Leveson Report: Analysis

Lord Justice Leveson holds a summary of his report Lord Leveson recommends a new independent system of press regulation

For editors, publishers and - not least - newspaper proprietors, this is a damning report.

Lord Justice Leveson not only recommends statutory 'underpinning' for a new independent system of press regulation - rejecting the industry's own proposal for a new body as "not going nearly far enough" to demonstrate independence from publishers.

He also delivers withering verdicts on the behaviour of many journalists and editors, "wholly rejecting" the suggestion that these are "aberrations and do not reflect on the culture, practices or ethics of the press as a whole"

He says parts of the press acted as if its own code simply did not exist and "wreaked havoc" with the lives of innocent people. Ordinary members of the public, caught up in tragic events, had their experiences "made much much worse by press behaviour that, at times, can only be called outrageous".

He goes on: "There has been a recklessness in prioritising sensational stories, almost irrespective of the harm that the stories may cause and the rights of those who would be affected, like the Dowlers, the McCanns and Abigail Witchalls."

Lord Justice Leveson is particularly critical of the publishers of the News of the World, over their response to the conviction of the paper's royal correspondent for hacking into phone messages.

He writes: "Most corporate entities would be appalled that employees were involved in the commission of crime in order to further their business. Not so at the News of the World. When the police sought to execute a warrant, they were confronted and driven off by the staff of the newspaper."

But it wasn't only the News of the World that behaved unethically, he says: "Too many stories in too many newspapers were the subject of complaints from too many people, with too little in the way of titles taking responsibility or considering the consequences for the individuals involved."

There had been a "reckless disregard for accuracy."

So how does he propose it should be put right?

Lord Justice Leveson says the Press Complaints Commission has failed and must be replaced. Newspapers should not be allowed "to mark their own homework".

He says: "The press needs to establish a new regulatory body, which is truly independent of industry leaders and of government and politicians. It must promote high standards of journalism and protect both the public interest and the rights of individuals. The chair and other members of the body must be independent and appointed by a fair and open process."

He says the new body would handle complaints and there could be sanctions for papers that broke the code, including the power to levy fines of up to 1% of a paper's turnover, to a maximum of £1m

But - and this is where his proposal will be opposed by many newspapers - he also says it must be set up by law: "There should be legislation to underpin the independent self-regulatory system."

He says the new law would enshrine for the first time a legal duty on the government to protect the freedom of the press, and provide an independent process to recognise the new self-regulatory body.

In the "regrettable event" that any major publisher refused to join such a scheme, he suggests that one option would be for Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, to act as a backstop regulator, though he does not recommend this.

Lord Justice Leveson insists that "this is not, and cannot be characterised, as statutory regulation of the press".

But one newspaper senior executive I've spoken to says "this is sophistry".

The press will continue to oppose the state having any role in its regulation. This is where the political battle lines will now be drawn.

Torin Douglas Article written by Torin Douglas Torin Douglas Former media correspondent

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The Leveson report


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  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Something needs to be done, at the moment papers aren't worried if they make a mistake. They rarely get taken to court, and if they are they are less likley to be made bankrupt than those making the complain due to huge court costs. Lets hope that cameron is not too scared to actually do what needs to be done

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Failure to adopt the recommendations in this report will lead to Camerons downfall - it is very simple. In principle the press regulate the government and the government 'regulate' the press - The status quo favours back-scratching whereas the recommendations in the report favour independant oversight. Only a fool would ignore this report.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Cameron doesn't get it does he? He is still best friends with the press. Does he think we don't see that? Well, Cameron - forget your mates, you have to act like the prime minister now. Ditch Becky and Coulson and act for the Dowlers and the McCanns and the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I once had occasion to report the Daily Express to the PCC over a badly misleading story, of a sort the often publish. No point: The Daily Express chooses not to be subject to the PCC.

    Can we really allow that to happen?

    We also need some way to challenge the regulator if they fail to be impartial. Cameron talks about people with too much power, and the one-word answer to that is "Murdoch".

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The press are already regulated. It's called the law. If there is a conspiracy to break the law that is condoned by the management of a company, and the company's stockholders and managers profit from the illegal activity, then how is that different from organized crime? The solution to phone-hacking and police bribery by the press is prosecution under racketeering laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    So another expensive enquiry sets out a well considered and wise set of solutions for politicians to render pointless by doing what they were always going to do anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    What a load of Cameron waffle this afternoon siding with his press
    baron friends and the Chipping Norton set. Leveson makes it clear the legal underpinning is a last resort but needs to be there to give any
    regulatory system real meaning. Hopefully Milliband and Clegg will join
    forces to make aure this happens in accordance with the overwhelming amount of public opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    As expected, Leveson has delivered balanced and practical findings and recommendations.

    The only thing that disturbs me at all is the size of the sanctions for breaking the code. Might some companies risk a penalty of 1% of turnover capped at £1m, if they are chasing a high value story?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    So DC has caved in already to the press barons, in the expectation of an easy ride in 2015. Without legislation to underpin the regulator, I'll give it three years before it's business as usual with the same top to bottom abuse of newsprint power, against anyone who gets in the way of a good story . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Cameron was supposed to defend the people against the press. Instead, he's defending the press against the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    So, the overwhelming majority of voters want Leveson as proposed, the Labour bench does, the Liberal bench probably does, but the Tories and their big business friends in the press do not. How very surprising! Do we elect these people to do what their friends want, or what we want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    All Leveson is saying is that press freedom needs an enforceable control system. Members of the public also have free speech and if they abuse it, by slandering someone for example, then they are subject to the sanction of the law. Similar rules need to apply to the press too. This can be done without threatening the freedom of the press. Freedom is not by definition "without limits".

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Just from the short time I have spent listening to the commons debate on Leveson, Cameron doesn't have the backbone to make the legislation to implement recommendations, thereby letting down people who have been hacked and intimidated by the press. Nothing to do with his friendship with the likes of Rebecca Brookes of course. I hope Clegg sicdes with Labour, he'll restore his own credibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Some predictions. Millions spent on producing a report that finds journalism is sometimes shoddy. Any industry that self regulates will abuse this position. Cameron press will reject the report. Miliband will endorse it. They will disagree about how to do it all. It will get kicked into the trees behind the long grass. The situation will carry on as before. The world will keep turning

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The gutter press should reap what they have sown - and nowadays gutter means most of them. Even the so called "quality" press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The whole thing is ludicrous. The press and others broke the existing law and some are now being held to account.

    What Leveson seems to be saying is that now it will not just be wrong, against good practice and illegal, it will be really, really wrong and illegal!

    All that is needed is a mechanism for the little person to be able to defend themselves without needing a huge amount of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Cameron won't fined his back bone coz he does what he is told when he is told by his big biss mates, after all he is setting himself up for a nice job when he is kicked out next time round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Now it's time for Cameron to find his backbone and implement Leveson in full, no ifs and buts, no more 'last chances'.

    Free speech demands protection where (i) it is true and (ii) there is public interest. It is not an absolute right but has to be balanced with lawful privacy rights.

    Hopefully market forces will soon shut down porno peddling tabloid lie sheets anyway.


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