Leveson Inquiry: MPs warn against press regulation law

 

Hugh Grant: Newspapers shouldn't be ''marking their own homework''

More than 80 MPs and peers have urged the man carrying out an inquiry into UK media standards not to recommend a press regulation law.

The cross-party group, including eight former cabinet ministers and London Olympics chairman Lord Coe, says any such move would damage press freedom.

Lord Justice Leveson is due to publish his report on Thursday.

The group, which has written to the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, wants a stronger "self-regulatory" system.

The Leveson Inquiry was established by the prime minister in July last year and looked into the culture, practices and ethics of the press.

It was commissioned following allegations of illegal phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has already warned politicians not to pre-empt its findings, will receive his copy of the report at lunchtime on Wednesday - 24 hours before its details are made public.

'State licensing'

Start Quote

Leveson demonstrated not a sole failure of regulation but rather of law enforcement”

End Quote Cross-party group of MPs

Lord Justice Leveson was asked to produce a list of recommendations for a more effective policy and regulatory regime for the press, which would preserve its independence while encouraging higher ethical and professional standards.

At the moment the press is self-regulated through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

Lord Justice Leveson is widely expected to recommend some form of statutory regulation overseen by an independent body.

But the politicians, led by former Labour home secretary David Blunkett and Conservative MP Conor Burns, argue in their letter this could be detrimental to free speech, saying: "As parliamentarians, we believe in free speech and are opposed to the imposition of any form of statutory control even if it is dressed up as underpinning."

They add: "No form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing - abolished in Britain in 1695. State licensing is inimical to any idea of press freedom and would radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution.

Conor Burns MP: ''Statutory regulation should be an absolute last resort''

"There are also serious concerns that statutory regulation of the print media may shift the balance to the digital platforms which, as recent events have shown through the fiasco of Newsnight-Twitter, would further undermine the position of properly moderated and edited print journalism."

The group - which includes Commons culture media and sport committee chairman John Whittingdale, Downton Abbey writer Lord Fellowes, former Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd and ex-cabinet ministers Lord Tebbit, Liam Fox, John Redwood and Peter Lilley - has written to the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph,

It backs a proposal from former PCC chairman Lord Hunt and Lord Black, one-time chairman of the body that finances the commission, for a "totally new" version of the regulator.

They propose an independent body with increased powers to investigate complaints and illegal behaviour, levy fines of up to £1m and award compensation, and enforce membership by newspapers for the first time.

'Open-minded'

Start Quote

It is not often that the prime minister, his deputy and their most senior advisers clear their diaries”

End Quote

Some campaigners say the current system of self-regulation, overseen by the Press Complaints Commission, is inadequate and that tougher rules are needed to curb newspapers' excesses.

Earlier this month, 42 Conservative MPs and peers wrote to the Guardian arguing in favour of some form of statutory underpinning for press regulation.

Broadcaster Anne Diamond, who gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about her experience with the press, told BBC Breakfast that "self-regulation has been given its chance and it hasn't worked".

"The only way to have some real teeth behind some agreed code of conduct is to have some kind of statutory underpinning... You have to change the culture and the enforcement."

Possible options for regulation

  • Statutory regulation: Stricter regulation of the press, enforceable by law
  • Statutory underpinning: Self-regulatory body with statutory framework which enforces newspapers to sign up
  • New Press Complaints Council: Tougher self-regulation body with investigative arm. One proposal suggests body should be independent from newspaper industry
  • Newspaper ombudsman: Self-regulatory body, working alongside PCC, to deal with standards

The actor Hugh Grant, who has been campaigning for stricter press regulation, told Breakfast: "What people are campaigning for is an end to newspapers being able to regulate themselves... because that is what has resulted in the kind of abuses of people like the Dowlers, the McCanns, Christopher Jefferies."

He added: "The only industry in this country which is allowed to regulate itself is the newspaper industry... We need a proper regulator, an independent regulator, meaningful, that will need some statute to oblige newspapers to sign up to it."

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust charity, said the challenge for Lord Justice Leveson was to balance the need for some sort of redress for "ordinary people" with freedom of the press.

It is up to David Cameron to decide whether to implement Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.

Downing Street has said the prime minister was "open-minded" about the future regulation. Previously he said he intended to implement the findings of the Leveson inquiry, provided they were not "bonkers".

But the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says the coalition is preparing for the possibility that it may be divided by the report's recommendations, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg less likely to be hostile to Lord Justice Leveson's proposals.

 

More on This Story

The Leveson report

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 108.

    A responsible press with integrity should be free. Current Journalism has been shown to be irresponsible, lacking integrity and unable to uphold standards by self regulation, sacrificing these at the altar of circulation and profit. The press and politicians clamoured to end self-regulation in the professions, it is hypocrisy for them now to argue against proper regulation for themselves.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 107.

    I always understood that the 'free' in 'free press' meant that they were supposed to be politically neutral (which is a laugh anyway) but apparently it means 'free to do whatever the hell they like'.

    Independant regulation is not mutually exclusive to press honesty and the public interest. Self reglation doesn't work, because the press doesn't want it to work. People do not trust the press.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 106.

    Why should the media be treated different to the rest of us? A large section of the press were assisted in their disregard of the privacy of members of the public, by bent police, politicians and state employees. All were not equally guilty but all must obey the law. As they have demonstrated, in the absence of control, the press will make its own laws to suit their own often malign purposes.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 105.

    The press have abused their privilege of "freedom of speech" for years. It cannot be allowed to continue in its current form.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 104.

    This article shows what the problem is. All this comment about a report that hasn't yet been made public.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 103.

    We need a free press. It will be the thin end of the wedge if the press is regulated. Who regulates the regulators? Why is Hugh Grant acting as the victim...like most "celebrities" and I use the word lightly, he is very happy for publicity when it suits him. On TV he kept saying that 80% of the British public want the press regulated when in fact 80% of those who responded to the survey.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 102.

    Self regulation is bound to result in corruption, whether it be with the press "regulating" itself, or bbc investigating its own coverups.

    The problem is, which organisation in this secular culture is just and independent to investigate?

    this inquiry has shown collusion and corruption at the highest police, government and media levels.

    corrupt cultures need to repent and seek the one Creator

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 101.

    Does it really matter?. They'll only do whatever fits their agenda at the time, and to hell with the consequences.

    The media and politicians wouldn't recognise the truth if it bit them on the ....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 100.

    The balance between free speech and preventing invasion of privacy is not that difficult to maintain... until the public wants to hear all sorts of irrelevant details about people's private lives. However, in most cases enforcement of existing laws would be sufficient to protect people from intrusion so why not try that first?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 99.

    The other thing desperately required is to include limits on press ownership.

    An individual should only be allowed to own a single national media outlet.

    This would immediately reduce the power and influence of wealthy individuals and help clean up politics.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 98.

    The press always want to hide their underhand, intrusive behavior in order to sensationalize what they report behind the 'importance of press freedom', which of course is important however they never take any responsibility when they get it wrong but just tiptoe away with impunity. Ever heard them reporting on something you know quite a lot about?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    Just like any other group,there are bad journalists but also some very good ones,and who are brave enough to stand up and be counted,like those who stood up to the bullying threats of Archer and his ilk.The balances and safeguards are already there,it's just lack of courage that allowed the phone hackers to prosper.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 96.

    Keep the politicians out of regulation, this is all about the establishment getting back at the press for exposing their crimes or misdamenours. We need the press free to investigate and expose.

    It is noticable that when this was only about MP's or celebrities, no-one was really interested. General public need ability for easy recourse, others who live by sword should die by the sword.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 95.

    My concern here isnt press freedom - its that the govt have clearly already made up their mind regardless of the outcome of the report.

    Whats the point of an independent inquiry if politicians ignore the findings? It turns the whole thing into an ironic media circus.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 94.

    Look where press freedom has taken us. How will laws requiring the press to properly regulate itself curb the freedom of the press? As for the press being the bastion of public protection how did they let Savile and Smith through their clutches. The press is part of the political elite and misuses its powers at the behest of it's political masters and their propaganda requirements.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 93.

    Lack of regulation didn't work for the banks, did it ?

    How will it work for newspapers ?

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 92.

    @Ben
    "Most of these Tory MPs are elected on the basis on misinformation and right wing scare mongering of the 'free' press."

    What a patronising comment! So only you can see through the scare mongering, but the silly proles just need your guiding hand to know what's right. Have you thought that maybe people that buy those papers actually like them? Nobody is force to read them. Live and let live.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 91.

    The Press Complaints Commission and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission are clearing houses for bad behaviour in the media. My own first-hand experience with the BCC taught me that ordinary people will never in a million years get justice in this country. Leveson will change nothing.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 90.

    Just who does Rupert Murdoch think he is ? He isn't even British, yet he feels he can interfere in our domestic politics.

    Roll on September 2013, and a certain court case or two. I can't wait.

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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