Leveson Inquiry: Summary of week nine

Mark Thompson: "It was appropriate to ask the question is there any evidence"

The Leveson Inquiry widened its focus beyond newspapers this week, with witnesses from the worlds of broadcasting, social media and women's campaign groups.

As executives from ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC took the stand, the BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten, a former MP himself, seemed to agree with Private Eye editor Ian Hislop that politicians had grown too close to journalists and media organisations.

Lord Patten said: "I think politicians in office, or for that matter some of them out of office, would sleep better at night and make better decisions if they weren't quite as affected by the front pages of the newspapers."

Meanwhile, the BBC director general Mark Thompson stated there was "no evidence whatsoever" any BBC journalist had hacked a telephone.

Tuesday's focus was on the how the media represents women, with campaign group Object arguing Page Three tabloids portray women as the "sum of sexualised body parts".

The group's Anna Van Heeswijk's examples of poor coverage included a Daily Star story about the singer Charlotte Church as a 15-year-old girl, which featured the commentary: "She's a big girl now... looking chest swell".

They say papers should not be allowed to print pictures of women that would not be shown on pre-watershed television.

'Thousand tiny scars'

As attention turned to social media, junior counsel to the inquiry David Barr said he was asking "searching questions" of Google and sought forgiveness for the pun.

David-John Collins, of the internet search engine, went on to tell the inquiry it took privacy "extremely seriously".

Meanwhile, Facebook has "an 800 million-strong Neighbourhood Watch system" to protect against people carrying out malicious acts, the company's director Lord Allan said.

He said the strongest protection against people using false identities on the social network was its user community.

UK information commissioner Christopher Graham told the inquiry data protection laws covering illegally obtaining or using personal information were being breached every day.

The gravity of responsibility faced by editors was described by Press Association editor Jonathan Grun during his evidence.

"When you edit you bear a thousand tiny scars from all the mistakes that you've made; this particular scar remains very rare and very sore," he said.

He was referring to a mistake in which PA had identified the wrong person as a defendant in a court case, which was "probably the gravest editorial error" that had been made during his time there.

Also giving evidence was RMT union leader Bob Crow, who said the union had been the victim of "harassment" by journalists for the past 10 years.

Explaining how he had been followed and his rubbish searched, Mr Crow said he understood why the media might object to strikes - but said it was not acceptable "to infringe on RMT staff's personal lives".

Transcripts of the hearings so far are on the Leveson Inquiry website.

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