34. The subject of doorstepping, both by individual
presenters and camera crews and by the so-called "media scrum",
was an issue that concerned us greatly, applying equally to TV
and print journalists. This was emphasised by the late submission
of evidence from one witness which indicated that not all intrusive
media behaviour ceased 10 or 20 years ago and, as far as one can
tell, not all journalists desist when requested. The events described
took place in 2001.
The broadcasters and the press tended to blame each other for
this problem, with both sides claiming to withdraw as soon as
We make a recommendation below for some collaboration between
Ofcom and the PCC to sort this problem out.
35. With regard to targeted doorstepping of individuals
we heard from the broadcasters that the reason for this was often
to offer the last chance to the subject of an investigative programme
to give his or her side of the story.
We found this to be rather disingenuous, especially when the broadcaster
said that these attempts sometimes took place after exchanges
where interviews had been ruled out, sometimes in writing. We
set out our recommendations on broadcasting below.
36. Ofcom must
seize the opportunity presented by its new structure to undertake
a thorough review, including wide consultation, of how complaints
against the broadcasters should be tackled and on the substance
of a new code upon which the system will rest. In the meantime,
and under the new arrangements, we recommend the continuation
of hearings for complex cases (but we see no good reason why the
complainant cannot make a full record of the proceedings).
37. We were
not at all convinced that door-stepping, by a film crew, of people
who have refused, sometimes in writing, to be interviewed is really
done to give the subjects of a programme a final opportunity to
put their side of the story. The motivation is surely less judicial
and more about entertaining footage. Such intrusion, and broadcasting
the result, should only be undertaken in important cases of significant
38. The BBC
should respond to the preference of individuals for their privacy
complaints to be dealt with by an external body (previously the
Broadcasting Standards Commission) and should either increase
the demonstrable independence of its own system or refer complaints
to Ofcom if the initial response from the programme-makers does
not resolve the situation. The BBC should participate fully in
the Ofcom review that we recommend above.
39. Ofcom and
all the broadcasters should engage with the PCC and the press
industry to develop ways of tackling the media scrums that still
seem to gather at the scent of a story. Described by Lord Wakeham
as "a form of collective harassment" this is a matter
that must be capable of being sorted outespecially when
it is the victims of violent events, or their families, that are
40. Of necessity
we reserve our judgement on the precise arrangements to be established
by Ofcom. This is a matter to which we may well return.