Controls in the media – Media

Lesson objectiveTo explore controls in the media
Lesson outcomes• Assess to what extent the media adheres to these policies
• Evaluate the impact
• Explain what controls exist

The law

There are generally 6 ways that the law holds the media to account.

  1. The law of libel ensures that the media cannot make up lies about an individual person.
  2. The official secrets act forbids the media from reporting on something that is considered to be an official secret by the government.
  3. Defence And Security Media Advisory Notices (DSMA) stops the media from releasing information that could be regarded as a threat to national security.
  4. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act (2006) and the Equality Act (2010) stops public discrimination against someone because of their race, religion or any other category.
  5. The Obscene Publications Act (1959) stops the media from releasing content that is considered obscene and distasteful.
  6. ‘Contempt of court’ forbids the media from releasing information that is currently in course to ensure a fair trial.


In 2013, OFCOM (The Office of Communications) was created to regulate the media. It generally has four responsibilities:

1) Supporting consumers (buyers)

2) Ensuring the best use of the radio spectrum (you don’t really need to understand this, but it’s ensuring the wide use of different frequencies.

3) Ensuring TV, radio, electronic media and communications networks are readily available in the U with good service.

4) Protecting the public from any harm the media produces including false advertising.


The BBC is publicly owned hence the TV license and therefore it has to keep its viewers at the forefront of its policy. It, therefore, prides itself on being independent to ensure all customers are treated fairly. Recently, questions have been raised regarding what extent the BBC is actually unbiased.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)

The IPSO is the regulating body for newspapers in the UK created in 2014. It took over the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) which was deemed inadequate due to the phone-hacking scandal. The IPSO investigates complaints that breach ethical standards of newspaper agencies. It is still debatable as to how effective the IPSO is, however, general consensus is that it is still not fit for purpose. See the article here to see why.

How governments influence and control media output

  1. By official government press conferences and briefings.
  2. By exclusively working with journalists e.g. leaks.
  3. Individuals who act as spin doctors manipulating information.
  4. For those companies who are deemed not fit for purpose, the broadcasting license if not approved or revoked.
  5. Filtering and surveillance software to block websites e.g. child porn.
  6. Monitoring of users and their activity e.g. terrorism.

Why is the media important?

Around 77% of UK households had internet in 2014.

According to ONS records:

  • 89% of adults in Great Britain used the internet at least weekly in 2018, up from 88% in 2017 and 51% in 2006.
  • ​46% of adults watched videos on demand from commercial services in 2018, up from 29% in 2016.
  • The proportion of adults aged 65 years and over who shop online trebled since 2008, rising from 16% to 48% in 2018.

93% of adults had a mobile phone with 61% owning a smartphone. 7.5 million newspapers were sold nationally every day. and 96% of households owned a TV. These statistics are evidence that media is very important in everyday life.

Bauman in 2007 stated, “during the last thirty years more information has been produced in the world than the previous 5000 years”. Technology is now a part of our everyday life and evidence suggests that it is now becoming a significant part of our socialisation process. This is called media saturation. The media, therefore, holds massive power over the information we as the audience absorb. We must, therefore, question the relationship the media has with us as consumers.

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