Copyright and the media

After the CATS session looking at copyright, it re-enforced the point that you cannot use something without permission.

There are millions of photos and videos available on the internet, but unless a free licence is issued by the owner, then any organisation that uses them without express permission can be liable for it’s use.

An example of this is the recent story reported in the Daily Telegraph , regarding the EU document that has been sent to every house in the UK, campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU.  The document contained a photo of Felixstowe docks taken by Mike Page.  Mr Page complained as the photo was used without licence, and has accepted a donation to charity as way of recompense.

I have always been of the belief that you cannot use something without permission.  At the end of the day, you can’t walk into Asda or Tesco, and take something to use without expecting to pay for it at the checkout.

Another incident of using photos without permission comes from America, where the Donald Trump campaign for President used a photo of an American Bald Eagle.  The photo was used on promotional marketing materials that were available for purchase.

The copyright owners were willing to settle the case privately, but the Trump campaign were unwilling to do so.  This has turned into a full legal battle where the photographers are seeking damages for copyright infringement.

These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg, and the issue could potentially get worse over time unless journalists and also the general public are made aware of the issue.

There are many ways in which internet content can be kept legal.  The first one is to simply ask the owner of the content if it can be used.  This could result in a flat refusal, or permission being granted for non-commercial and/or commercial use.

Photos and videos can be purchased from commercial companies where you have a licence to use, providing you stay within the rules of the licence.

Another option is to use the creative commons licence, where a photographer has expressly given a licence for content to be used, but again this licence must be strictly adhered to.

A final point, which is one that involves common courtesy, is to always credit the owner of the photograph.  Their hard work enabled the photo, so their name should be mentioned to recognise it.

Discuss how the Freedom of Information Act is a major tool for journalists and what the dangers are of making excessive use of FOI requests – Harvard Referencing

[1]  Lancaster, Duchy of. Your Right To Know: The Government’S Proposals For A Freedom Of Information Act. 1st ed. London: The Stationery Office, 1997. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[2] Blair, Tony. A Journey. London: Arrow, 2011. Print.

[3] Perraudin, Frances, and Rajeev Syal. “Tim Farron Calls For Breakup Of Freedom Of Information Review”. the Guardian. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[4] Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter. “Mps’ Expenses: The Story That Changed Politics”. N.p., 2009. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[5],. “House Of Commons Hansard Debates For 29 Oct 2015 (Pt 0002)”. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[6] Triggle, Nick. “Ambulances ‘Face Long Delays At A&E’ – BBC Figures Reveal – BBC News”. BBC News. N.p., 2013. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[7] Rosenbaum, Martin. “10 Things We Found Out Because Of Freedom Of Information – BBC News”.BBC News. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[8] BBC News,. “Non-Urgent Police Calls ‘Go Unanswered’ – BBC News”. N.p., 2013. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[9],. “BBC NEWS | Programmes | Breakfast | Doubts About Knife Amnesty”. N.p., 2006. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[10] Bryant, Chris. “House Of Commons Hansard Debates For 05 Nov 2015 (Pt 0002)” N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[11] Smith, Rhona K. M, Eimear Spain, and Richard Glancey. Core Statutes On Public Law & Civil Liberties. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. Print.

[12] Government Response To The Justice Committee’S Report: Post-Legislative Scrutiny Of The Freedom Of Information Act 2000. 1st ed. London: The Stationery Office, 2012. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[13] Requests Where The Cost Of Compliance Exceeds The Appropriate Limit. 1st ed. The Stationery Office, 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[14] Birmingham City Council,. 1st ed. Birmingham City Council: Birmingham City Council, 2010. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[15] Hughes, Laura. “Plans To Charge For Freedom Of Information Requests Are ‘Undemocratic’ And ‘Draconian'”. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[16] Gibbons, Paul. Response To Call For Evidence By The Freedom Of Information Commission. 1st ed. Paul Gibbons, 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[17] Whittaker, Philip, and Judith Ross. “Journal Of Finance And Management In Public Services.”. Freedom of Information: Is Openness Too Expensive, Too Difficult or Too Dangerous? 7.1 (2016): 59. Print.

[18] Maxwell, Nick. “Freedoms At Risk? What The ‘Spider Memos’ Tell Us About The Right To Open Government In The UK”. openDemocracy. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[19] Maude, Francis, and David Cameron. “Francis Maude’S Letter To UK OGP Civil Society Network – GOV.UK”. N.p., 2013. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[20] Watson, Tom. “‘David Cameron Is Governing From The Shadows’ – Tom Watson’s Speech On Open Government”. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[21] Lancaster, Duchy of. Your Right To Know: The Government’S Proposals For A Freedom Of Information Act. 1st ed. London: The Stationery Office, 1997. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.

[22] Brooke, Heather. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.


Final Copy – Discuss how the Freedom of Information Act is a major tool for journalists and what the dangers are of making excessive use of FOI requests.

When the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) was first introduced in 1997, it was heralded as a major breakthrough for transparent working within the public sector. Its usage over the years has brought all of these services directly to account, but it has led to many concerns from politicians that journalists are treating the FOIA as a weapon, and as such, merely as a news story generator.

The Act was put forward in 1997, by the then Labour Government, as part of the White Paper, “Your right to know: The Government’s proposals for a Freedom of Information Act”. In this white paper, it’s initial remit was designed to show “more open government based on mutual trust”. [1]

Previous Governments, and public bodies had been accused of being secretive with information and data, and that members of the general public were not able to get the full picture of what was going on behind, so-called, closed doors.

Since its official introduction in 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 2002 in Scotland, the FOI act has had its critics, and even the man who spearheaded the legislation, the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who said in his memoirs that he regarded one of the biggest mistakes in his tenureship was “not the Iraq war but the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act”.[2]

Everyone is able to use the FOI act as a citizen, regardless of his or her geographic location. Journalists and other organisations such as campaign groups are entitled to use the FOI act in their day-to-day work.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats argues the case that FOI isn’t just for journalists to find news stories. Farron states “FOI is not just a nice journalistic tool” and that “FOI is actually about making sure that decisions that are made about the British People are accessible to the British People”[3]

Over the years, Journalists have used the act as one of their many tools for their role of news reporting, requesting data that is not generally published as part of annual reports or within press releases.  Using that information, the public bodies have been made more accountable for taxpayer’s money, and the decisions that they have made.

News organisations can, and should still, be able to hold public bodies to account, but as with all journalists, there has to be balance to a story, no matter whether that is online, print, or via broadcast media.

Looking at the news over since the FOI act was introduced, there are many stories where it’s use has been a catalyst to the story breaking, and one of the biggest stories to break using the FOI act was the MP’s expenses scandal in 2009.

Under the FOI act, a series of requests were made to Parliament requesting details of MP’s claims using taxpayer’s money. With these requests, the House of Commons staff had to produce receipts, invoices, and other relevant information detailing the claims over a period of years.

This material was printed, first in the Daily Telegraph, and then by the wider media, and resulted in many MPs resigning, or retiring at the next election, and in 6 MPs and two Peers being imprisoned. Further to the scandal, and after an independent audit, a revised pay and expenses system was introduced, and it could be argued that the whole affair has led to a drop in the esteem of Parliament within general society.[4]

One particular example of an MP is Elliot Morley, former Labour MP for Glanford and Scunthorpe, who claimed £16,000 for a mortgage that no longer existed. An article written by Gordon Rayner, quoted a senior source close to the then Prime Minster, Gordon Brown, saying that “It was at that point that Gordon Brown decided there would have to be swift sanctions against anyone who had broken the rules.”[4]

By the Media’s use of the FOI act, Members of Parliament were forced to repay a total of £163,867, which was deemed to be outside of the general claims procedure.

Without the Daily Telegraph requesting the data, and subsequently printing the story, it could be argued that this information may never have come to light.

Politicians are looking to restrict access to data under the FOI act, with the Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling, saying in reply to a question in Parliament from Jack Dromey, Labour MP for the Birmingham Erdington constituency on 29 October 2015, that “It (FOI Act) is, on occasion, misused by those who use it as, effectively, a research tool to generate stories for the media, and that is not acceptable.”[5]

Critics may argue that politicians trying to change the FOI Act, are in fact trying to control what the general public are entitled to know, either as individuals or as part of a free press.  Dromey re-enforces the criticisms by stating that restrictions to the FOI Act are “a threat to a cornerstone of our democracy” [5]

There are many other examples of stories that have been exposed by journalists making requests under the FOI legislation.

These include the rise in A&E Ambulance Waiting times [6], unanswered 101 telephone calls [7], changes in immigration patterns [8] and knife amnesty [9], and it is the work of journalists across the country, who have used the FOI Act, to demonstrate where public bodies have fallen short in their efforts to serve the public.

Chris Bryant MP, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons argues that these stories may still be undiscovered if it wasn’t for the journalists able to use FOI.  In November 2015, he stated that “countless public interest stories have come to light only because of FOI. It is an essential part of a free press today”.[10]

However, it could be argued that by journalists making vexatious requests for data, one of the dangers is that public bodies may hide behind the legislation that is contained within the act.  Although journalists requests account for 10 per cent of all requests to Central Government, it accounts for 21 per cent of the total cost.

An FOI request can be refused on the grounds that “Where a public authority has previously complied with a request for information which was made by any person, it is not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between the compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request”.[11]

If a journalist requests information that has already been requested and refused on these terms, then the staffing costs to respond to the request could have been used elsewhere to deal with other queries, or utilized within other areas of the public body.

Similarly, if a request is too broad, and it is refused, then journalists may decide to break down the FOI requests into smaller requests, which the public body are entitled to refuse if these requests are identified as being “disproportionately burdensome”, and may be deemed to be an “industrial” use of the legislation.[12]

Each FOI request has a physical cost to the body to whoever the request has been made. Within the legislation, staffing costs for FOI are calculated at a rate of £25 per hour, and depending on the type of body, a limit of £450 per request for local government and £600 per request for central government will apply.[13]

In 2010, Birmingham City Council, the United Kingdom’s largest local authority, stated that the costs incurred by FOI requests was £800,000, from a total budget of £3.376 billion, a figure that represents 0.023 per cent of the money allocated to the authority. In another context, that would pay for the salaries of 59 workers, being paid the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour.[14]

It has been suggested that in the future, FOI requests may attract a small charge to the requester. This has been suggested as an option by Lord Terry Burns, head of The Independent Commission of Freedom of Information [15], but has been strongly opposed by Paul Gibbons, publisher of the FOIMan website. Gibbons argues that a charge would “limit access to information to those who can afford it. The low paid, elderly, unemployed and other groups with limited incomes would be disproportionately affect by such a charge”. [16]

Public bodies have 20 working days in which to respond to a FOI request, in which is has to respond to the request or provide reasonable grounds for its refusal. If the request is not responded to within that time frame, then the public body, could be liable for sanctions, which can include financial ones, which again would take further money out of an ever-shrinking pot of public sector finance.

Ross and Whittaker discuss the relationship between FOI requests and the release of data, and that local government still has a “deeply ingrained resistance to releasing information”, where “some public information may be politically sensitive or even embarrassing” to individuals or the body as a whole. [17]

It could be argued that by Central and Local Government attempting to restrict the release of data using parts of the legislation, that it goes against the very spirit of the FOI act with its promise of increased transparency.

Nick Maxwell puts forward the case that the Government wishing to restrict access to FOI requests is a “weakening of UK citizens’ rights of freedom of information should be a matter of concern”.[18]  This is in direct opposition to the vision put forward in November 2015, by David Cameron, Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, where he stated that he wants to make Britain have “the most open and transparent government in the world”, but by imposing restrictions on the accessibility of information, it would go against the spirit of what the FOI was designed to achieve. [19]

Tom Watson, the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader further emphasises Maxwell’s statement by saying that “a more open government will be a better government with more robust policy making”.[20]

In the white paper proposals, the introduction discusses why FOI was needed back in 1997. It states “the perception of excessive secrecy has become a corrosive influence in the decline of public confidence in Government. Moreover, the climate of public opinion has changed, people expect much more openness and accountability.”[21]

Things have changed in the past 18 years. The political colour of the Government has changed, and it could be said that after stories have been published that have shown waste within the public sector, that the General Public want to keep the transparency, and not be restricted to the information that they are allowed to view.

Heather Brooke, Journalist Professor at City University London argues that “public bodies should not feel obstructed by FOI, but treat it as a legitimate way of releasing information”.[22]

It could be argued that by engaging with the press, and general public, the relationship between all parties will be stronger, and lead to better links and increased confidence in the public sector.

The Freedom of Information has brought individuals and public organisations to account, and any changes will need to be considered carefully by all sides, as it could be argued that going back to pre-1997 with Governments, both central and local, shrouded in secrecy, must not be allowed to happen.

Democratic Unionist Party

DUP Logo

DUP Logo

The Democratic Unionist Party was formed in 1971 by Desmond Boal, and the man who led the party for much of its history, Reverend Dr Ian Paisley, and is currently the largest of all political parties in Northern Ireland with 8 seats.

It initially found success within the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973, where it had 8 representatives, and also gained 1 seat in the 2 General Elections held in 1974, the sole representative being Dr Paisley, who gained a majority of 27,631 votes in the February vote and 34,497 in the election held in October.

During the next 4 elections, the DUP held 3 seats within the 17 that were available within Northern Ireland, Dr Paisley and Peter Robinson retaining their seats in all 4, with John McQuade winning in 1979, before losing in 1983, and William McCrea winning in 1983, 1987, and 1992.

The DUP lost another of it’s seat in the 1997 General Election, with Paisley and Robinson, the Westminster representatives of the DUP, and this election saw major changes in Northern Ireland after the many years of “The Troubles”.

After the election, the DUP were involved in the negotiations to try to reunite Northern Ireland, but withdrew as Sinn Féin were invited to the discussions, while the Irish Republican Army (IRA), with whom Sinn Féin had links, had failed to surrender all of their weapons.

In the 2001 General Election, the DUP increased their seats to 5, and then to 9 in 2005, the highest number of seats in their history, and representing 50 per cent of the seats available in Northern Ireland.

Subsequently, the number of seats has been reduced to 8, in the 2010, and 2015 General Elections.

Dr Paisley led the party until 2008, when he stepped down, before leaving Parliament in 2010.  His long time deputy, Peter Robinson took over as leader until 2015, when he also stepped down, and Arlene Foster was elected as leader, taking the role from 17 December 2015.

CATS Reflection – Injunctions and Super Injunctions

In the timetable for CATS, the final session discusses injunctions and super injunctions.

An injunction is a legal order for someone or an organisation to either do something or not to do something.  Usually when in relation to journalism, it is to prevent a story, potential story, or a person for who a story is connected to, to be named.

A super-injunction is a legal order that is the same as an injunction, but even the fact that it exists, cannot be reported.

In a journalistic context, and in the wider world, these legal orders must be adhered to, and anyone who breaks them, can be liable to the full force of the law and be convicted of Contempt of Court.

Super-injunctions can only be revealed in certain circumstances, one of these is where the super-injunction is reported out of the jurisdiction of where it is held.  For example, a court in England grants a super-injunction, and a newspaper in Scotland is able to report on the person/story involved, as it is a different legal system.


From a personal point of view, I will exercise great caution in a journalistic context, and also in my life away from the media.  I will continue to go by my own mantra in being careful in what I post or retweet, because once it’s done, it’s recorded forever.

CATS Reflection – Emergency Services and NHS

When discussing the emergency services, including the Fire Brigade, the NHS, and Coastguard, it is, along with other media relationships, to nurture these ties, because the media need their co-operation, and vice versa.

Looking first at reporting at incidents and major events, I would consider that although the stories are important, my first and foremost concern would be to not get in the way of the emergency service in doing their job, by trying to do mine, and also to not put myself in a position where my actions could either make the situation worse for people involved, and also myself.

The job of a journalist is to tell the story, accurately and fairly, and in this case, help where possible, and get out of the way if required.

When reporting on statistics or stories that don’t directly involve the immediate health of a person, then the rules of reporting still apply.  Looking at the facts, and using figures to emphasise a story is good start, but as with anything, checking, checking and checking again is vitally important.

As a journalist, I would always work with the relevant authority, as helping them, hopefully helps me in my career, the organisation I represent, and ultimately the nation as a whole.

CATS Reflection – Police and Crime Reporting

As part of the CATS sessions, journalists covering Crime and the Police was discussed.  A crime correspondent is held as one of the highly regarded positions within local and national newspapers.

Covering news from Police authorities is something that has to be dealt with delicately, and can be fraught with difficulties, both in terms of level of content, and a careful eye kept on the legalities of reporting.

Structure of the Police

The Police are now accountable to a local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who are directly elected as part of elections every 4 years, using the Supplementary Vote system.

Locally, Hull is covered by the Humberside Police force, and in the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner Elections, Matthew Grove was elected with a majority of 2,231, over John Prescott.  During the vote, Grove gained 3,842 votes than Prescott, but as part of the voting system, Grove gained the position.  It has to be noted that the turnout for the vote was 19.15 per cent of the total electorate within the Humberside Police force area.

The next round of PCC elections will take place on 5 May 2016, the same day as Local Council elections in England and Wales.

The Police have a variety of roles, from full-time uniformed and plain clothed officers, special constables, and Police Community Support Officers (PCSO).  I am looking at the different roles within the Police Forces across England and Wales, and the rules for other parts of the United Kingdom can vary by area.


PCSO’s were introduced in 2002, initially by the Metropolitan Police, and are classed as uniformed civilian police support staff.  They serve within Safer Neighbourhood or Neighbourhood Policing Teams, and have a specific remit to provide high visibility policing, dealing with anti-social behaviour, minor offences and intelligence gathering.

They do not have the same powers as other police officers, for example, they are unable to make a police arrest, only a citizen’s arrest, under section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

According to Government Statistics published in July 2015, there were equivalent to 12,331 full-time PCSO’s across the 43 police forces of England and Wales.

Special Constables

Special Constables are members of a Police Constabulary, and in most cases, do not receive remuneration for their services.  Some constabularies are experimenting with paying their Special Constables.  The commitment as a “Special” is for a minimum of 16 hours service over a 4 week period.

They have full police powers, and can be promoted within the ranks, starting at Constable level, and can work their way up to the rank of Chief Officer of the Special Constabulary.

According to Government Statistics published in July 2015, there were equivalent to 16,101 full time members of the Special Constabulary across the 43 police forces of England and Wales.

Police Officers

Police Officers are employed by individual constabularies.  These constabularies are all governed by and accountable to Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of Constabulary.

Officers are organised by rank, and are uniform across England and Wales, except for the 2 forces that cover London, City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police.  The ranks are Constable, Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent, and Chief Superintendent.  The highest rank across the 41 forces outside London is Chief Constable, and within the Capital, it is Commissioner.

According to Government Statistics published in July 2015, there were equivalent to 126,818 full time Police Officers across the 43 police forces of England and Wales.

Covering Stories involving the Police

When working as a journalist, I feel it is good practice to have a positive working relationship with the Police, without it being too overbearing.  The Police have their own press office for releasing information that will assist with the day-to-day running of the Police Force, and will need to work with journalists, in TV, Radio, Print and Online media.

I have discussed with my peers about the relationship between the Media and the Police, and it is very much a two way street.  We need the Police, but they also need the media to assist with accurate reporting of events, appeals for assistance in catching criminals, or, in the event of a major incident, getting the information out to the members of the public.

At the end of the day, we all have a job to do, so both sides must conduct themselves professionally, even if that causes a little friction.  The Police may withhold information from the Media about an ongoing investigation, but will have a very good reason for doing so.

Making contacts within the Police Force is a very important way of building a relationship, be that with serving or retired officers.  Working with serving officers may enable a journalist to get a tip off on a story that is going to break in the near future, and nurturing the relationship, will put you ahead of other media outlets that may just use the Police Press Releases.

In addition to the Press Office, there are many other outlets that the Police have to get information out into the “real world”.  For example, many police officers have their own official Twitter accounts, and there are websites for Local Neighbourhood Policing Teams.  The website for my local Neighbourhood Policing Team, Myton, has it’s own page on the Humberside Police website, that lists news and information about the area, together with a list of all Police Officers and PCSO’s.

Another key piece of advice I have learnt from the course, is to know what you can and cannot do legally, at crime scenes, and report on in the various media outlets.  If in doubt, check with senior journalists, lawyers, and refer to your handy copy of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists.


CATS Reflection – Electoral System

Within the United Kingdom, there are various different electoral systems used.  Each of them have their advantages and disadvantages, and I have looked at each system separately, and the way in which they are used.

First Past The Post – Used in Parliamentary General and By-Elections

Supplementary Vote – Used to elect 12 Town and City Mayors, and 4 London Borough Mayors, and 41 Police and Crime Commissioners, all of which are based in England and Wales.

Single Transferable Vote – Used to elect representatives in local elections in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and European Parliament elections in Northern Ireland.  The system is also used to elect Deputy Speakers within the House of Commons.

Additional Member Vote – Used to select members to the National Assembly for Wales, London Assembly and the Scottish Parliament

Closed Party List – Used to elect Members of the European Parliament in the United Kingdom, except for Northern Ireland

Although not used, the Alternative Vote Plus system has been suggested as a new electoral system by the Jenkins Commission





CATS Reflection – Electoral System – Closed Party List

The Closed Party List system is used in the majority of the United Kingdom to elect Members of the European Parliament.  The only exception to this is in Northern Ireland, that uses the Single Transferable Voting system.

In the Closed Party List, the electorate is asked to vote for a Political Party, for which there maybe several candidates.

Once voting has closed, and the ballot papers have been counted, each of the parties gets a number of seats that is in proportion to the number of seats that it received in an area.

For example, in the 2014 European Parliament elections for Yorkshire and the Humber, the UK Independence Party received 403,630 votes from a combined total of 1,296,701 votes, a share of 33.5 per cent.

With that total of votes, they were entitled to have 3 elected representatives to go the European Parliament, from a total of 6 candidates that stood for election. The Labour Party have 2 elected representatives from their 6 candidates, and The Conservative Party have 1 elected representative from their 6 candidates.

The political parties decide in which order the candidates appear on the ballot paper, and, for example, the UKIP MEP’s elected were those listed first, second and third on the ballot paper.


CATS Reflection – Electoral System – Alternative Vote Plus

The Alternative Vote Plus (AV+) system is a hybrid system, first suggested in the Independent Commission on the Voting System, led by Roy Jenkins, which reported in 1998.

AV+ works in two ways, with a group of MP’s elected via a preference scheme, ranked in order of choice, and then the additional part would elect further members through regions of the UK.

There are various advantages and disadvantages to the system, compared to the First Past The Post system, currently used in General and By Elections.

The Jenkins Commission received a mixed reaction from commentators and politicians, on all sides of the political spectrum.  The then Prime Minster, Tony Blair, was warm to the changes proposed, but other members of the Cabinet, notably Jack Straw, John Prescott, and Gordon Brown, were fiercely opposed to the system.

When a referendum on political voting systems was put to the UK population, it was the Alternative Vote system that was proposed, rather than Alternative Vote Plus.  AV was soundly rejected, so the First Past The Post system remains in place.