Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Bluff and brinkmanship over press regulation – and blogs?

Tue 19 March 2013, 6:38pm

You won’t find it said in the press as they are all inevitably biased as interested parties. But if most of the UK national newspapers are going to reject even a “dab” of statute in a new tougher but still “ voluntary” system of  press regulation, why didn’t they come out and say so ages ago rather than faffing about for months?

It’s left to a blog, to make the obvious point – leaving aside the one liner that blogs may somehow may be included in something or other sometime or face punitive damages.(  If Guido is ” a relevant publisher” what about Slugger? Your bank account might be safer abroad, even in Cyprus, Mick).

Ben Brogan may be right, to float the idea of the bigger press barons trying set up a regulator of their own . But all this prevarication has the smell of a forlorn hope about it. For one thing, who among the great and good outside the media would join it in defiance of united parliamentary opinion? Best to leave the challenge  to big details  like whether exemplary damages  for  non-joiners who offend  is a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights  (Isn’t it delicious btw  by the way to see the Europhobe Daily Mail making the case relying on the authority of the  loathed European Court?).  A cheaper easier system of dealing with complaints is necessary to avoid vexatious complaints that could finally see off the hard pressed  local papers.

Chris Blackhurst the editor of the  Indy may be right and call on the rest to submit. The egregious Max Mosley may be right too, that the press barons will fall into line to protect their dwindling investments.  If the press drag their feet too long, it could get ugly. Politicians might be tempted to withdraw a public interest defence from the Defamation Bill and the Tory press would scream retribution at the politicians. To coin a cliché- this one will run and run.

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Comments (6)

  1. In 1599, at Croshy Duff, in the Queen’s County, the English army had to pass through a passage called Cahells:

    His Lordship [the Lord Lieutenant, i.e. the Earl of Essex] to make his way through this passage with security divided his army into three battles. Before the vanguard marched the forlorn hope consisting of 40 shot and 20 short weapons, with order that they should not discharge, until they presented their pieces to the rebels’ chests in their trenches.. [John Dymmok, A Treatise upon Ireland]

    That’s my contribution on local colour for this thread, and one of the earliest usages of “forlorn hope” in the English language — though it may have been a borrowing from the Dutch, verloren hoop ["lost troop"].

    But nothing so forlornest as Murdoch’s sally into an expectation that HM Queenie will refuse to sign the Charter, because she “doesn’t do politics”.

    The dissident press lords blew it some time back: if they were going rogue, outside the system, they should have said so way back. Now it just looks like sour grapes.

    As for Trevor Kavanagh, of the Sun, getting all moralistic and high-principled — this week of all weeks, caught in possession of Siobhain McDonagh’s stolen mobile phone — the senses reel. Oh, and don’t miss out that this little irruption of ne’er-do-wellishness updates the Murdoch press ignoring all things legal and decent into the period of the ConDem government. Leopards and spots, perhaps?

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  2. Malcom,

    Interesting that you use the word “sally”. Until I was doing the Sunday Times crossword today, I only knew of it in the sense that you use. I was surprised to find out that it is also a witty retort.

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  3. Big question is whether adverts (with their small stream of revenue) make a group political blog “a business”? And whether the blog owner/editor or a blog post author is liable …

    Interesting times.

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  4. I can’t see how “they” can hope to control blogs. It shouldn’t be too hard to keep an eye on a handful of major newspapers but 100s of thousands of blogs which can be hosted from anywhere in the world? They might as well try to herd cats.

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  5. Harrumpf!

    Some blogs (and other e-presences — e.g. Twitter and Facebook) are one jump away from scrawls on the urinal wall.

    Now, here’s an interesting thing: whenever it suits the ‘establishment’ to bring them to ‘justice’ (for example, during the August 2011 riots), them-as-rules-us do so with remarkable rapidity.

    Other operations (for obvious examples Paul “by name and by nature” Staines and his ever-pursuivant window-lickers) are unlicensed to do as they will. Any degree of personal abuse and misrepresentation is accepted. Must Gordon Brown be forever ‘the prime mentalist’?

    So: a conclusion —

    The gross trans-illegalities enjoyed by the likes of the Murdoch gutter press must, repeat must be brought under restraint. The existing laws ought to have done so; but obviously didn’t.

    The responsible e-media shouldn’t have anything to fear. In the case of the excellent Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service and its like, since very few pay any attention, the perpetrator is in the clear. And he is pretty measured, too.

    When we arrive at more significant web-presences (such as Slugger O’Toole), what we notice is that they are very well moderated.

    That leaves … what? Well, the excesses found on Guido Fawkes’s columns and — to their eternal discredit — in places like the Daily Mail comments. If these want to continue, then they must obviously be as well moderated as this site is.

    All this, and more. was well-established under the First Amendment to the US Constitution as early as 1919 in Schenck v. United States. Charlie Schenck was the Secretary of the Socialist Party of America and was found guilty under the Espionage Act of 1917, of distributing anti-draft flyers. He appealed, all the way up to the Supreme Court, that his First Amendment rights had been infringed. The Court rejected Schenck’s appeal because (in Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous dictum): “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”

    Can anyone believe that the notoriously-’liberal’ UK Supreme Court (against which the Daily Mail frequently rails) would find differently?

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  6. Seamuscamp (profile) says:

    Unfortunately most of the Press fails to distinguish between “freedom” and “licence”. If the Press is not to be controlled in any way by statute, we would be relying on the ethical integrity of some people who have demonstrated a willingness to break the law in the interest of tittilating readership. “Public Interest” self-servingly is taken to be anything which the proprietor/editor/journalist deems to be of interest to the public.

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