The Sun has managed to support every election winner since 1979, and is famously claimed that it was “the Sun wot won it” for John Major’s Conservatives in 1992. The tabloid may have again played a role in the 2015 result. Research by the Media Standards Trust showed that the The Sun was even more virulently opposed to the Labour party than it was during the 1992 election campaign, with 95% of its leader columns anti-Labour ahead of Thursday’s general election, compared with 79% in 1992.
This evidence chimes with the assessment of David Axelrod, the American political consultant and Obama adviser. After working for the Labour Party during this election campaign, he described the Tory press in the UK as more powerful and “much more aggressive” than Fox News in the USA.
Tracked by Election Unspun, the coverage has been persistently hostile to Ed Miliband, with national newspapers backing the Conservatives over Labour by a ratio of five to one. Alastair Campbell suggested that the press was against Labour because of its support for the recommendations of the Leveson Report.
As argued this week by Brian Cathcart for Inforrm, the closing days of the campaign demonstrated editors’ flagrant disregard for the Editor’s Code, which requires that the press “distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”. Instead, he argues “these papers clearly regard the deliberate muddling of the three as an important part of their journalistic mission”.
The election result might therefore be seen as a victory for old media over social media. The Labour Party were more successful on Twitter than the Conservatives, with tweets from Labour’s official account and Ed Miliband’s personal account being retweeted more than rival’s messages. Labour also added followers at a quicker rate than other parties, with Miliband averaging 2,000 new fans per day in the last two weeks of the campaign, suggesting that social media support does not always transfer into votes.
However, the role of the media, both social and traditional, in shaping political leanings may be overstated. The Register uses recent research to argue that media bias is driven by pre-existent biases in the readership, rather than the leanings of the ownership. It argues that “Daily Mail readers created the Daily Mail, not the other way round”. Moreover, this research suggests that social media acts as an “echo chamber”, which largely exposes users only to information from like-minded individuals.
And the other big story was the polls. While the final result was CON 36.9%, LAB 30.4%, UKIP 12.6%, LDEM 7.9%, GRN 3.8%. ten of the final eleven polls had the Conservatives and Labour within one point of each other. he BPC have already announced an independent inquiry to try and identify the causes of error, There is a post entitled “Back from the Election” on the UK Polling Report blog.
In other news, the media has been warned by Norfolk police not to harass the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they return home with their newborn daughter Princess Charlotte. A letter has been distributed asking the media to respect the couple’s privacy after “a number of intrusions”.
The Media Freedom Navigator is a new website which provides an overview of media freedom worldwide. DW Akademie Director Christian Gramsch explains the concept here.
Data Protection and Data Privacy
The Digital Single Market: Has Europe bitten off more than it can chew? The fieldfisher Privacy and Information law blog asks the question here.
Datonomy has its Cyber Update for the week commencing 4 May 2015.
Statements in Open Court and Apologies
There were no statements in open court this last week.
Newspapers, Journalism and regulation
All national newspapers saw their circulation figures drop year-on-year in April, with The Times and Sunday Times performing best. The tabloids performed the worst, with the Mail titles and Daily Mirror the only papers not to record double-digit circulation losses.
Last Week in the Courts
On 5 May 2015 HHJ Moloney QC heard an application for an injunction in the case of Bell v Payne. He decided that it was appropriate to adjourn the application with liberty to restore to allow the applicant to file better of evidence of the need to restrain his ex-girlfriend (who did not appear) from making defamatory allegations about him.
On the same day the same judge heard an application in the case of Masters v Palmer. Judgment was reserved.
On 6 and 7 May 2015, there was an appeal and application in the case of Tardios & anr v Linton before Dingemans J. Judgment was reserved.
On the same day Warby J gave judgment in the case of Kerner v WX ( EWHC 1247 (QB)).
On 6 and 7 May 2015 there was an appeal and application the case of Linton v Tardios before Dingemans J. Judgment was reserved.
On 7 May 2015, there was a case management conference in the case of Stocker v Stocker. Judgment was reserved.
On the same day Warby J gave judgment in the case of BUQ v HRE ( EWHC 1272 (QB)).
On 8 May 2015, there was an application in the case of Ma v St George’s NHS Trust before HHJ Moloney QC. Judgment was reserved.
12 May 2015, IBC’s 22nd Annual Defamation and Privacy Conference, Grange City Hotel, London
Media Law in Other Jurisdictions
The girlfriend of convicted murderer Simon Gittany has reached a settlement after accusing Nationwide News of defamation. She claimed articles implied she was a stripper and a prostitute, and portrayed her support of Gittany as delusional. Gittany was sentenced to 26 years’ in jail for throwing fiancee Lisa Harnum to her death from the balcony of their 15th-floor apartment in 2011.
Two leaders of Adelaide’s Greek community are involved in a defamation case over comments about local churches. Former president of the Greek Orthodox Community of SA, businessman Theo Maras, is suing former Industrial Commissioner and Greek leader John Lesses over a series of “defamatory” statements made 2011.
In the case of Haque v State of Victoria ( VSCA 83) the Court of Appeal of Victoria dismissed an appeal in a “defamation by conduct” case arising out of the plaintiff’s arrest on the basis that the judge was right to hold that the relevant imputation was true.
A former minister has won a libel case that he began 18 years ago. Louis Galea won €5,000 in compensation for the case, which was filed in 1997 over allegations that drugs were being imported into Malta through the Ministerial Lounge. The book was written by journalist and lawyer Joe Mifsud and published by the Malta Labour Party’s information department in 1997.
A criminal libel case instituted by former European Commissioner and Nationalist minister John Dalli against Times of Malta has been adjourned. Times of Malta had carried a front page correction acknowledging that they may have incorrectly implied that Mr Dalli held a secret HSBC Swiss bank account when in fact this was not the case.
HBO has successfully defended a defamation lawsuit brought by Mitre Sports over a Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel report on child labour in India. Mitre Sports International claimed that its reputation was damaged in a report that featured children stitching Mitre soccer balls. The jury decided that HBO wasn’t grossly irresponsible in its report.
Research and Resources
- Lawyers and the First Amendment: Conflicts between Former Clients and Personal Speech , 83 University of Cincinnati Law Review 73 (2014), Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2015-16, Sande Buhai, SSRN.
- Mapping and Analysing Hate Speech Online, Iginio Gagliardone, SSRN.
- Internet Architecture, Freedom of Expression and Social Responsibility: Critical Realism and Proposals for a Better Future, The European Journal of Social Science Research (15 April 2015). Raphael Cohen-Almagor, University of Hull, SSRN.
Next week in the courts
We are only aware of one application this week, in the case of Otuo v Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, to be heard on 14 May 2015.
The following reserved judgment in media law cases are outstanding:
OPO v MLA, heard 19 and 20 January 2015 (UK Supreme Court)
Murray v Associated Newspapers, heard 21 January 2015 (Longmore, Ryder and Sharp LJJ)
Various Claimants v MGN, heard 9-13, 18, 24-25 March 2015 (Mann J).
Pinard-Byrne v Linton, heard 22 April 2015 (Judicial Committee of the Privy Council)
Shakil-ur-Rahman v ARY Network Ltd, heard 29 April 2015 (Warby J)
Masters v Palmer, heard 5 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC)
Linton v Tardios, heard 6 and 7 May 2015 (Dingemans J)
Stocker v Stocker, heard 7 May 2015 (Warby J)
Ma v St George’s NHS Trust, heard 8 May 2015 (HHJ Moloney QC)
This Round Up was compiled by Tessa Evans, a journalist and researcher. She tweets @tessadevans