Tag Archives: Leveson

Press Regulation: Dream or Reality?

Since I started this blog, I’ve seen some horrendous examples of bad journalism, ranging from the badly researched to the downright dangerous. I’ve read stories about people being hounded to suicide by irresponsible reporting. I’ve seen headline news later turn out to be pure fiction. I’ve read vitriolic rants that would make the BNP baulk.

So, despite wanting to go into journalism, press regulation does not seem like a bad idea to me.

I know that I am not alone in my thinking, but also know that there are many that would oppose me, and for various reasons.

The Leveson report stated that the press should regulate themselves. This is a different concept to simply doing as they please- media groups should agree in advance where the line stands, and what happens when they cross it.

While this seems like a soft option, it may be the only one available.

The Daily Mail and the Mirror have categorically stated that they will not accept any form of press regulation. They claim that it violates the Freedom of the Press.

I could draw any number of preposterous comparisons here, but the one thing I need to convey is that these media groups have stated their intention to break the law if one is made. This would make any sort of press regulation utterly unenforceable.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, having exchanged text messages with rich baddie Rebekah Brooks, needs to make it look like we’re still all in this together. So he needs to press for regulation.

This is something that the red and yellow teams also want, but, as they aren’t actually in a position of genuine power, are free to say anything they want about it. So they want hanging for anyone caught with a dictaphone, full censorship and Piers Morgan’s head on a spike (for the lols).

The Ed Miller Band, who seemed like a serious politician until he started automatically gainsaying whatever Cameron said, apparently wanted the press regulation to be enshrined in law. While lovely for the Dowlers of this world, this would also unfortunately play into the hands of any corrupt politicians who wanted to keep things nice and quiet.

So, the Royal Charter solution is a token, a sticker on the chest of David Cameron saying that he did his best. It won’t make morally fragile investigative journalism any more fluffy, and, if the chilling responses from the nation’s press are anything to go by, it won’t make the tiniest bit of difference at all, ever, and it’s just been a massive waste of everyone’s time, money and attention span.

It was denounced, it must be said, by the usual suspects. The Mirror issued a monosyllabic response: “The cobbled together blanket law will blow up in Britain’s face. Next time a prime minister denounces the censorship of a Mugabe they’ll have a ready retort…Despots will take heart from Britain beating the press.”

I think my IQ just dropped by 70 points just reading that.

The Independent, Telegraph and (doubt it not) Sun were more level-headed, but the very worst strops came from the bloggers. Fleet Street Fox claimed that the government were trying to revoke freedom of speech- something I can’t even bring myself to argue with this time. If you want my take, go through my back catalogue. The Telegraph’s Peter Oborne threw his NUJ (National Union of Journalists) membership card in the bin in a paddy, for their sympathies toward press regulation.

If there’s something that highlights, it’s that baddie journalism is the preserve of the few, and not the many. So, perhaps once all those who like writing about minorities as if they’re freak shows, and stalking innocent people because it’s “in the public interest” have stomped off to the Mail, we might actually see a brighter future for journalism.

Fingers crossed, eh?

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News waits for no man

I had been hoping to settle in gradually. More fully explain my reasoning in defecting from Blogger to WordPress. But no, the third in line to the throne had to bare his bum in a Las Vegas hotel room.

To some people, this is exciting because they can see pictures of the royal behind. This blog isn’t for you, but if you email me I can send you some colouring sheets.

The dignified press, on the other hand (or those who like to think themselves so) have gone for other angles. The BBC tried ‘Is it now normal to get drunk and take your clothes off?’. The one I like, and shall be pursuing in my usual fashion, is ‘Has Leveson got everyone scared?’

If the pictures in the Sun this morning are anything to go by, no. They were accompanied by the devilishly taunting line, ‘Pic of naked Harry you’ve already seen on the internet’. Now, for a newspaper famous for having an audience reading age of five, that’s clever.

I’m not going to lie, I like the Sun. The cryptic crossword makes me feel like a real grown-up and it’s the most popular daily in the country for a reason. It dares to get the stories other papers wouldn’t dream of. Yes, the reading age is a bit low, but it’s inclusive. News belongs to everyone- not just Russell Group and Oxbridge graduates.

So, why, if news is all this was about, would a newspaper publish photographs that anyone could see online if they wanted? And admit that it wasn’t a new picture?

The managing editor of the Sun, David Dinsmore, made it clear: ‘This is about the freedom of the press.’

People are in uproar. It is illegal to publish photographs that invade an individual’s privacy unless there is a pressing public need. Which there clearly isn’t, because anyone who ‘needed’ to see pictures of the prince’s naked bum could just go online. However, it must be said that all the experts the BBC wheeled out to speak against the Sun could have been voiced by Sir Talbot Buxomly, fictional Tory MP in Blackadder the Third.

That’s how it was in my head, anyway.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, expressed perhaps naive concern that ‘this is more about trying to boost circulation of their newspapers’. The most Buxomleyesque by far was Brian Cathcart of antijournalism campaign group Hacked Off, who declared, ‘this is about the Sun’s right to trample over the industry’s own feeble rules when it likes, and also to invade people’s privacy whenever it chooses.’

I don’t know whether it was a conscious decision by the BBC to pick on the most splutteringly outraged quotes to present the anti-Sun angle, but it was a nice touch. As impartial as they’re supposed to be, the fact is that everyone who writes for them is a journalist of some kind, and will feel some sort of fraternal bond.

I could spend all day cherry-picking the neatest points, but I think by far the most succinct, intelligent and clear statement came from media commentator Steve Hewlett. ‘There comes a point of kind of common sense, when it’s so widely available that it’s simply, it’s almost meaningless and potentially quite an improper infringement on liberty to try and restrict it.’

Okay, so I lied about the succinct part, but it is a very difficult point to try and argue against.

Pictures of Prince Harry’s backside are neither here nor there. This is about something bigger.¬†News-gathering requires standards. Although not a standard-bearer for quality news writing, the Sun does lay claim to some of the most hardened investigative journalists in the country.

By publishing the pictures, the Sun made a statement: Leveson will not stop them, and to try is unfair. Yes, impose restrictions on print journalism for the sake of quality, however, when unregulated and factually dubious organisations are free to publish whatever they like online, how can print journalism survive?

I’m not sure whether we need newspapers any more. I’m not saying we don’t, but I’d have to have a very strong opinion one way or the other to justify myself. However, the papers are sitting ducks. They’re too expensive, inconvenient and over-regulated to survive. No wonder they’ve gone haywire.

The Sun made a stand where other papers sat back. Which is why I won’t be buying the Independent or the Mirror (not that I ever have) ever again.

Indie editor Chris Blackhurst: “He was only doing, let’s face it, what a lot of Sun readers do every weekend on stag parties and they don’t expect to be on the front page of that morning’s paper.”

Nice. Very in-touch. The Mirror also made a statement full of weasel words which was quite boring actually, so I’m not going to try and quote it, but let’s just say it put me in mind of Walter the Softie.

I can think of no better way of rounding off than to leave you with Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s reaction on the discovery of the pictures: ‘deafening indifference’.