Interview: Clive Jones
Clive Jones, chief executive of Carlton Channels, on free speech and privacy.
Clive Jones was interviewed as part of the spiked-report Restraint or Revelation? Free speech and privacy in a confessional age.
New privacy legislation doesn’t really impact a great deal on television because it is already highly regulated and subject to privacy self-regulatory codes which in many ways are much more stringent. I think the other reality is that the conventions of television and the Independent Television Commission regulations setting very strict rules on covert recording – whether it’s by camera or sound – are actually much more stringent than in the proposed legislation.
For instance, one of my regional managing directors or ultimately myself has to sign off on any plans for covert recordings. Then journalists have to come back and seek approval for any material that has been covertly recorded to be included in the programme. It is actually a very rigorous system.
Even when we are trying to broadcast something quite fast we’ve always adopted this method. We have been required to do it and therefore there is a very well oiled system. Journalists are quite used to having to produce written arguments on why they want to do things and it’s all checked by a lawyer before it comes to one of the team managers.
I continue to be concerned particularly with the red top newspaper end of the business. They are currently observing the media codes in a fairly nodding way and not observing them to the full. I am concerned by the continued use of long lenses. However I think ultimately that these matters only going to be resolved if there is the introduction of a genuine, meaningful and strengthened Freedom of Information Act. Britain remains one of the most secretive countries in the world. Members of powerful institutions are able to get away with absolute murder in terms of restricting access to information. I believe in the exchange of a small measure of privacy legislation – not just for those figures in the public eye but also members of the general public – for a system of on-going free information. This is something ultimately we have to argue with the government to obtain.
How should news values be judged in a confessional age? I think there are very sharp distinctions: there are those who are elected or appointed to public life, those who choose to make themselves into a celebrity and, ordinary members of the public. If you embark on a process whereby either by public distortion or your own act, you start to make full revelations about your life, about relationships and personal habits, then you make yourself fair game. You can’t enter into the public arena and then when it gets hot and you are not able to dictate the terms, withdraw from that public life.
I am perfectly relaxed to accept a degree of privacy legislation being brought in as part of a broader deal about the freedom of information as a way of drawing the line between the public and the private. If we aren’t going to get access to broad information from governments then there is no other choice but media self-regulation. By and large – apart from the tabloid end of the media – I think self-regulation largely works.
Clive Jones is chief executive of Carlton Channels and has worked as a newspaper journalist, news editor, news producer, and documentary producer.
Interview by Catherine Teare, Researcher, The LIRE media group.
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