Ofcom gives verdict on the Jeni Barnet radio show

by scotslawstudent

I’m back from a summer holiday and a bit of a relax, so this post has been planned for a while but never quite typed up.

I’ve not mentioned the LBC MMR radio debate on the blog for a while but I received a letter from Ofcom while I was away on holiday a little while ago. The letter was a short message explaining the results of my complaint and attached was an extract from Ofcom’s periodical publication which contains the full judgement. The basic summary is that the complaint hasn’t been upheld and the broadcaster did not breach Ofcom’s code. However, in its other comments (not binding and not particularly potent) they do make some criticisms of the presenter’s conduct and that was really what the whole complaint was about, so in that way I feel the complaint was not wasted.

It is also quite a useful eye opener – it’s very easy to take our broadcasters for granted and that is pretty scary given the amount of power that the media exercise in the modern world. On a more personal level, the most appealing legal job in my experience is that of the communications lawyer. It was explained to me many years ago that these were the people who got to read the jokes that you couldn’t put on TV and I still think that’s a perfectly good reason. In that case it might be quite a good move to get familiar with the regulator’s way of thinking.

One of the most interesting features of the decision for me is basically that it didn’t breach the Code because experts – doctors and nurses – phoned in. That strikes me as counter intuitive and a bit unsatisfying but worth noting, especially because Ofcom later says that the presenter appeared to resort to her anecdotal experience and was perhaps improperly briefed. I was also interested to see that there is a different level of the prominence test for local broadcasters, since LBC is local to London, than for national ones. That, again, is surprising from the perspective that, when you get down to it, London is only a city. It shows that there is a real variety in the obligations that broadcasters need to strive for – something that I certainly didn’t know before this.

Ofcom publishes its decisions in its “Broadcast Bulletin” and these are available both from Ofcom and online, for example the issue which contains the MMR debate decision is available here: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/obb/prog_cb/obb1ev