Lesson video

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Hi, it's Mr. Joy here.

Welcome back.

We're now over halfway through our series of lessons, looking at how the media affects us.

And today we're going to finish off looking at the role of the media within a democracy, by focusing on how the media holds people in positions of power to account.

For today's lesson, you're going to need to make sure that you've got a pen or pencil and a piece of paper, and as usual, try and find if you can, a nice quiet space where you can do your work without being disturbed.

And you need to make sure that any kind of distractions like devices are away.

So you're not going to be disturbed by those either.

So in today's lesson, we're going to find out what it means to hold to account and what that phrase actually is.

Then need to find out how the media holds people to account and we're going to look at a specific case study to find out what can happen when people are held accountable for their actions as well.

So going back to what we were doing in our previous lessons, that's lesson number three, we were looking at the role of the media in a democracy.

And there were two roles that I went into detail with for you.

One was about setting the agenda, so about deciding what was going to be published and possibly the way it was published.

And then also about informing and educating, which is kind of the biggest role the media takes on.

And so in today's lesson, we're going to focus on the third of those bullet points, which is about holding people to account.

So when we talk about holding people to account, what we mean is that the media plays an important role in making sure that people at all levels take responsibility for their actions.

So particularly what we're interested in, particularly in this lesson is about critically questioning people in positions of power.

So that might be a politician, it might be someone who owns a business, it might be a teacher or a headteacher, or someone who owns a smaller company in the area.

If they've got a position of power, then their actions could be questioned to make sure that they're doing the right thing.

And then therefore that they'll take responsibility for what it is that they are doing.

So we're going to look at how the media holds people to account.

And I want to go through three examples of different ways that the media might do that.

So on both television and radio journalists might interview and question people who are in positions of power, or they might run a debate between two people or more people with different points of views, they can kind of bounce off each other and critique each other's opinions and hopefully give some good replies about why they think or why they do different things.

Secondly, we're going to look at how newspapers might use stories on the front page of their newspaper to draw attention to possibly a politicians decision or some controversial actions by a celebrity or other events as well.

So looking at how front pages are used.

And then thirdly, we're going to look at how journalists might take part in something called investigative journalism and then publishing what they found.

So that there's a lot of information for people to look at.

It's the first one that we're going to go through is about holding to account through an interview.

Now, this image here is from an interview that was aired on Good Morning Britain in June 2020, and you've got Piers Morgan in the top left corner, who is the cohost of the show and the other three people that are professor Kate Williams in the bottom right corner and she's a British historian.

You've got Nigel Farage in the bottom left corner who was formerly the leader of the UKIP party and then the leader of the Brexit party.

And you've got Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, who is a lawyer and a political activist.

And in this interview, Nigel Farage was asked to defend his comments that he had made.

And he was comparing the black lives matter protesters to terrorist organisation.

And this was just after a statue had been pulled down in Bristol and pushed into the water and Nigel Farage wasn't particularly happy about the fact that it had been taken down in a way he did not see as being democratic.

So after a few questions, Piers Morgan then asked Nigel Farage to clarify his views, and to really kind of nail down on exactly what Nigel Farage meant by what he was saying.

So there were quite a lot of follow up questions to really try and make it clear to the audience exactly what was that Nigel Farage was thinking.

And some of the answers that he was giving was quite evasive.

So trying to make sure that he'd got a solid answer, a straight answer from there.

Now later in the week, the same week that this interview went on TV and Nigel Farage his radio show on LBC was kind of ended, could say it was cancelled, but officially we'll say that it was ended and it wasn't necessarily ended because of this interview but it's quite interesting that so quickly after this interview took place, that there was this action on LBC.

And I went through with you in the previous lesson in lesson three about leaders debates and how they are really useful as an opportunity for informing the public.

But they're also really useful in holding the leaders to account for the promises that they might make and possibly even break.

And often in these debates, they'll include questions from the audience.

So the audience will get to ask a question and the different political leaders will then give their points of view and make comments about their own beliefs and their actions and the beliefs and actions of their opponents as well.

So what I'd like you to do for task one is to have a look at the video that I've put into the worksheet.

And it's this source one, and this video shows Nick Clegg, who at the time was the leader of Liberal Democrat party and it's about him answering a question as part of one of the leaders debates.

And this leader's debate wasn't actually whether he were all on a panel, it was where the leaders of the main three parties each had an opportunity to answer questions directly from the audience.

What I want you to do is to write me a paragraph to summarise what you think about the video and I specifically want you to try and answer these four questions.

So I want you to explain which of Nick Clegg's political decisions was the question about? So what are they asking about.

In response to that question, what does Nick Clegg say to defend what he did? What is your opinion about Nick Clegg's response? So do you think his answer is sufficient? Did he answer the question appropriately or did he kind of try to wiggle out of it and explain why you think that? And then finally, if you were in the audience at that point after Nick Clegg had spoken, what followup question would you ask? So ideally it's going to be something related to the issue related to possibly his motivations or what he could have done differently perhaps.

So you can pause the video here, go forward to the worksheet, watch the video, and then try to answer those questions.

And then you can come back and you can look at an example of what I have done as well.

So here is my example, just to give you an idea about what you may have wanted to have written.

So Nick Clegg was asked why voters should trust him.

This is because he had allowed student university fees to be increased, despite having promised not to let it happen.

So that was an election promise.

Admittedly, it's not just down to Nick Clegg here is down to a number of MPS who voted to pass this new law but obviously he as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, having promised not to allow it to happen, copped a lot of the brunt from the public who weren't happy about this.

And at the time he said that because his party wasn't empowered alone because they were part of a coalition they were joined up with the conservatives, he couldn't that his promise was kept.

And he did also then point out that his party had helped to achieve many other positive results during their time in power and he cited a whole lot of different things.

And at this point I would have written my own personal opinion here, which I'm not going to share, but you would have written your own personal opinion here.

And then a question that I might have asked, had I been there was maybe why didn't you try to compromise by setting a lower maximum fee.

So instead of allowing the maximum fee per year of university to be 9,000 pounds, why not try and make it 5,000 pounds, which was more than it had been, but not as much as it could have ended up as it did end up in fact.

Another way of holding people to account is the newspaper front page.

So obviously the newspaper wants to attract people to the newspaper to start to look at the headline and think, "Oh, I really want to read this." So ultimately they're going to buy the newspaper.

So generally what is on the front cover is the most interesting or dramatic story that the newspaper has for that day.

And because of the attention that the front pages can get, and because they're also discussed on the news on the television and on the internet, these articles can be really useful in holding people to account.

So these two front pages that I've got up here for you are from the period of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And specifically they are about two advisers who broke the rules on having to be at home.

So on the left, you've got the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Claire Calderwood who stepped down from her role after it was reported that she had travelled to her second home away from her primary home and that was actually against the rules that she had been setting out in public on television.

So you can see their next to her it says, "To help save lives, stay at home." So she was going against that and the headline there, "The Hippocratic oath" is a play on words, because as a doctor, you agree to something called the Hippocratic oath, which is to do no harm so it's an interesting pun there.

On the right, we have professor Neil Ferguson who was the scientific advisor to the UK government and he quit his role after he was alleged to have met up with a woman that he didn't live with.

And again, that was also against the rules that he was helping to set out for the country as well.

So in both cases, the front page stories actually kind of gained enough attention and support to prompt those two advisors to quit their job because their position wasn't really tenable any longer, they couldn't really stay in that role and have the trust of the public because they had been seen to be doing something they weren't meant to do and that they were asking other people not to do as well.

So what I've got here is two multiple choice questions that we're going to go through just to check that you have been paying attention, that you're understanding what I've been explaining.

It's the first one here, which of these answers best describes why front pages are used to hold people to account? So they look pretty, it's an easy way to share key information about the story, they draw attention to the newspaper and the highest paid journalists always get published on the front page.

You've got about five seconds to make your decision, feel free to shout it out and remember, it may not just be one answer here.

So we've got two correct answers here, and those are options two and options three.

So yeah, they might look pretty, but that's not the primary aim of the front page.

And it's not always necessarily going to be the highest paid journalists it may well be, but it could be other journalists who managed to get a good story and so their story gets onto the front page.

For option two, a front page is an easy way to share key information about a story.

You have a very simple headline and possibly a picture, and it is a real overview of what you might find further inside the newspaper, depending on how big the story is, it could run to multiple pages inside the newspaper, but primarily it's about drawing attention to the newspaper.

So the biggest stories on the front to try and get people to look at it.

And if you think back to one of the previous lessons that we looked at, our brains are hardwired to respond more so to negative news than to positive news, which is why, if you did a bit of a statistical analysis of the front pages, they tend to be more about negative news than they do positive news.

So second question here, when I showed you those two newspaper front pages, what were the main stories on each front page about? Were they about qualified experts being given new jobs within the government, were they about people spreading false information about COVID-19? Were they about celebrities not answering questions asked by journalists, or were they about to political advisors acting against the advice that they were giving out? Five seconds.

And hopefully you've picked option four there because we had the two advisors who had both contradicted the instructions they had been giving out to the public.

So the final way of holding to account is something called investigative journalism, which can take a lot of time and money and perhaps that's why it seems to happen a lot less now than it did before.

So investigative journalism is a person or a group of people choose a specific issue that they are aware of, maybe they've been given a tip off about something and they do a whole lot of research and possibly do some covert or hidden interviews and try and gather enough evidence to then be able to publish the story.

So it's slightly different from standard journalism because they're not always a 100% upfront about who they are and what they're doing.

So this article is about an investigation, which was often called Cash for Influence or the Cash for Laws Scandal.

So in January 20, 2019 the Sunday Times published an article claiming that they had had interviews with former members of the House of Lords.

And in those interviews, those former members of the house of Lords had said that they would be able to use their own influence to change laws in exchange for money.

And this was a big deal because there's really clear rules about how Lords are allowed to act and what they are, and aren't allowed to do.

And specifically about not accepting money or other benefits based on their work or asking a question or voting a certain way in exchange for money.

So ultimately there was then a special committee set up in the House of Lords and they found that two of the four accused Lords had not done anything wrong, they hadn't broken the rules, but they did find the other two had broken the rules.

And so then the two had broken the rules, Lord Taylor of Blackburn and Lord Trust Scott were then suspended from the House of Lords for six months.

So there was an outcome from the initial news investigation taking place, and then having been published as well.

Suggest to check that you've understood each of those three different ways of holding people to account.

What I've got on the left hand side are three fictional situations that could take place and on the right, I've got the three different ways of holding to account.

And what I would like you to do is just take a little bit of time to try to match up which way of holding to account you think would be best for each of those scenarios.

So think about what might happen if a footballer was arrested for dealing drugs, think about what might happen if there was some sort of rumour about celebrities, avoiding parking tickets and not paying them.

I'm thinking about what might happen if a politician wanted to defend her decisions as a minister.

So give you a little bit of time if you need longer, feel free to pause here, and then you can continue on to see the answers in a moment.

So the first one here, a footballer has been arrested for dealing drugs.

The best option would be a newspaper front page because there's not going to be a big, massive investigative journalism task here.

This is about reporting the information and possibly holding them to account for what they've done through that publicity.

The second one is the rumour about the celebrities avoiding parking tickets.

Perhaps the journalist wants to do some further digging, maybe do some seeking of CCTV or eye witness statements, but gathering some more information before they go public with this claim or this rumour.

And a third one there, the politician wanting to depend her decisions as minister, the best option there would be for her to have an interview or possibly to then have a debate with another person, most likely going to be her shadow minister.

So the equivalent person from the opposition, the biggest other political party.

So what we're going to do now is we're going to look at what can happen when people are held accountable for their actions.

So I've got a specific case study that I want to tell you about, and then look at what happened afterwards as a result as well.

What we're going to look at is a story that is often referred to as the 'expenses' scandal.

So expenses refers to the money that members of parliament are able to claim back to ensure that they're able to do their work properly.

So for example, if you lived in Scotland and you were a member of parliament, it would probably be pretty difficult for you as an average Scottish person to be able to pay to live in London, to be in Westminster, to do debates and to try and gain some attention for whatever it is that you need for your legal constituency.

So expenses means that MPs can claim that money back for things that are really important for them to be able to do their job.

And it's this idea of what they can claim money back for that's really, really crucial here.

So in 2009, there was an instruction for people in parliament to make certain parts of expenses claims public to the people of the country.

And they were digitising the receipts and all the forms that were filled out.

And so digitising, it means basically scanning it and putting it onto a computer.

And one of the people who was involved in this process got quite unhappy at the fact that members of parliament were able to claim back money on top of the money that they were receiving for their job.

So most people might commute to work and they have to pay for their commute, they don't get that money reimbursed and so it was a frustration that this person found they had.

And ultimately they ended up getting in touch with The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Telegraph agree that they were going to publish this information.

However, they were very clear that they were going to not just target one political party.

So their political affiliation, like we mentioned in lesson three, that wasn't an issue here.

They were going to report fairly and evenly on every member of parliament, regardless of what it said.

So this picture here is the front page of the first, first time that the expense scandal was reported upon and for about two weeks every day, the front page was a different aspect of the story and it just kept getting bigger and bigger.

So the very first day, the reporters chose to report on the expenses of the cabinet members.

So the Prime Minister, the chancellor of Exchequer and other ministers who had high profile positions to try and hold them accountable for what they were claiming back.

Within a couple of days, the reporters then were trying to fulfil their promise about targeting or exposing all MPs, regardless of which party they were from and the Conservatives then had their information put on the newspaper as well.

So the most high profile conservative members who had been making some claims that possibly weren't essential, they were also then written about.

And then it continued on and we had stories about more members of parliament who also didn't want information getting out.

And ultimately there was some really interesting pieces of information that the journalists found, one of which was that one member of parliament had claimed 1,600 pounds for a duck house, which was to sit in the middle of a pond at his house in his constituency, so his main house.

So I don't think many people could really put forward an argument to say that that duck house had a big impact on his ability to then work as a Member of Parliament and to serve his constituency.

And so there was a lot of outrage when this came to light and lots of people really, really unhappy.

And one of the first consequences was that Gordon Brown, who was the Prime Minister at the time, he gave an apology on behalf of all MPs to the people of the United Kingdom and said, "Look, we're really sorry, this shouldn't have happened in this way." David Cameron, who was the leader of the opposition at the time, he then implemented new rules for the conservative members of parliament and said that certain things were going to be paid back to the public purse and so they were going to be refunding certain amounts of money if it was found that those purchases or those claims were not appropriate.

Initially the speaker, of the House of Commons said that he had done nothing wrong and he was more concerned that the information which was very private in nature had been leaked to the media.

And so that was his priority, not so much about the claims that had been made, but rather the fact that that information had got out.

And within about a week and a half, there was growing pressure on Michael Martin as the Speaker to step down from his position because the Speaker has to be neutral and has to be seen to not be favouring anyone party or individual over anyone else and he lost the support of the House.

So he lost the support of the Members of Parliament and so ultimately he stepped down, which was the first time in an incredibly long time that a speaker had had to quit their role in that way.

Very soon afterwards a number of ministers either quit their roles or said that they weren't going to contest the next election.

So this was 2009.

The next election was going to be in 2010.

So a lot of them very clearly said they weren't going to contest their seats again.

And actually one of those ministers was not a minister at the time, he was re-elected in 2010 and came to power in the coalition between the Conservatives and the Democrats and subsequent news reports then showed that his claims previously as well and so he then stepped down at that time.

So it was five very quickly and another one a year later.

Ultimately five members of parliament and two Lords were jailed either for having committed fraud or false accounting.

So a number of them went to court and seven representatives in total were sent to jail.

So you've, you can see a real outcome here where people were held accountable, not only in a political sense of not keeping their job or not being reelected, but actually being punished and properly punished for what they had done.

And ultimately a new system was set up a new organisation called IPSA, which was set up to make sure that Members of Parliament and Lords were acting appropriately in the expenses that they were claiming and that they weren't being fraudulent and that they weren't taking advantage of the system.

So for task three, what I would like you to do is look at the summary information about this story and that's in the worksheet.

So I've got a big grid of lots of different statements.

And what I'd like you to do is to use at least six of those pieces of information to write a paragraph summarising and explaining what happened in the expenses scandal.

So what was it about.

And you might find that you want to use the pieces of information as they are, and just use some short sentences to try and connect it and make the paragraph makes sense, or you might just want to use those pieces of information as more of a prompt to help you in shaping the paragraph that you're going to write.

What I then want you to do is to write an evaluation.

So you're going to decide whether or not you think it was appropriate for The Daily Telegraph to publish the articles and I would like you to explain the reasons for your opinion.

So it might be that you think that it is appropriate and then you would say that it is appropriate and you would explain why.

Alternatively, you might think actually The Daily Telegraph did the wrong thing and again, I'd like you to then justify your opinion and say, why you think that? So you can pause the video here so you can do that task.

Once you've paused it, click forward to go to the worksheet so you can see the different pieces of information, use at least six of them to write your paragraph and then evaluate whether or not you think the short story should have been published.

So in today's lesson, we looked at what holding to account means and kind of came to an idea about making sure that people are responsible for their actions, we looked at the three different ways in which the media holds people to account and then we looked at the expense scandal as an example of what can happen when people are held accountable for their actions.

Again, I really enjoy seeing the work that you're sharing on social media.

So please make sure that you're asking your parent or carer to share your work on Twitter, using the #learnwith Oak and tagging @OakNational.

We've got two lessons left so we're two thirds of the way through this topic now and I really hope that you're going to come back.

Next time, we're going to be looking at the concepts of misinformation and disinformation and whether or not we can really believe everything that we read and see on the news.