University leads major project exploring press regulation and ethics across Europe

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  • University of Sheffield’s Department of Journalism Studies leads study comparing press regulation and ethics across 12 European countries
  • Project will explore how the work of press councils intersects with the law and impacts on the work of media professionals
  • Findings of best practice will inform the workings of press regulations in the UK

The University of Sheffield’s Department of Journalism Studies is leading a major research project to compare press regulation and ethics across 12 European nations.

While the ethics of the British media have been the focus of both academic and public scrutiny, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project will break new ground in comparing the practices of the UK press and its regulators in the 12 countries that lead the World Press Freedom rankings.

The study will have far-reaching social impact – benefiting individual journalists, regulatory bodies, advocacy groups for media freedom and ethics, and groups who have been discriminated against by sections of the press, as well as the wider public good of better journalism.

Dr John Steel, from the University’s Department of Journalism Studies, is leading the project with colleagues from Sheffield and the Universities of Leeds and Durham University.

He said: "Our interdisciplinary project seeks to address long-standing issues around journalism ethics and regulation and their consequences for those working in journalism as well as those who are affected by journalism's practices and products.

"As news workers – traditional and non-traditional – face a range of technological, legal and economic challenges, I am delighted to be leading this AHRC-funded project which will produce high-impact, evidence-based research that will benefit academic and non-academic partners in the UK and overseas."

The Defining Freedom of the Press project will look at how the work of press councils in the 12 countries intersects with the law and impacts directly on the work of media professionals – giving a clearer picture of how regulation works in practice rather than theory.

Utilising document analysis, interviews, focus groups, stakeholder workshops, an online course and public exhibition, the research will develop a set of recommendations and benchmarks for freedom of the press that more accurately reflects the current news work environment, and better serves the press as a set of institutions and the public who rely on it.

The project's findings of best practice can be used to inform the workings of press regulation in the UK, setting more comprehensive standards for the media to support news publishers in achieving a new status and profile.

The team says this, in turn, will allow publishers both to pursue the classical liberal rationale for journalism as 'watchdog' or 'fourth estate' and to challenge the hegemony of the corporate press.

The University's Department of Journalism Studies was launched in 1994 and within ten years has become one of the major journalism teaching and research establishments in the UK.

The Department strives to provide both theoretical and professional teaching based on the highest journalistic and academic standards.

It has an excellent network of international contacts in both the media industry and the academic world, and its staff have built close ties with regional institutions and local print, broadcast and online media.

Find out more about the Defining Freedom of the Press project

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Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

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