Official baffled by lack of complaints
Bermuda’s Media Council has only had to adjudicate one case since it was established a year ago.
Executive officer Meredith Ebbin told Hamilton Rotarians that there have been “a handful of complaints, but none that the Council has had to formerly rule on” since February last year.
“No one is quite sure why this is,” she said. “People in the media did not expect there to be a barrage of complaints, but they thought there would have been more by now.
“However, the media seem to be in agreement that the existence of the Media Council has raised standards and responsiveness to errors.”
If a dispute cannot be resolved between a complainant and the media organisation in question, it is Ms Ebbin’s job to mediate the dispute.
“If mediation efforts fail, the case is referred to the Media Council,” she said.
Virtually all media organisations in Bermuda are members. Ms Ebbin pointed out that if someone takes issue with a story, it has to involve more than just disagreeing with what has been written or broadcast.
“If the story is found to be inaccurate, the media company should publish or broadcast a correction and/or an apology promptly and with due prominence. If a critical article is being written about someone, that person should be given the opportunity to respond before it is published.
“Members of the public are entitled to privacy, although the media have some leeway when they are reporting on the actions of public officials. Journalists should not harass people and should leave a person’s private property when asked to do so.”
On a lighter note she said the good news is that it costs nothing to bring a case against the media. “Anyone can lodge a complaint: private citizens, institutions and public figures. The complainant must declare from the outset if he or she is planning to bring legal action. If that is the case, the council will not accept the complaint.”
The complainant must be directly affected by a story.
Ms Ebbin said: “You can’t complain on behalf of someone else, although a parent can bring a complaint on behalf of a child.”
It is her responsibility to say whether or not there is a case to answer however complainants “can go over my head and take the matter directly to the Media Council”, she added.
Once a complaint form is completed, the executive officer moves to mediation. If that fails, the case is sent to the Media Council. If the council upholds a case it can demand a correction, a follow-up piece or an apology or a private letter of apology.
The council can also say where in the newspaper or broadcast the correction/apology should go. And while there have been few complaints, there have been several breaches. Most were resolved to the satisfaction of the parties involved without assistance from the council.
The council’s first complaint was lodged in December of 2010 as a result of a sports story in
The Royal Gazette. The complainant was Bermuda Cricket Board, which sought an apology over a series of articles that ran that November.
Two corrections were printed, but the board wanted an apology.
“The Council upheld the complaint and
The Royal Gazette was required to publish an apology,” Ms Ebbin said.
She added: “As the people of Bermuda become more aware of the council’s existence they will recognise that there is now an avenue for them to get redress for media faults and errors within a reasonable amount of time and without it being a drain on their pocketbook.”
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