Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Leveson & The British Press: Tick Tock.....for journo-spivs....

The Prime Minister David Cameron is in an awkward situation. His instinct is to back his media chums and refrain from any attempt to control the press through statutory regulation. That view is also shared with the majority of his party's MPs, despite the supposed clamour from the general public that the press be controlled by legal means.

The Prime Minister has told newspaper proprietors that they must act quickly to appoint a press Overlord who will satisfy their need for independence and the public's apparent mood for some primeval vengeance against the media.

Disgust was rightly expressed over some of the phone-hacking activity, in particular that relating to murder victim Milly Dowler and the underhand attacks on missing Madeleine McCann's parents, but in reality is it really the vast majority of the public clamouring for legal control of the media, or a coalition of hacked-off celebrity victims with their own egotistical agenda, combined with the understandably angry "ordinary" victims like the McCann and Dowler families?

Britain is rightly proud of its press, even if some of the headlines often reflect that of owners with self-interest rather than free speech in mind. However, while there is justifiable concern at the arrogance of parts of the media, is it too easy for us to demand statutory action without understanding what that entails?

Do we really want the Civil Service, with its political masters, interfering in what is acceptable and not acceptable for the press to publish? How would we know that an intervention was for the right reasons and not just because it safeguarded the reputation of an individual with friends in high places?

Lives have been destroyed by the disgraceful behaviour of journo-spivs. But important stories have also been uncovered by journalists working on the edge of legality. Is it not better for the press to have a quasi-independent regulatory body, with the powers to really bite the hand that feeds it, rather than a statutory system that could ultimately squeeze the life out of free expression.

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