by Peter Cook
Bring on Leveson I say. We definitely need some kind of legal underpinning for regulation of the national press.
“Oh but we’ll be sacrificing 300 years of press freedom,” the editors whine.
Well they should have thought of that before they hacked into the phones of murder victims, trashed the reputations of suspects, bribed police officers and health officials and intruded into the private lives of people who happen to be famous.
In any case the press freedom that existed was always one-sided. Media moguls never hesitated to use “the power of the press” to influence the results of general elections. “It’s the Sun wot won it!”
These days the actions of politicians are governed, almost entirely, by how things will play out in the media.
Look at Blair sucking up to Murdoch. Look at Cameron, terrified to press for full implementation of what Leveson recommends, for fear of how the press will react.
So an unregulated press – which is what self regulation produces – impacts heavily on our democracy. Self regulation of the press just doesn’t work. That has been proved. If they were drinking in the Last Chance Saloon back in Thatcher’s day, surely it must be chucking out time by now.
A self regulated press would just wait until all the hoo-hah was over before lapsing into its old ways again.
People say that provisions of the law already cover irregularities and just have to be enforced for the press to clean up its act. But newspapers play a more subtle game than that.
Much of the misrepresentation is done by innuendo and suggestion, and the emphasis given to some stories in order to create an impression. It breaks no law. Besides you need very deep pockets to pursue and action for libel.
Regulation works for radio and television. Channel 4 News is robust and challenging and doesn’t live in fear of Ofcom.
Do you know what? A properly regulated press will produce better newspapers that people actually want to buy.
More and more people tell me they don’t buy a newspaper anymore because they’re “all full of lies”. And with one or two notable exceptions they are. I have to wash my hands several times if they come into contact with the Sun.
Let’s get this sorted out once and for all and produce newspapers that we can be proud of.