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About this book

This open access book provides a detailed exploration of the British media coverage of the press reform debate that arose from the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. Gathering data from a content analysis of 870 news articles, Ogbebor shows how journalists cover debates on media policy and illustrates the impact of their coverage on democracy. Through this analysis, the book contributes to knowledge of paradigm repair strategies; public sphere; gatekeeping theory; the concept of journalism as an interpretive community; political economy of the press; as well as the neoliberal and social democratic interpretations of press freedom. Providing insight into factors inhibiting and aiding the role of the news media as a democratic public sphere, it will be a valuable resource for the press, media reform activists, members of the public, and academics in the fields of journalism, politics and law.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Open Access

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
As a consequence of the News of the World phone hacking scandal, the UK press became the focus of a heated public debate. Many questions were asked, and several answers offered. The press had behaved badly and needed to be tamed (Leveson 2012a, p. 195, para. 1.1–1.4). But how? Who guards the guardian? These were some of the questions asked, as politicians, journalists, the police, the judiciary and other citizens deliberated on how to ensure an accountable press. Thus, the media became an arena for a heated debate on how to make the press more accountable. This book analyses how this debate was represented by the press. It argues that the way debates about media policy are covered is partly responsible for the emergence of weak press reforms. The chapter presents an overview of the book, making it easy for readers to locate their subject of interest.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 2. The Press Reform Debate

Abstract
As a consequence of the phone hacking scandal, the UK press became the focus of a heated public debate. Many questions were asked, and several answers offered. The press had behaved badly and needed to be tamed. But how? Who guards the guardian? How can the press regain its trust? What does this spell for democracy? These were some of the questions asked, as politicians, journalists, the police, the judiciary and other citizens deliberated on how to ensure an accountable press: one that can sustain democracy. Thus, the media became an arena to discuss some of the debates on how to reform the press, if at all. This chapter provides background knowledge on key issues in the debate that followed the News of the World phone hacking scandal. The key issues examined include press freedom, the public interest, privacy, press regulation and media ownership
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 3. British Press System: Press Regulation and Accountability

Abstract
How to regulate the press is arguably the foremost issue in media reform debates. Therefore, this chapter examines the history of press regulation in the UK as a way of highlighting recurrent trends in efforts at reforming press regulation and the outcomes of such attempts. To this end, this chapter discusses the history of press regulation in Britain, the British press system (introducing the three major newspaper classifications—broadsheets, mid-markets and tabloids) and relevant aspects of the Leveson Inquiry. The setting up of an inquiry to investigate press standards did not begin with the Leveson Inquiry. For approximately 70 years (at the time of writing), a number of commissions have been set up with a mandate to make the press accountable. They include the Royal Commissions on the press (RCP) 1949, 1962 and 1977 along with two Calcutt Committees. This chapter discusses the different efforts at ensuring effective press regulation in UK.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 4. Media Policy, Democracy and Theories of the Press

Abstract
Many of the arguments on the debate that arose from the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry were based on normative theories of the press. These arguments were mainly inspired by the idea that the media are entrusted with information power and how this power is used has consequences for democracy. This chapter provides a critical analysis of normative theories on the representation of media policy. The neoliberal variant of the libertarian theory, the notion of social responsibility and theory of social democracy are explored to make clear the reasoning behind key arguments on media policy. The concepts of the public sphere and “Journalism as an interpretive community” are expounded to show that in debates about their profession, the press can function not only as an interpretive community, but also as multiple homogeneous publics and individual unique voices.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 5. Investigating the Press Reform Debate

Abstract
The author uses a combination of content and critical discourse analyses to investigate how the media covered the press reform debate that arose from the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. A total of 870 news articles on the media reform debate from six British national newspapers were examined. Based on her findings, the author argues that the public needs to play a greater and more pragmatic role in ensuring press accountability. Also, in this chapter, the terms “metacoverage”, “metajournalistic discourse” and “journalistic metadiscourse” are defined and critically analysed to clarify their usage in academic literature. The chapter also explores the use of paradigm repair strategies in the coverage of media policy. Overall, the research was designed to produce empirical data on the representation of media policy.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 6. Paradigm Repair and Journalistic Metadiscourse

Abstract
Journalists’ representation of press bad behaviour is often characterised by certain paradigm repair strategies. The notion of paradigm repair relates to efforts by the press to protect news paradigms rather than critically examining them to see if there is a need for change (Bennet et al. 1985, cited in Carlson, Metajournalistic discourse and the meanings of journalism: Definitional control, boundary work, and legitimation. Communication Theory, 26(4), 349–368, 2015, p. 4). This chapter shows how the paradigm repair strategies of “threat to the paradigm” (warnings of attacks on journalism) and “historicisation” (using history to protect journalistic paradigms) were used to argue against efforts at reforming media policy. The author takes the position that media reform efforts are weakened, to a large extent, by the way the media cover debates about their policy. She argues that understanding the strategies used by the media to protect journalistic paradigms will help the public digest the coverage of media policy intelligently and push for healthy and effective media reform.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 7. Paradigm Repair: Bad Apples and Self-Assertion

Abstract
The chapter reveals how the paradigm repair strategies of individualisation and self-assertion were used in the coverage of the media policy debate that arose from the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. The strategy of individualisation was used to protect the press freedom paradigm as well as maintain the boundaries of the “journalist as a crusader” paradigm which had been badly damaged by the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. The second part, entitled “Self-Assertion: The Journalist as a Crusader”, shows the extent to which journalists affirm their importance in their coverage of media policy debates. It reveals that such self-affirmation is often used to solicit public trust when the media’s reputation is called into question. This chapter also explores the political economy of the Guardian’s coverage of the phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 8. Minimisation: The Pizza Charter

Abstract
Media scholars have observed that mainstream newspapers trivialise and denigrate efforts at ensuring press accountability, in a bid to protect their self-interest (McChesney, The political economy of media: Enduring issues, emerging dilemmas. New York: NYU Press, 2008, p. 451). It is this trivialisation and denigration of attempts at reforming media policy that is referred to as the strategy of minimisation (Thomas and Finneman, Who watches the watchdog? Journalism Studies, 15(2), 172–186, 2014). In the media reform debate that arose from the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry, the strategy of minimisation manifested in a number of ways: (1) playing down the cross-party Royal Charter on press regulation, (2) playing down the Leveson Inquiry, (3) playing down the scandal, (4) in a discourse of “unfair” treatment of the press and (5) critiquing critics of the press’ position. All these were geared towards protecting the neoliberal interpretation of press freedom.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 9. Journalistic Metadiscourse: Access to the Media’s Public Sphere

Abstract
This chapter examines the use of sources in the coverage of the media policy debate that arose from the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry. Using content analysis, critical discourse analysis and a theoretical framework that consists of the public sphere concept and the gatekeeping theory, this chapter reveals that the coverage of the press reform debate was characterised by a doubly narrow spectrum of sources. It also found that the victims of press abuse were represented as “the stakeholders” (the people to satisfy) rather than a stakeholder of the debate. While acknowledging the importance of the victims to the debate, the study contends that limiting the stakeholder status to those who have been hurt by the press results in a limited range of views and risks shutting down more neutral voices that could have enriched the debate in the public sphere.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 10. Representation of Media Policy

Abstract
The coverage of debates about media policy presents a unique situation in which the media has the responsibility of managing debates on their policy. In Western democracies, it is widely accepted that what legitimates the media is its role in the sustenance of democracy. The normative expectation in a democratic society is that during media policy debates, the media should give access to all parties in the debate irrespective of whether the party advances arguments different from the position of that media organisations in the debate. Was that the case in the coverage of the debate that followed the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry? Using empirical data, this chapter provides the answer to this question. The chapter also reveals alternative views in the media policy debate.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Open Access

Chapter 11. Conclusion

Abstract
This chapter presents highlights on how the media covered the press reform debate that followed the News of the World phone hacking scandal. It argues that rather than serve as a democratic public sphere where diverse voices can have proportionate access to the press reform debate, the media used their gatekeeping powers to advance their views while limiting or preventing arguments that were against their self-interest from gaining entrance into the public sphere. This reduced the quality of the debate on press reform by inhibiting the kind of robust deliberations that produce plurality of views. The author recognises the challenge in asking the press to serve as a democratic public sphere during debates about their policy because bias is inevitable, and every organisation or industry may exhibit some level of bias in its own favour. She, therefore, argues that steps to make the press accountable should also come from outside the press. The author advocates non-governmental public reformism as a means of ensuring press accountability.
Binakuromo Ogbebor

Backmatter

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