Data protection & media law

A guide to help potential contributors develop their skills.

If you are considering contributing to Exeter Observer please see our contributors guide.

More contributor guides:

Data protection

NB data trails, third party servers, information management requirements.

cf.

Media law

A (superficial) introduction to media law, focussed on defamation, ignoring crime/court/tribunal reporting and restrictions (beware contempt of court).

Based on McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, Mike Dodd & Mark Hanna, Oxford University Press (24th edition, 2018).

  1. Defamation is major legal risk for journalists/photographers:

    • complex - get professional advice if publication seems likely to bring action (also may be difficult to fight in court)
    • beware - statements taken to possess a single meaning, not necessarily the one intended
    • context - statements considered in context, so defamation can occur via juxtaposition, or via inference inc. innuendo.
  2. Law protects person/company/organisation’s reputation from unjustified attack (written = libel inc. internet, spoken = slander) which:

    • exposes to hatred, ridicule or contempt or causes to be shunned or avoided
    • lowers in estimation of “right-thinking members of society generally”
    • disparages in business, trade, office or profession
    • NB company must show (likely) serious financial loss.
  3. Changes in law since 2000 have somewhat addressed historic imbalance in favour of claimants, esp. 2013 Defamation Act. Main defences:

    • truth (replaced common law justification defence in 2013) - applies to statements of fact which can be proved in court to be substantially true “on the balance of probabilities” (lower bar than “beyond reasonable doubt”) -> keep audio recordings and comprehensive notes!
    • honest opinion (replaced common law honest/fair comment defence in 2013) - applies to expressions of opinion which must be recognisable as such (and not factual allegation), must be based on a provably true fact or privileged material (see below) and must im/explicitly indicate (at least generally) the fact or information on which it is based - so must satisfy test that the opinion on an established fact represents a view an honest person could hold -> protects reviewers and humour/satire/irony (sometimes)
    • absolute privilege - covers MPs speaking in House of Commons, Hansard, parliamentary white papers but not reports of such (also some court and tribunal reporting with requirement that report is fair and accurate and contemporaneous)
    • qualified privilege - covers reporting public documents and meetings inc. (local) authority meetings (report must be fair and accurate, published without malice, published in the public interest and subject to a statement of explanation or contradiction on request) cf. ICNN guidance, Defamation Act 1996 schedule 1
    • accord and satisfaction - applies when correction and/or apology already published which claimant accepted as settlement at time
    • offer of amends - applies when written offer to publish suitable correction and apology, and to pay suitable damages and costs, is rejected and not withdrawn, unless claimant can show defendant “knew or had reason to believe” that published statement was false and that it was also defamatory
    • leave and license - applies when claimant previously agreed to publication of defamatory material (proof of consent required)
    • innocent dissemination - applies when anyone not author, editor or publisher of statement took reasonable care in relation to its publication and did not know and had no reason to believe that part played in publication caused or contributed to defamation (used only to apply to newsagents and booksellers, now covers live broadcasts, online hosting and website operators who allow user postings provided they follow certain procedures inc. being able to identify user, provided no moderation - if user not identifiable, then material must be taken down -> suggestion to avoid complexity is to choose not to pre-moderate and take anything down immediately on receipt of complaint - under Regulation 19)
    • limitation - applies when action not started within 12 month period after publication -> date notes and recordings!
    • death
    • public interest defence (replaced common law Reynolds defence in 2013):

      • protects publication of defamatory material even where not proved true when reasonable belief that publication was in public interest and matter is of public interest, with regard to all circumstances of case, where product of “responsible journalism”
      • Leveson suggestion that audit trail of development of story, investigation, issues considered and factors discussed should be required to justify belief in public interest in publication and public interest in story not yet established in case law cf. Warby 2016
      • Act explains public interest as “concept which is well-established in the English common law”
      • degree of public interest required may vary according to publication and market (inc. spatial context)
      • responsible journalism test at heart of defence cf. Lord Nicholls non-exhaustive list of factors to be considered re. Reynolds esp. inc. right to reply
      • also includes “neutral reportage” protection to cover disputes involving allegations or matters of controversy
      • should only be used with legal support.
Recent stories
Net Zero Exeter logo

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing "technical and financial challenges ahead", although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Devon Climate Emergency Response Group questions whether 2030 "realistic" and suggests "palatable" compromise while only 13% of consultees support UK government's 2050 target.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Case seeking judgement to allow local authority meetings to continue remotely when temporary coronavirus regulations expire fails to override requirement for primary legislation.

Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Elections for Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner are taking place in Exeter on 6 May. Our essential election guide highlights wards and divisions to watch, changes taking place and how, when and where to vote.

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

World Meteorological Organization report confirms "relentless" intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

2020 set to be equal warmest year on record despite cooling La Niña while Internal Energy Agency warns post-pandemic economic stimulus expected to drive second largest annual increase in carbon emissions in history and UK emissions set to overshoot 2030 target by 40%.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Comment  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Recent stories
Net Zero Exeter logo

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

World Meteorological Organization report confirms "relentless" intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Join Exeter Observer


Support Exeter Observer

Featured stories
Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Comment  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.


Train at Okehampton Station in 2015

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Okehampton to Exeter "Dartmoor Line" passenger rail service reinstatement confirmed

£40 million Department for Transport "Restoring your Railway" funding to enable trains every two hours by end of this year, with plans to increase to hourly service during 2022. Stakeholders combine to get South West infrastructure needs onto Whitehall agenda.


Maclaines Warehouses beside Exeter ship canal

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Maclaines Warehouses development tests Exeter Heritage Harbour status

Decisions taken behind closed doors in favour of commercial interests threaten maritime and waterway heritage vision for Exeter’s historic quay, canal and canal basin.


Global lockdown pollution level changes

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

I'm a climate scientist – here's three key things I have learned over a year of COVID

A leading climate scientist's perspective on what the community has learned over the past year about the interactions between the pandemic and the current and future global climate.


Exeter Guildhall needs repairs

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

£37.5 million council maintenance backlog caused by underinvestment to be part-funded by asset sales

Exeter City Council has allowed property assets to deteriorate while prioritising new schemes including the £44 million St Sidwell's Point leisure centre, forcing it to identify assets for sale to pay its outstanding repair bills.


Exeter City Council offices on Paris Street

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Council pushes back on Liveable Exeter Place Board scrutiny following membership change

Exeter City Council has responded to an enquiry about disproportionate Church of England representation on the Liveable Exeter Place Board by accusing Exeter Observer of promoting a "partisan narrative" and claiming our public interest reporting "bears no resemblance to fact".


St Sidwell's Point development site outline aerial view

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council executive members take direct control of city planning decisions

Council's executive now possesses majority on city planning committee, with council leader and planning portfolio holder also included despite national guidance, offering basis to challenge decisions and increasing democratic deficit.


Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan proposals vs Exeter territorial emissions vs Exeter carbon footprint bar chart

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Is the "Net Zero" Exeter plan fit for purpose? Part I: Exeter's carbon footprint

Exeter City Futures' carbon reduction plan ignores over a million tonnes of carbon emissions and massively underestimates the challenges facing the city. First in a series examining its flaws by Fridays For Future youth climate activists.


Food retailers at Queen Street Dining in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Unelected Liveable Exeter Place Board created to oversee city from the shadows

Exeter City Council has convened an unelected board that meets in private, does not publish its discussions or decisions and is taking responsibility for major policies which will determine Exeter's future.


Department for Transport New Road Layout for Social Distancing coronavirus road sign

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans

Devon County Council's failure to deliver overdue Exeter transport strategy and cycling and walking plan has led to an inadequate response to government demands for emergency coronavirus road layout changes.


Pulling Road Pinhoe Exeter zero carbon housing development site plan

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter's first "zero carbon" housing development includes 96 car parking spaces for 40 homes

Exeter City Council has approved plans to develop land at Pinhoe with a parking ratio of 2.4 cars per household as part of an "exemplar scheme for future residential development in the city" while accepting that zero carbon construction comes "at a cost to the provision of affordable housing".