How are Media Council members appointed?
There is a three-strong Appointments Committee, selected by the Media Working Group. The Appointments Committee selects eight members for the Council, three of them nominated by the media with the remaining five — including the chairman — having no current connection to the news media.
For how long do members sit on the Media Council?
They are expected to sit for a minimum of one year, a maximum of three, and their participation will be reviewed annually by the Appointments Committee. The Appointments Committee can remove a member from the Council at any time, provided its three members agree unanimously to do so.
How is the Media Council funded?
The bulk of the cost, which is primarily administrative and includes the salary of our part-time Executive Officer, is met by the members of the Media Working Group. Every other media outlet that supports the Media Council pays a nominal, annual fee that helps offset costs. The Council receives no government funding.
What does 'self-regulation' actually mean?
Self-regulation refers to a system of regulation that is funded and run by the industry in question, rather than by government intervention. Our system of self-regulation meets the administrative costs of running the Media Council of Bermuda, which handles the complaints, but members of the Council are not chosen by the media so in effect, the Council is independent.
Why should I use the Media Council rather than the courts?
There are considerable advantages to the Media Council, in comparison to the courts:
It is free;
It is fast: we expect to be able to deal with most cases within a month or less, whereas legal actions can last years;
There is no risk. A legal action against a media outlet is necessarily confrontational but the Media Council acts primarily as a conciliation service;
It is private. A court action will, in most circumstances, lead to full disclosure in open court of all the details of the case. This can be counter-productive if the action relates to a privacy issue. The Media Council can in some circumstances stipulate anonymity with regard to its decisions to protect the privacy of complainants;
It requires no legal advice and involves no bureaucracy.
What kind of proactive work do you do? Do you monitor all media outlets in Bermuda?
We don’t do any proactive work — yet. We are not monitoring or policing the media in Bermuda, we are responding to complaints. We are not a watchdog ready to pounce, nor are we adversarial; our first goal is conciliation. That said, the Media Foundation of Bermuda, the umbrella organization whose primary role is to sustain the Media Council, does foresee opportunities to be proactive in the future on common concerns/challenges such as media accreditation, training and threats to freedom of expression.
Do media councils exist in other countries?
Yes. In fact, most European countries have a Media Council equivalent (though they are often referred to as Press Councils), as do many nations of the Commonwealth. In establishing the Media Council of Bermuda we drew on the expertise of many sources, primarily the Press Complaints Commission in the U.K. but also from the Press Council of South Africa, the CPU Media Trust and the Press Council of India. You will also find councils in the U.S. — the Washington News Council is a good example.
Why should media outlets cooperate?
The media can benefit greatly by participating in the process. Among the potential benefits to the media:
Avoid the cost and risk of lawsuits;
Hear other people’s perspectives;
Learn from mistakes;
Demonstrate humanity and openness to criticism, as opposed to aloofness and arrogance;
Argue forcefully, outside your own media outlet, that you have reported aggressively in the public interest;
Help the public better understand media values, ethics and practices;
Enhance accountability and credibility in the eyes of the public;
Be part of an alternative to legislation that might seek to police the media.
How does the Media Council work to raise standards aside from dealing with complaints?
Familiarity with the Code of Practice will be a requirement of employees at media outlets that support the Council. In publicizing the role of the Council we will heighten awareness of the need for responsible reporting and in turn, make all media professionals more accountable to their readers/viewers/listeners — and also to their employers.
Are Media Council meetings open to the public and will the minutes of its meetings be published?
Minutes of meetings will be taken and kept by the Council, but only the decision will be made public. All adjudications will be posted on this website. The meetings will not be open to the public. It is important that members of the Council feel free to have candid, uninhibited discussions and especially since they will sometimes be tackling sensitive issues such as invasion of privacy. The meeting format must not resemble a court of law and it is considered best practice to keep the proceedings informal.
How often does the Media Council meet?
It is scheduled to meet monthly but the frequency could change according to the volume of complaints received.
Acknowledgement: Some of the information above has been adapted, with permission, from the U.K.’s Press Complaints Commission. The Media Council of Bermuda is extremely grateful for their help and cooperation.