Reckless politics

By Dr Darren G. Lilleker, Associate Professor, The Media School.

If you are going to make a political statement, timing is everything.

As the UKIP Conference came to a close in Doncaster and the doors opened to the Conservatives in Birmingham, Mark Reckless a hitherto fairly obscure backbencher, chose the moment to defect.

Given his close ties to Douglas Carswell, the first and most prominent defector from the Conservatives, and allegiance to Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan is decision is perhaps no surprise. Reckless has been a constant rebel, disobeying the Conservative whip on numerous occasions with, according to Brian Wheeler’s political epitaph to Reckless, no real cause.

For Reckless the move is likely to be a pyrrhic gesture. If re-elected in the inevitable by-election, he and Carswell (if re-elected) might be a thorn in the side to Conservatives. But they will struggle to be heard. The 2015 might return some UKIP MPs to Westminster but research suggests that voters focus on national issues, in particular the economy, at national contests whereas European or local elections they are more willing to vote on a single issue or split their ticket. Hence it is an uphill struggle for UKIP to make a serious impact in Westminster.

However the defection of Carswell and Reckless is not without significance.  While Boris Johnson in his inimitable style described defections as utterly nuts, it belays a concern that must resound around Conservative members who dream of a second term for Cameron. The burning question is how many traditional Conservative voters sympathise with the defectors, and how many increasingly see UKIP as the party they should support in order to at least force the issue of an in/out referendum on the UKs membership of the EU.

The benefits freeze may well solidify Labour’s vote, despite Ed Miliband forgetting the economy during his conference speech. Labour’s lead is a tenuous 2% (35 to the Conservatives’ 33, UKIP trail on 9%) but the most recent survey was on September 14th. Post conference is the key to understanding how the parties stand after they showcase their manifesto promises for the first time. This may be a win-lose situation for the Conservatives, and to be overshadowed for even a second by the thorny question of ‘Europe’ plays into their opponents’ hands.

The forthcoming by-elections in Rochester and Strood and Clacton will bring the Europe question again to the fore. They could expose deep divisions within Conservative ranks as their candidates struggle to articulate a clear defence against their former colleagues’ doubts regarding Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum. Thus for both the defectors and for their former party their moves may prove extremely ‘reckless’ (pun intended) and damaging.

With Nigel Farage’s ability to earn free media, with public opinion uncertain on the Europe question, and with a coalition split and a Conservative party wavering on when to hold a referendum and what the timing and criteria for this might be, there is a lot to play for over the next eight months. The election, and the future of the UK, hangs in the balance, and Mark Reckless may well have played a key role in undermining the chances of a Conservative second term.

Fishing for stories – Talk BU Q&A

The recent Sunday Mirror ‘fishing exercise’ scandal involving a fake Twitter account and former Cabinet Office Minister, Brooks Newmark, has raised questions around ethics in journalism in a post-Leveson world. Talk BU asked BU lecturer and former journalist, Andrew Bissell, what we can learn from the scandal, and what we should be teaching the journalists of the future about rights and wrongs.

First off, are the media within their rights to set up proactive operations in order to uncover private details/images/practices of celebrities?

Media rights are addressed by the law, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Editors’ Code of Practice. Nonetheless privacy is not a black and white issue; on the contrary, interpretation and opinion ensure the issue continually swirls in a persistent grey fog.

For example, any individual can require any UK court to consider their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights which came into UK law in 2000. But while Article 8 contains the right to respect for privacy and family life, Article 10 enshrines the right to freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information.

Similarly, the Editors’ Code of Practice reinforces the right to privacy however there may be exceptions “where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest”. A public interest justification can also be offered if material acquired by “clandestine devices and subterfuge” is obtained or published.

However the proactive nature of the Sunday Mirror sting is particularly interesting with regard to public interest; that’s because the now defunct Press Complaints Commission consistently ruled that ‘fishing expeditions’ – the dangling of bait to see what happens – were unacceptable. For all its claims of public interest, the Sunday Mirror story could appear to exhibit many of the hallmarks of such an ‘expedition’.

Does the public have the right to know what MPs such as Brooks are up to away from the public eye? Was this really in the public interest?

Again, we return to the grey area of opinion and interpretation: is there a tipping point when an MP’s private conduct can be deemed to question his or her claims to honesty and integrity in public office?

The Sunday Mirror claims there was a “clear public interest” because Mr Newmark had a prominent role in seeking increased representation of women in Parliament. Others, of course, will simply maintain he’s the victim of a commercial drive to sell newspapers. Some legal experts have already declared the sting amounts to entrapment and maintain claims of public interest are weak.

In the light of the Leveson Enquiry, should the media think more carefully about the way they conduct undercover operations?

Publication of this story has certainly raised media eyebrows. I’m not surprised two newspapers reportedly turned it down considering the current media climate. There is still intense post-Leveson scrutiny of the press and Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), the new regulator, is just three weeks old. Ipso was already under pressure to demonstrate its independence; now many will want to see the size of its muscles too.

Meanwhile the Sunday Mirror is already in the firing line for seemingly using a Twitter picture of a model without her permission to illustrate their article. And all this comes less than a week after the Sunday Mirror’s parent company admitted that some of its journalists had hacked phones. The media already thinks very carefully about undercover work; this case – and the all-important reaction of Ipso – will offer further food for thought.

Will this be the test case for the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso)? How do you think they might react?

This is certainly a test case. Ipso will take its time and could well employ the kind of proactive investigation its predecessor, the PCC, did not. Ipso has 28 days to get the facts of the case together and then pass them on to a complaints committee. Will a breach of the Code be found? It’s a very close call.

How do we as a university explain to students where the lines are when it comes to doing what it takes to get a good story? What boundaries do we instill within them?

Tuition for journalism students at BU is guided by the ethical and professional standards enshrined in the Code of Practice. Courageous, incisive journalism frequently poses complex and difficult ethical dilemmas; however we do not want to instill a suffocating, risk-averse approach to investigatory work.

What is your opinion on the whole episode? And I know you don’t have a crystal ball – but do you think it will become a milestone in press regulation?

I think the heat is about to be turned up on the simmering post-Leveson regulation debate. All eyes are now on Ipso and its first high-profile decision seems destined to define its future position.

BU academic in Parliament to present research on women MPs in the media

A Bournemouth University (BU) academic was in Parliament to share her research findings on media coverage of women politicians.

Senior Lecturer in Politics Dr Heather Savigny spoke at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sex Equality, presenting findings of research she co-authored into press coverage of female politicians over the last 20 years.

The research – hailed as “important” work by Mary Mcleod MP during the session – found that women politicians in 2012 were receiving less coverage in proportion to their relative numbers in Parliament than in 2002 and 1992.

It also demonstrated that Conservative and Labour women were receiving proportionally more negative coverage than their male counterparts by 2012, while female Liberal Democrats were generally ignored.

Dr Savigny and co-author Deirdre O’Neill from Leeds Trinity University recommended that a media monitoring group be set up – comprising politicians, media representatives and academics.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group session was organised by the Fawcett Society.

Chair of the Group Diane Abbott MP welcomed the research and other presentations during the session, and pointed out that party press offices needed to do more to promote female politicians – and a wider range of women  –  in the media.

Co-chair Bernard Jenkins MP called on his male colleagues to participate in this debate, rather than dismissing it as a “women’s” issue.

They agreed to meet to discuss taking the issue further forward.

Webcam bird rescue shows how quickly our attraction to nature can turn sour

By Sue Thomas, Visiting Fellow, The Media School

Cute for now.
Ell Brown, CC BY

The proliferation of webcams streaming live feeds has brought wild animals directly onto our screens, sometimes from thousands of miles away. Watching on the web in real time, we can peer into nests, hover over watering-holes, and gaze into zoos. But when something bad happens – an intrinsic part of the wild nature we’re watching – is there anything more going on behind our emotional reactions to end the suffering?

In a recent article in the New York Times, Jon Mooallem reported on a painful drama concerning a family of bald eagles nesting in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a live webcam feed to enable nature lovers across the world to lurk unseen as the chicks are raised. But this is real life and prettiness cannot be guaranteed. The DNR made this very clear in two disclaimers on its home page. Viewer discretion is advised and content may not be suitable for younger viewers, it said. The warning was made even more explicit:

This is live video of wild birds in the natural process of raising their young. Life and death struggles occur all the time in the natural world. DNR staff will monitor this camera and will evaluate incidents as they occur, but we do not plan to, nor do we condone, any interference with this nest or its occupants.

The DNR soon found itself in a difficult position: increasing anxiety about the failing health of one of the eagle chicks (nicknamed Snap by its adoring viewers) led to an outpouring of concern until eventually the DNR gave in and went to the rescue. “It was badly injured — most likely trampled accidentally by one of its parents,” Mooallem reported. “It had a severely fractured wing and a systemic infection. There was no chance of recovery. Snap had to be euthanised.”

A webcam set up to bring pleasure to its audience and attract donations to support the programme had opened a ghastly window to the real red-in-tooth-and-claw world of nature, where creatures get hurt and die.

As one woman put it, she wasn’t “up for that learning experience”. But if we’re so keen on nature and how it makes us feel, why did all the webcam watchers feel so distressed when it started to go wrong? Beyond one explanation of anthropomorphism, another could be biophobia – a fear of the natural world.

Natural turn offs

In most cases, images of animals have a beneficial effect on us, says Stephen Kellert, a social ecologist at Yale University. He believes images of animals often provoke satisfaction, pleasure, stimulation and emotional interest. For philosopher Paul Shepard, seeing animals in ornamentation, decoration and art, may lead us to experience “the tug of attention to animals as the curved mirror of ourselves”.

But sometimes we respond fearfully not only to certain living things (most notably spiders, snakes and bugs) but also to some natural situations which might contain hidden dangers and be difficult to escape from, says psychologist Roger Ulrich, writing in The Biophilia Hypothesis. It is this that he describes as biophobia.

Just as positive encounters with nature can have calming effects, argues Ulrich, it follows that the opposite should result in negative effects such as anxiety – something that the many nature centres and wildlife reserves that manage live webcam feeds will be aware of.

Webcams allow us to watch real animals with an unprecedented level of intimacy. But the unrealistic empathy they can create has the potential to provoke real distress when it goes wrong. And this is where it seems we’re only human.

The Conversation

Sue Thomas does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

NCTJ conference hosted at Bournemouth University

Bournemouth University Media School academics were joined by a host of journalists, guests and peers for this year’s National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Conference.

The conference, hosted at BU, brought about thought provoking discussion around the culture of journalism in a Post-Leveson climate and the sorts of skills that journalism graduates need in a multimedia, digital newsroom.

Stephen Jukes, Dean of BU’s Media School, said, “We are hugely proud of our NCTJ connections and the performance of our students in those exams every year.

“This is a really exciting time to be studying journalism, a really pivotal time where we have either seen the end of 300 years of free press or we are seeing the start of a re-evaluation of the practices of journalism and purge of some of the darker styles of the tabloid trade.”

John Ryley, Head of Sky News, gave the opening address to the conference and said, “All  the technology in the world counts for nothing without that essential element – good journalism.

“I believe that journalism can, and indeed should be, a force for good by shining a light on those things that perhaps people would prefer to remain hidden.

“Training is what separates professional journalists from so-called citizen journalists. It should also instil a value of doing the right thing, and the rights and wrongs of good practice.”

A number of industry professionals also took to the stage to give their thoughts on the current UK media climate, including two Bournemouth University BA Multimedia Journalism graduates; Ollie Joy, who now works for CNN, and Rachel Bartlett, editor of

Study Multimedia Journalism at BU!

BU International Video Competition 2013

If you are an international student studying here at BU we want to hear your story. Enter our first international video competition and tell us an interesting story about who you meet and what you experience during your first term at BU.

Where ever you’re from – whether it’s from Turkey or Thailand, Nigeria or Norway we want to know how your BU experience has affected you both personally and academically.

Choose from these categories:

A Day in your Life
Share your daily experience of study, accommodation, work or your social life as part of the BU community.

Culturally Connected
Document how you and your fellow BU students from across the world meet, share your cultural heritage and build new friendships.

Beyond BU
Bournemouth is a great place to live and study, we are lucky to be in the middle of some of the UK’s most stunning countryside. Take us with you as you discover what Bournemouth and the surrounding area has to offer.


  • Brand new IPad’s for each member of the overall winning team. The winning entry will be featured on the BU website and related social media outlets.
  • £50 Amazon voucher for the winning team in each category.

The Rules:

  • Use a digital camera, phone, or other device to film your short
  • Maximum running time for submissions is three minutes. Videos longer than three minutes will not be eligible for judging
  • Each team must have no more than four members
  • All submissions must be original and in compliance with all UK copyright laws
  • Participants may only enter one video for submission. All videos submitted will be considered for public viewing on Bournemouth University websites and related social media sites
  • By submitting the Contest Entry Form, participants agree to the terms and conditions that grant and assign all rights, title and interest in the video entered in the BU International Video Competition.

Video Submissions

Deadline for submissions is Friday 13 December 2013.
Format for entries: QuickTime (.mov), Windows Media Video (.wmv) or MPEG (.mpg).

You may submit entries by:

  • Sending the BU International video competition entry form to and then
  • Uploading your submission to your YouTube or Vimeo account. Or posting a DVD copy of your video submission to: Room 301 Melbury House, 1-3 Oxford Rd, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH8 8ES

Dr David McQueen on the current conflicts in Cairo

Bournemouth University’s lecturer in Politics and Media, and expert in global conflict, Dr David McQueen featured on Steve Harris’ Drivetime show on BBC Radio Solent giving his opinion on the current conflict and civil unrest in Egypt.

“I think that this is a tragic short lived experiment of democracy, I don’t think it had to turn out this way and there were many missed opportunities for resolution within the brotherhood and the government” Dr McQueen explained.

The discussion continued with Barrack Obama condemning on the violence; “I think the US government could’ve played a part by saying if there was any army coo they could help the Egyptian army out”.

“The US Army fund the Egyptian army One Billion Dollars a year”

Dr McQueen relates the public reaction of what is happening now in Egypt to the 1972 Bloody Sunday reactions.

“When we look at thousands of deaths of armed protestors, I just see very dark days ahead for Egypt”.

Dean Eastmond

Dean is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. He joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from his college with essential work experience for four weeks over the summer.

BU Research wins Best Paper at CCT13

Research by Bournemouth University student Rebecca Watkins has won the Best Competitive Paper at the Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) Conference 2013.

At this year’s conference in Tucson, Arizona, Bournemouth University PhD student Rebecca Watkins and senior lecturer Dr. Mike Molesworth were awarded Best Competitive Paper for their contribution entitled ‘The Biographies of Digital Virtual Goods’.

Consumer Culture Theory (CCT) is an interdisciplinary field that comprises macro, interpretive, and critical perspectives of consumer behaviour, and the CCT conference has become the premier international venue for consumer culture researchers spanning a broad spectrum of academic disciplines to come together to share their ideas, empirical insights, and theoretical interests in an engaging, cutting edge, collegial forum.

The conference invited original contributions in the form of full papers that undergo a rigorous peer review process with three double blind reviewers, and as a result research presented at the conference is consistently of an exceptionally high standard.

The paper communicated empirical findings from Rebecca’s PhD research which explores ownership and possession in the context of digital goods, from magical swords, luxury cars and avatars within virtual worlds, to mp3s, ebooks, and social networking profiles.

Building on award winning research by Dr Denegri-Knott and Dr Molesworth from BU’s Media School, Rebecca and Mike highlight the ways in which the nature of digital goods encourages the delaying of classification decisions, resulting in vast digital hoards, and in doing so contribute to existing understanding of digital goods as possessions by providing insight into their biographies, including the significant ways in which they diverge from the typical biographies of material goods.

A key contribution of the paper, and of Rebecca’s research more broadly, is to illustrate that our understanding of material culture and consumption, so understandably rooted in the materiality of goods, is problematised by the emergence of digital possessions, often leading to tense and turbulent relationships between consumers and the providers of these digital goods that are yet to be adequately addressed by policy makers.

Rebecca’s attendance at the conference was partially funded by the Graduate School’s PGR Development Fund