Leveson report: the self-regulation carrot with the legislative stick

It may be some time before Slugger posters finish reading the 1988 pages of Lord Justice Leveson’s report into his Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press. So here’s a short post in the meantime! [48 page Executive Summary; four volume full report]

He said that the press had “wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people” for many decades and called their behaviour (at times) “outrageous”. The report’s executive summary comments:

Phone hacking is most decidedly not all that is amiss with the way in which some parts of the press have operated some of the time.

If the News of the World hadn’t closed in July 2011, it surely would have had to after today’s report which included the statement:

… at the News of the World, quite apart from phone hacking, there was a failure of systems of management and compliance. None of the witnesses were able to identify who was responsible for ensuring compliance with an ethical approach to journalism and there was a general lack of respect for individual privacy and dignity.

It’s no surprise that Leveson called for the establishment of a new independent regulatory body for the press (continuing self-regulation to an extent) backed up with legislation to ensure it was acting effectively. Independence should be demonstrated by serving editors (and MPs) not sitting on the PCC’s replacement body.

While some politicians had “too close a relationship with the press”, the bond between the police and journalists was not on the whole a cause for worry, though the report points to some areas for improvement.

The spotlight now falls to politicians to agree (or for a majority to agree) how to implement the judge’s recommendations in a way that combines the self-regulation carrot with the legislative stick without introducing a risk of political interference in the press (now or at a later date).

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  • Mick Fealty

    Greenslade’s analysis is on the money: http://goo.gl/PLdpS

    Clever and sound plan. But wait for the deafening sound of the press lobby try to get MPs to bin it.

    In which case, back to the drawing board?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Government shouldn’t rush into legislating without careful debate about ensuring that the Press isn’t curtailed in any way from its role in exposing misdeeds of politicians, for example. Perhaps there needs to be an easier, cheaper, way for individuals to be able to sue the newspapers for their misdeeds. Funded by the Press?

  • sherdy

    ‘Self regulatory carrot with legislative stick’ – and a bucket of whitewash for the police.
    Seems those who jumped overboard were too quick off the mark.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Please sir, can I ask a question?

    I thought the press was already heavily regulated by a group call OFCOM, they regulate TV, Radio, Internet, etc. where the vast majority recieve their only news from, so why should the dead tree press be above the law?

  • zemblan

    I don’t think the government should legislate at all. The merging of corporate, political, and police interests, is a serious cause for concern; but there are already laws on the books to deal with this sort of thing! If the CPS was functioning properly, and if the cross-over between the police and the press was not so toxic, then we’d probably have several very important people behind bars at this point.

    I think there’s a great deal to be said for ideals of liberal theory, at least when it comes to the idea of free speech. We have already witnessed a spate of cases this year in which stiff sentences were passed out to people who committed very minor crimes. At the same time, a rather oppressive Communications Bill is about to be voted on in the House of Commons. This Bill, according to the BBC, will “monitor all Britons’ online activity” and “require firms to retain the basic details of people’s activity on websites, social networking sites, webmail, internet phone calls and online gaming for a year and release it if required” ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20157059 ). Which is all very Orwellian.

    The absolute last thing we need is for the state to further intrude into the lives of ordinary citizens, and to curtail their right to freedom of expression. Obviously Cameron has decided not to go down this particular route, and I think we can be very thankful for this. Although Labour has been making noises in the direction of statutory legislation, which is not exactly a progressive track to take. We can only hope that the recommendations of Fleet Street are such that no further tampering is required.