Leveson Inquiry: What Did The Newspapers Expect?

by Ray_North on November 30, 2012

The response by the press to the recommendation in the Leveson Report that there should be a statutorily based independent regulator, has ranged from the outright hostile – Daily Mail, ‘Leveson would end 300 years of free press’, to the mildly hostile – Guardian ‘many in the press will disagree with the conclusion, but no journalist should fool themselves. The fact that the industry is threatened with statutory controls is no one else’s fault.’

The consensus amongst the press appears to be, that they accept the bollocking that they were rightly given, but they would rather continue as a self-regulating industry than have any kind of regulation imposed upon them.

There was no way this was going to happen – there was no way that the Inquiry was going to conclude that the Press Complaints Commission, or the voluntary pseudo licensing arrangement suggested by Lords Black and Hunt were going to be satisfactory – their offences were simply too big for them to be allowed to continue to act as both sheriff and villain. Change was inevitable and surely they must now work with the politicians to ensure that the changes are the right ones to ensure that we have a responsible yet free press.

I actually, think that they have come out of this Inquiry in a far better way than they could have expected – by having their crimes aired in public, we have also been reminded of the very excellent standards of journalism that we mostly enjoy in this country and the fundamental importance of the freedom of the Press.

So with this good will and firm understanding of the fundamental necessity of a free press, surely, Newspapers have nothing to fear from the setting up of a regulatory body, that is enshrined in statute and is headed by someone who is entirely independent from the judiciary, Parliament and themselves?

Sadly, in response, some journalists have been vociferous in their opposition and have sounded like errant toddlers who, after being told off, are now threatening to throw their food on the floor.

The argument’s being trundled out by various hacks have been absurd. This morning we were told by Trevor Kavanagh of the Sun that any kind of statutory regulation was dangerous, when asked to expand, he conceded that there was little danger in the recommendations actually suggested by Leveson, but that it might be the start of the ‘slippery slope,’ and that a future government could use the legislation to further stifle the press.

What?

Let’s have a look at how that might work. If the legislation setting up an independent press regulator was amended to introduce rules in which government could control the press, that would require, one assumes, further legislation, that would be have to be passed by Parliament. There are only two scenarios in which this could possibly happen – first, is that we the people of the UK, have managed to elect some kind of dictator who plans to introduce a state regulated press for his own evil ends; or second, that the press has behaved in a way that is so reprehensibly bad that only such a draconian step is deemed suitable – and, it is hard to imagine what they could do that is worse than what they have already done.

Of course, the Press can influence both these scenarios – the second one, obviously, by improving their standards and procedures, and the first, by ensuring that they never support a political party that is likely to suppress them.

Other than that, surely, they should take their bollocking, accept that their readers want better of them, work positively with Parliament as it strives to set up a regulator and then abide by the new rules.

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