Ofcom will regulate the BBC, but who verifies the ‘news’ on Facebook?

Donald Trump becomes US President on Friday amid allegations that fake news stories about his rival Hilliary Clinton helped to sway voters.

So it is interesting to note that UK regulator Ofcom is taking on the role of regulating the BBC not any of the new digital media giants.

One would have thought that the BBC is well regulated with rigorous editorial guidelines already well- established within the organisation.

Perhaps Ofcom should be thinking about regulation of the corporations which are spewing out fake news online?

A Channel Four news team tracked down some of the authors of fake news.  Young men in Macedonia were among the culprits.

They operated a cottage industry producing fake online news stories by setting up web sites featuring untrue stories which were then regurgitated around digital and social media channels.

The Presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy in 1960 was the first presidential debate between candidates from opposing political parties in the United States as well as the first one to be televised.

Kennedy’s performance on television persuaded American voters to elect him President.

Now it is the digital media not TV which can make or break a Presidential candidate in the USA.

Other countries around the world are not immune to the power of the new digital media giants and the ‘news’ they present to us.

Nearly a third of young people aged 18 to 24 in the UK said they got their main news from social media.

The latest Digital News Report from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said social media is a leading source of news among online users.

More than half of online users get their news from Facebook and other social media platforms – which don’t pay for the news which is produced by other publishers.

In the UK, Ofcom is the regulator of Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Post but does not have any statutory powers over digital media channels.

Ofcom launched its proposed annual plan in an uncharacteristically quiet Stormont on Wednesday. Jonathan Rose, the Northern Ireland director said:  “Things play out slightly differently in Northern Ireland.”

He said a Memorandum of Understanding is expected to be signed between Ofcom and Stormont and in future there would be a Ofcom Board member for Northern Ireland.

Baroness Noakes, Ofcom’s deputy chair who also attended the Stormont event said regulation of the Digital Media in the UK was “Not in our statutes… not in our remit.”

Could fake news via digital media channels happen in Northern Ireland?  In a place where a heating scheme has sparked a political crisis, who knows?

If you would like to respond to Ofcom’s Proposed Annual Plan do so by February 7 more details here:

Una Murphy is co-founder of VIEWdigital which publishes VIEW social affairs magazine.

, , ,

  • Deaglán

    ‘Donald Trump becomes US President on Friday amid allegations that fake news stories about his rival Hillary Clinton helped to sway voters.’
    There was nothing fake in the stories about Hilary Clinton. They came from her own emails, as well as the emails from others within her own party. The details of which were published, and people were outraged about.

    In a piece about fake news, your first line adds to the fake news swirling around about the US election, that is being pushed by lots of mainstream media. The people see through this, maybe a reason why we’re seeing a switch to more independent sources?

    ‘One would have thought that the BBC is well regulated with rigorous editorial guidelines already well- established within the organisation.’
    Do you remember the Iraq war? The BBCs part in pushing british government propaganda to support another foreign war – or does that not count as fake news for you? Maybe you should check out the very good work done by media lens. They provide a running commentary essentially on how in the main your above statement isn’t true (or should that be fake)

    If you are going to write about fake news, maybe try not to participate in spreading it yourself.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Its an interesting question but there would be an obvious difference between fake news and the angle the media gives to a real story?

    The BBC can defend themselves but I assume they would say that they were only reporting what the government told them.

  • Deaglán

    I agree there is a difference between what is fake and what is just an angle.

    But the example used here is the BBC, and the ‘fake news’ example given above by the writer is anything but, it is instead the exposing of the truth about Hilary Clinton and her campaign, using their own emails. Something the author seemed to ignore? That is not fake news. So by engaging in disseminating a story that easily demonstrated to be untrue, is that not in itself spreading fake news? Journalists, not scrutinising the detail, write a story, that will influence opinions, because they come from a ‘trusted’ source like the BBC (or slugger..) ?

    I mean just last week we hear the BBC is setting up team to debunk fake news – https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/12/bbc-sets-up-team-to-debunk-fake-news … and as for only reporting what the government tells you, thats not journalism, thats stenography – find the facts, scrutinise, challenge, expose the truth – don’t just tell people what the government want them to hear.

  • lizmcneill

    Not all the news on Facebook is about her emails. I imagine it refers to Pizzagate and other imaginings of Macedonian teenagers looking for ad revenue.

    (And on the lesser of two evils basis, I’d take Hillary’s emails over Trump’s tweets).

  • Deaglán

    Fair point!

    Personally wouldn’t have either of them, but certainly she was the lesser of two evils.

    For me this all is who gets to decide what fake news is. I assume there would be a lot of people, who like me, would believe that a lot of our mainstream outlets, those we are told to trust as sources of news, don’t have a great track record in telling the truth/spreading fake news. The Iraq war being the biggest example, one with such grave consequences. The thought of the BBC after that deciding what is/isn’t fake news is worrying.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    “only reporting what the Government told them to” you mean.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    Exactly. The BBC has for many years, when push came to shove, reported only along narrow establishment lines. This applied/applies to Scottish Independence, Palestine, Cuba, the IRA, the US, Russia, (US great – Russia bad) etc. etc. The BBC is nothing more than a Unionist and Little England propaganda mouthpiece.

  • Nevin

    Jams, here is the transcript of a broadcast I heard on the morning of Wednesday, 10 July 1996; a Government ‘version’ had replaced this account by mid-day. A civil servant in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs kindly faxed me the transcription.

  • Mac an Aistrigh

    Does anyone believe they are getting a balanced view of what is going on in the world from watching TV and listening to the radio?