In my previous blog I wrote about the
Panel’s decision to ban both me and Neil McMurray of the Voice for Children Blog
from using the Media Room and had appealed to Frances Oldham. Having waited for over 2 weeks I can inform readers that the
Panel has not allowed an appeal and has informed me that it is not going to
alter its decision. It is not just the ban that leaves a nasty taste but the manner in which the decision was arrived at and the repercussions that is of real concern. If there
is so little space to permit two local Bloggers then there cannot be room for
any other applicant from wherever they come.
Also despite Frances Oldham stating that the Inquiry was exploring the provision of WiFi in the public areas, as far as I am aware no provision has yet been made. Therefore even when the Media Room is only half full, non accredited media personnel will not be able use it or have access to any other link facilities within the building. As interest in the Inquiry grows there will be applications from a number of the Media from outside the Island such as Sky, CNN and the UK and World’s Press but if the Inquiry Team has any integrity it will have to reject any future applications because there is no room.
The way the Inquiry Team has handled the accreditation is worth placing on record as it’s evident that from the outset the Panel did not know what to do when its first two applicants for accreditation were Bloggers.
On 3rd April after Frances Oldham had opened proceedings a number of Protocols were distributed which can found on the
website HERE. One of the Protocols covers arrangements for applying for Media
accreditation which was not defined.
Applicants applying for accreditation were told they would be informed within 14 days as to whether their application was successful. This was not to be because it was not until 14th May that Frances Oldham circulated a letter to the 5 applicants informing them that as only a small number of applications had been received no decision was necessary until it had received more applications.
The letter included details of the applicants (for readers benefit I include the date of application) Voice for Children 3rd April,
Hill 4th April, BBC National Robert Hall, 9th
April, The Jersey Evening Post 14th April and Channel TV 30th
It seems odd that accreditation was not given within the stipulated 14 days because accreditation should not depend on the number of applications but on the credibility of the applicant, particularly as the Protocol had made it clear that there was limited space in the Media Room and access would be on a first come first served basis and local media would be prioritised.
It should be noted that after the 14th May letter, Channel
103 applied on 15th
May and BBC Radio Jersey on 16th
June. Therefore why was there a further delay in giving accreditation? There
were no further applications before the perceived overcrowding occurred on 12th
August when Stuart Syvret and a reporter from the Bailiwick Express were in the
Room, neither of whom had applied for accreditation. If it was known that space
was limited why were they allowed in the room, the same could be said of Robert
Hall of the National BBC who was in the Island on
holiday and could well have sat in the area set aside in the Hearing Room for the
Although the room was a little crowded it could hardly be likened to a rush hour London tube and I left the room just before
to keep a blood donation appointment. When I returned the same number of people
were in the room and I was not refused re-entry because of lack of space.
Whilst recording and social media updates are not permitted in the Hearing Room the Protocol does not have the same provision for the Media Room therefore there was no reason why anyone could not “tweet” or for anyone to submit live reports. Surely that is the purpose of it being there in the first place. It is apparent that the Panel and Media Team are still living in the
and are unaware that social media means tweeting, face book and blogging and are
now very much the modern form of instant communication, therefore banning Bloggers
from the Media Room is either through ignorance or prejudice.
After lunch a person entered the Media Room to inform everyone that tweeting was not permitted, again I ask why because the Protocol does not say that tweeting is prohibited and it has not been amended since.
It is evident that what went on in the Media Room on the 12th was discussed soon afterwards and a reason had to be found to ban the Bloggers. Without consulting us to identify our needs it was decided to ban us on the grounds that we did not require the electronic facilities listed. How could it make that assumption without enquiring of our needs. Did it ask the other applicants of their needs? However before anyone was informed Anna Averkiou of the Media Team contacted the Bailiwick Express the next day making it aware that it had not applied for accreditation and it was advisable to do so ASAP.
This is a copy of the relevant email.
From: James Filleul Sent: 13 August 2014 14:59 To: Jersey Care Inquiry Press
Subject: Accreditation for Bailiwick Express
Thanks for your calls today. To confirm, we would like to be accredited to cover the Care Inquiry. The journalists involved will be either myself, Ben Queree, Natalie Jardine, Guy Le Maistre (freelance) or Julia Hunt (freelance). It’s most likely to be Guy. I am the main point of contact, and my number is xxxx or with my e-mail. My news editor is Ben Queree, on the same number or I will ask Guy to bring photo ID with him when he attends, as will any of the others names above. Please do let me know if you need any further info at all.
If the “not so” independent Media Team had been even handed it would have also contacted Stuart Syvret offering the same advice however it is evident that the decision to ban Bloggers had been taken and the friendly call to the Bailiwick Express was to ensure that its application was safely in place before the letter from Frances Oldham was circulated the next day.
Whilst I am not happy at the way the Bailiwick Express was contacted the fact that it has been given accreditation lends support to claims of bias and discrimination. This is because the Bailiwick Express can best be described as a Blog with adverts therefore if it can be given accreditation why can't other Bloggers? Blogs are very much part of daily life and read the world over and the likes ours and the Bailiwick Express are now seen as a threat to mainstream hard copy newspapers.
Regretfully, although I have again asked to meet Frances Oldham I don't expect a reply and the ban will remain in place. However it is evident that the mechanism used and the reason given to ban Bloggers does little to enhance the Inquiry's reputation. And before anyone accuses me of not giving the
COI a chance to get going they should be reminded that the Inquiry is costing in the region of £6 million so taxpayers are entitled to receive value for money and an Inquiry Team which is efficient, transparent and fair minded in all its deliberations.