerable to the press Complaints Authority (whether voluntarily or otherwise). There is also a precedent in other jurisdictions, where select committees also have media in their remit (hence Levenson). So this is not a question about 'whining' or the need to 'man' (or even 'woman') up. it is a question about the reasonability of any media outlet to adhere to basic standards, and how they are held to account. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  4. If regulations and watchdogs exist already, why do we need another one for Jersey? Levenson came about because journalists were actually breaking the law, not just guilty of making a mistake over a poppy badge. Yes, the paper is right wing, but so is the vast majority of the island. I get very uneasy anytime politicians start talking about need to examine the media. It throws up all kinds of issues of freedom of speech. For example, I wonder, will this watchdog be examining the local blogs such as VFC well. Having looked at them in depth I believe they peddle lies and half truths, but I do not want to see them closed down. However, if politicians like yourself want to set up a regulatory body then do you not agree the bloggers need to held to account as well?

  5. I agree completely, I never knew we could complain to the UK Press Commission, when I did, I have found them to be very good. I put in my complaint in relation to a number of articles in the JEP, then a simple form was submitted to the UK Press Complaints Commission, within 2 days I was emailed with one person I now can deal with directly. The UK Press Complaints Commission is a free service, they are there to serve us as they do in the UK. I understand the UK Press Complaints Commission have been put under a lot of scrutiny recently, this is only a good thing, it means they will need to work harder to put Journalists who do not write the truth to book! that is all we are talking about here, we have no right to stop any article being published but when it's got lies written all over it, this is wrong, this must be dealt with. The idea of the UK Press Complaints Commission being part and parcel of our right to complain I believe is a real step forward in the right direction to a fair and balanced newspaper. People in Jersey should know that the UK Press Complaints Commission is there and ready to deal with any articles that are not truthful.

  6. Julie Daly-WallmanTuesday, 06 December, 2011

    On a completely different topic, in relation to Jersey's Economic Development Minister Senator Alan Maclean, instead of trying to solve a no-win in relation to the VAT loophole, how long is this man in Economic Development? what he should be doing is supporting and developing local industries, such as Jersey milk, why, well it's simple, it gives young children a healthy drink, it pays our Jersey farmers and also keeps our Jersey Ambassador our Jersey cow in fields and in Jersey! three good things, Alan Maclean if you can't do the job, please get someone who can! you have had years to do this job, get on with it! and do it properly, not short cuts, properly! Julie Daly-Wallman (rally behind this and lets get some real work done, not icing, real work!)

  7. 'If regulations and watchdogs exist already, why do we need another one for Jersey? '

    The debate as to whether Jersey needs regulations or watchdog is not decided, however, to respond to your question the answer would be: 'because the Jersey context is different.' The UK Press Complaints Authority works in a framework where the Status quo is a multipllicity of press and channels, all with different political leanings and propreital infulence. Some with none. Therefore, (i) the philosophical need for a regulator is less necessary (as the other newspapers will provide balance) and (ii) the way in which the authority works would be set up to deal within this context, not the Jersey context.

    I am not saying that regulation or even a watchdog is desirable. I am simply reporting that questions are being raised in this area.

    However, the better analogy is probably with the JCRA. They are set up, amongst other things, to monitor Monopolies.

    Monopolies can have perverse effects on economies and consumerism, as can cartels. This pernicious effect is made much worse when monopolies exist in the context of the 'free press', because invariably it undermines that freedom (read 'impartiality', 'balance'), especially when the prime purpose of the paper is commercial.

    The BBC has a charter to provide balanced reporting. The JEP does not. It would not necessarily be a bad thing if, as Jersey's only newpaper, it was obliged to provide 'balanced' reporting. But then, if that were the case, that would have to be subject to judgement. And who would decide?

  8. Should blogs that set themselves up as alternative news sources be monitored by a media watchdog?

  9. "If bloggers and politically minded people in Jersey want to expose defects or read critical comments about Jersey and its political or social shortcomings, then we can hardly expect the JEP to make this its business.
    We can, if we choose, do so ourselves, but have to be prepared to do a great deal of journalistic hard work. For the most part, I see more tittle-tattle than seriously researched comment on most blogs."

    You appear to be labouring under the very misguided assumption that bloggers have a duty to change the world through political journalism. I hate to burst your bubble, but that is simply not the case. A blog is fundamentally nothing more than an open diary, and as such people blog about all manner of topics, the greater percentage of which have nothing whatsoever to do with politics.

    A brief glimpse at any global blog aggregator listing thousands upon thousands of blogs will evidence the latter.

    Yet view Jersey's blog scene from a specifically local perspective and an interesting picture emerges. We actually have a vastly disproportionate amount of political blogs. I have 53 local blogs bookmarked. Out of that number, and disregarding blogs authored by politicians, 36 are either specifically political in nature or regularly contain political comment. That's over 50%. The leading lights of those political blogs, Rico and VFC, are actually doing a job unpaid which should be undertaken by our local media.

    You should not only be thankful for the surprising political health of our local blog scene, you should be astounded at just how active it is, not bitching about "tittle-tattle" and complaining that people don't blog in the manner you believe they should.

    I look forward to you responding with a link to some examples of your own blogged investigative journalism.

  10. We have a UK Press Complaints Commission, I have been very impressed so far in how fast they have moved in relation to an article on the front page a number of weeks ago that is just not correct in it's content, its there for everyone including Jersey, money worth spent is telling people they do have a place to go if the JEP won't listen, as they did with me. Spread the word, UK Press Complaints Commission.

  11. Hi, I posted a question before but it must have got lost somehow. I wonder will a watchdog be examining and policing blogs that set themselves up as alternative media sources? I have read some unbelievable misleading articles online, but it seems there is no recourse for people who feature in them, unless they can have the time and money to pursue a private court case. What do you think?

  12. Perhaps a few links to the existing regulating bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission would be in order on this blog.I will put them on tomgruchy.blogspot.com as soon as I can learn how to do so.
    But don't get too excited. I submitted 13 complaints against the JEP when Mike (Jurat) Rumfitt was editor and I did not get support on any. The Commission has a traditional empathy with "local" newspapers in contrast to the nationals.
    The JEP - rather like BBC Jersey - is treated as a "local" media. Of course there are some in the Bailhache camp who believe that Jersey deserves "national" status in many things.....
    Tom Gruchy
    PS how many of you bloggers have written to the new CM seeking "press accredition" yet for the purposes of "Press briefings"? Are any of you on the official mailing list for "press releases" and if not, why not? Wake up! - there is more to this campaign than just moaning.

  13. Monty,

    I spotted this in Ryan Morrison's blog.

    As a journalist working on everything from political stories to cat stuck up a tree stories I generally get about 20-40 minutes to spend on each. That includes research time, interview time and the time it actually takes to write it and get it subbed.

    It tells quite a story, no?