Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Leveson : the only way is ethics

Sometime today, David Cameron will get an advance copy of the findings of the inquiry into press standards by Lord Justice Leveson. Among other papers on his desk will be letters from tory colleagues calling for tougher press controls with others claiming that state regulation would be the 'greatest threat to newspapers in 300 years'.

It’s a tough call for the prime minister who himself set up the inquiry and who arguably prompted the whole mess in the first place when he gave Andy Coulson a job.

Cross-party calls coming from politicians in a letter to the Telegraph are for a more effective self-regulatory system rather than statutory controls. But 42 of his backbenchers have tabled moves for new laws to keep newspapers in check.

What needs to be remembered in all the to and fro is that the necessity for Leveson came about when revelations of the practices of phone-hacking and payments to public officials within sections of the press were dragged to the surface by the rest of the media. Only then did most MPs raise their heads above the battlements.

As such, the political establishment needs to exercise a little caution before dismissing the matter as simply finding a means of curbing the excesses of commercially driven newsgathering. The recent fiasco of inaccuracies and defamation at the Beeb is surely symptomatic of a more widespread professional malaise.

Proprietors, or rather their well-heeled lobbyists, claim that the fact that Coulson, Brooks and others now face trial for their misdeeds shows that an adequate arrangement of checks and balances already exists via the legal system. Further constraints would be unwelcome and probably unworkable, say the private briefings. Broad legislation would be too clumsy to distinguish between the privacy of individuals affected by tragedy crime and the unrestrained use of super-injunctions to protect commercial reputations.

It’s a neat argument but Cameron and his advisors know that far too much toothpaste has come out of the tube. There remains an indisputable requirement for a new ethical code for press standards in the UK. Whatever regime would be best to apply and enforce it is something that Leveson could well share with the rest of us tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Matt MkII11:36

    Not sure I subscribe to the views expressed but this has GOT to be the headline of the day.


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