01 December 2012

Castrated at birth

Lord Justice Leveson recommended an independent regulator for the press which had “statutory underpinning”. That is, a body which would self-regulate the press but which had its foundation based in law, enshrining rights and responsibilities.

This is a very similar position to that of many professionals (such as lawyers and health care workers) in the UK.

Serving editors were to be excluded from the composition of the panel; and membership of the regulator was to be voluntary, but with sticks and carrots to try get all parties included.

However, the Prime Minister is against statutory underpinning, at least for the present, until the industry has been shown to be incapable of erecting a suitable and trustworthy body by itself. Remember, politicians were criticised for being too close to the press at times. Other politicians, perhaps those who weren’t so close to the press barons and editors, agree with Lord Leveson.

Drafting of legislation is in progress, but already the suspicion is that it will be produced in such a way as to make it unworkable, thus “proving” that legislation is not the answer.

Those against a statutory foundation talk of “statutory regulation” of the press, which Lord Leveson explicitly said was not what was intended. The regulation is “self-regulation” even if its foundation is based on law.

It’s quite clear that there are those who hope to avoid a statutory basis for their regulator through dissimulation, and to retain total control of the whole process.

Having previously failed to be properly (and pro-actively) self-regulating, the editors are now engaged in a scramble to try to invent an appropriate body, one which self-regulates them, but which they presumably also want to have quietly castrated at birth. It was clear to me from their evidence to the enquiry, that some editors and others in the press really wanted to continue as if nothing much had happened, but were willing to sign up to a process of veneering.

The campaigning organisation Hacked Off represents those many people who were at the wrong end of press coverage. They are organising a petition to support the victims of press abuses. Their website is here, from where you can sign the petition.

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