Deceitful reporters 'should be jailed'

Journalists who deliberately deceive their audience should face criminal charges for fraud and be sent to prison, according to ITV News editor-in-chief David Mannion.

Mannion said tougher punishments were needed to put a stop to the ‘appalling practice’of misleading viewers.

He said the press, in its coverage of the TV deception controversy, had twisted the debate by wrongly focusing on innocent editing techniques such as the ‘noddy’– where an interviewer cuts into the package a pre-recorded shot of themselves nodding to make an edit smoother.

‘In the past few months there have been signs that we’re in danger of getting the debate completely out of proportion,’Mannion said. ‘It’s not about accepted techniques about which viewers are familiar. It’s about policy.

‘Deception at the expense of your audience is not just an appalling practice for which people should be sacked. In my book it’s a criminal fraud for which people should be jailed.

‘My trade – news – must be ultra-certain that it’s always honest to the viewer. I just hope that trust can be rebuilt. Audiences deserve better than they’ve been getting.”

Speaking at a debate on trust in television news at the London College of Communication, Mannion called Five News editor David Kermode’s decision to ban ‘noddy’shots ‘highly patronising’and a ‘cheap stunt”.

‘I think [banning noddies] is nonsense and also highly patronising for a sophisticated audience,’he said. ‘Noddies are pretty ugly, but they’re not a deception.”

His comments came after a series of ‘editorial lapses’at the BBC and in the commercial sector led to the resignations of a number of high-ranking broadcasters, including BBC1 controller Peter Fincham, former Blue Peter editor Richard Marson, and the chief creative officer of independent production company RDF, Stephen Lambert.

The BBC director of news, Helen Boaden, warned that the corporation’s recently announced programme of budget cuts, designed to plug a £2bn funding shortfall, must not be at the expense of journalism training.

‘We’re losing about 500 jobs. It’s very easy for training to be bottom of the list of our priorities,’she said. ‘One of the problems in the industry is that as people feel increasingly time-starved, the first thing they want to get rid of is the training. We’ve always said that training is a vital investment.”

Boaden also pledged to look into the issue of training freelances, who do not benefit from the same access to training as BBC employees.

‘They can often be the weakest or strongest part of the chain,’she said. ‘But the reality is that as we go into a leaner, meaner world, we will use fewer freelances. So it’s probably in our interests to train the ones we do use on a regular basis.”

She said it was wrong to blame younger, less-experienced producers and journalists for the editorial lapses that had been uncovered.

‘It’s almost verging on hypocrisy to say the generation coming into the business are responsible for the loss of trust in the business,’she said.

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