Regular readers will know that I’m not a big fan of our media machine, It’s the reason for me taking a pop at the press with what seems like monotonous regularity. I dislike the mostly emotive and often inaccurate ways in which they choose to operate their business.
Far too often these days the simple act of delivering news seems to be all about manipulating public opinion and emotion whilst ensuring that facts don’t stand in the way of a good story (see example). Because of this fact, I’ve also been looking forward to the outcomes of the Leveson inquiry.
Now the report has been published, one has to question if Leveson will realistically deliver fundamental changes to the modus operandi of our media machine. Is all the effort destined to be a worthless platitude, all be it one with an expensive price tag?
Leveson introduced his report by saying; “For the seventh time in less than 70 years, a report has been commissioned by the Government which has dealt with concerns about the press.” The first thing that came to my mind was how as a society, we tend not to be very good at learning from our history. Much of what we and our leaders do often focuses upon the here and now of immediate (financial) values and popular public opinion.
Although the inquiry was “sparked by public revulsion about a single action – the hacking of the mobile phone of a murdered teenager” it subsequently transpired that; the original incident was merely the tip of the subsequent iceberg of media depravity.
But despite all the original issues, concerns and root causes of Leveson, many of those who called so loudly for the inquiry in the first place, are now just as vociferous in their condemnation of its outcomes.
Immediately after Leveson delivered his long-awaited report the politicians began frantically pawing over its content and cherry-picking the outcomes and recommendations they agreed with. As a confirmed cynic I would suspect that most of those preferences have been developed out of self-interest.
The kind of desires that are developed first and foremost to gain public notoriety, then subsequently changed at the drop of a hat, all in that quest to maintain or enhance personal or party political popularity. Some of those politicians have already been accused of burying their beliefs in a wave of PR opportunity.
Leveson: So what happened to your defence of liberty, Harriet Harman? Labour insider Dan Hodges says the party’s support for statutory press controls is driven by the desire for political revenge…(telegraph.co.uk)
It comes as no surprise that the media, given that the inquiry was aimed squarely at them, have also had a fair bit to say about the outcomes. After all, they are the one’s suffering from a reduction of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ even if it is (as they say) on society’s behalf. But less than a week on from publication of Leveson’s report, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission is probably right.
Lord Hunt, the Press Complaints Commission chairman said that people need to “calm down for a moment, read it all through and then unite on the common ground”…(bbc.co.uk)
In short Leveson has proposed (1) a new independent overhauled Press Complaints Commission, but he also recommended that (2) a statutory body such as Ofcom should take responsibility for monitoring the independence of the regulator.
Leveson: a clever report – but why the silence on ownership? Leveson’s system of regulation is hard to fault – but it is a great pity that he skates over the issue that matters most…(guardian.co.uk)
Whilst all the self-interested popularity seeking politicians and the wealth hunting media moguls are thrashing out what they want, what consideration are they giving to the victims in all this? After all, they are the ones that the inquiry was supposed to benefit, weren’t they?
Father of missing Madeleine says £4m probe must be accepted by MPs: Gerry McCann has said the £4million taxpayer-funded Leveson Inquiry will have been ‘almost useless’ unless David Cameron cements its recommendations in law…(dailymail.co.uk)
Already celebrity campaigners and victims of press intrusion, including Hugh Grant, Gerry McCann and Christopher Jefferies have been to the Houses of Parliament and launched their Hacked Off petition; urging the government to act on the recommendations contained in the Leveson report…
To Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband
We call on you to work together to:
- Implement, as soon as possible, the recommendations of the Leveson Report in full;
- Ignore pressure from media barons and introduce legally-backed regulation, independent of politicians and the press;
- Place tighter limits on how much of our media an individual is allowed to own , and
- Promote investigative journalism through effective public interest defences.
Our politicians have now got the ability to do the right thing, and the right thing is to implement in full..(Gerry McCann)
As Leveson pointed out on the publication of his report, not much has changed in 70 years and I would have to agree with him when he says; this is – “the opportunity to make sure we’re not in the position we have been recently, ever again.” Failure to listen to (and implement) the advice of Leveson would indeed be a travesty and turn it into a worthless platitude for the victims and we mustn’t forget, a total waste of public money and people’s time.
Whatever the regulation outcomes post Leveson, be they statutory or voluntary there is one thing that is for sure; the press need to act if they have any genuine desire in maintaining public support for their freedoms.
My final thought is – with freedom comes responsibility – if the press is unable to wisely and correctly exercise that freedom, whilst all the time taking full cognisance of their responsibility (and being accepting of the consequences of any failures) then perhaps they do finally need their wings clipping?
An inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press: report [Leveson] ISBN 9780102981063. The full report is available at official-documents.gov.uk and a 48 page Executive Summary is also available for download as a pdf document (see here).
- Rowling: I feel duped by Cameron over Leveson (thetimes.co.uk)
- Leveson Inquiry: Reaction as report published (bbc.co.uk)
- David Cameron accused of dismissing Leveson report too quickly (guardian.co.uk)
- Leveson petition signed by 56,000 (standard.co.uk)
- The Leveson Report: The victims’ reactions (independent.co.uk)
- You: Leveson law would undermine Britain on world stage, says William Hague (guardian.co.uk)