Media Regulation

The values that are deemed acceptable by society are constantly changing.  IPSO (press regulation) and the BBFC (film/video game regulator) have been shown to change to accommodate this as IPSO was formerly the PCC and the ‘C’ in BBFC now stands for classification rather than censorship. Although, regulatory bodies such as these are in charge of keeping the public in place by placing guidelines but some areas of media are more heavily regulated than others.

The BBFC was originally in charge of allowing films to be released in cinema but the release of video tapes caused outrage over ‘video nasties’ which is a list of films that were controversial at the time. The Video Recordings Act 1984 was brought in to protect children and allow parents to make well informed decisions when they need to self regulate. The controversial film, Reservoir Dogs was submitted to the BBFC for classification in 1992 but was delayed for VHS release until 1994.

BBFC also regulates video games and the effectiveness of the regulation of this media platform is largely debatable. This is mainly down to parents who don’t self regulate and buy young children games such as Saints Row and Grand Theft Auto. Although, there is no solid evidence that violent imagery has an effect on the behaviour of children (despite the Bobo Doll experiment which is debated to be unreliable due to the initial purpose of the doll) The Byron Review hasn’t ruled them out as a factor. The review launched the Child Internet Safety Strategy which is enforced by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety as their research found that 99% of 8-17 year olds are online. They made decision to increase public awareness and simplify classifications. Although there is a lack of evidence to support that children are passive to the effects of video games McDougall and O’Brien published a study of video games in 2008 where they used Second Life and Grand Theft Auto to discuss the social and psychological effects of gaming. The media plays a large part in labelling video games as the blame though, a primary example could be The Columbine Massacre as Marilyn Manson was blamed alongside video games do the events. This implies that the boys were desensitised to violence and that they chose to use the game’s messages of glorified violence to kill (Uses and Gratifications theory). It was only upon research into the boys that it was discovered that there was underlying psychological factors.

There has been a lot of scandals recently as the Press have been breaking laws of privacy. IPSO which was formerly known as the PCC can only give guidelines rather than enforce any laws, the press industry self regulate to coordinate with the guidelines but sometimes journalist across boundaries by door stepping or through cheque book journalism. The phone hacking scandal has been the most recent scandal based on privacy but representations are a more common issue. Apologies had been issued by the national newspapers after tabloid representations of the McCann case received 4340 complaints to the PCC in 2007 and 458 of those complaints were based on an article printed in the Mirror about the investigation. Les Hinton (former chair of the PCC) described the industry by saying, “At their lowest British newspapers can be brutally unfair, inexcusably intrusive and make terrible mistakes. At their best they are incomparable. No form of regulation will make them perfect.”

In comparison to the film industry regulation by the BBFC, IPSO’s regulation is weak as there are no age restrictions on newspapers with inappropriate content. The Leveson Inquiry not only dealt with the phone hacking scandal. They also worked on the issue about children being able to buy newspaper containing a Page 3 girl when nudity is banned on TV before the watershed. It is argued that newspapers should abide by TV watershed standards but it would require rock solid legislation to do so.

The power of companies in the press and film industries can have an impact on the strength of regulation. Rupee Murdoch owns 20th Century Fox which means that similar powers can’t have a chance to get their point across as they simply don’t have the money to take on a large conglomerate without risk.

Overall, films, video games and press regulation has been weakened over the years. Film and video games are more heavily regulated as they have law enforcement to back them in comparison to the weak PCC as they are only able to give guidelines rather than endorse any laws.

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