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Leveson praises the media, then slaps it with ‘not statutory’ regulation underpinned by statute

29 November 2012

Lord Justice Leveson has just finished giving his statement to the Inquiry press conference, and told journalists that he would be ‘making no further comment’ about the report’s contents. ‘The ball is back in the politicians’ court,’ he said. We have 40 minutes until we find out how the politicians plan to play that ball.

The judge took great pains to praise the media, saying:

‘I remain firmly of the belief that the British press, I repeat, all of it, serves the country very well for the vast majority of the time. There are truly countless examples of great journalism, great investigations and great campaigns.’

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He was so fulsome in his praise that it sounded almost valedictory, and as the judge continued, it seemed that it was:

‘But none of that means that the press is beyond challenge. I know of no organised profession, industry or trade in which the serious failings of the few are overlooked or ignored because of the good done by the many.’

And so we got on to the meat of what Leveson thinks should happen next to challenge those serious failings. He told the conference he was proposing ‘a genuinely independent and effective system of self-regulation of standards with obligations in the public interests’. And continued self-regulation would not do, he said, arguing that any model where editors sat on the main board was simply ‘the industry marking its own homework’. He protested that could not be ‘characterised as statutory regulation of the press’. Instead, what he was proposing was ‘independent regulation of the press, organised by the press itself with a statutory process to itself promote press freedom’.

This doesn’t quite make sense. The judge is saying that a new form of regulation with statutory underpinning cannot fairly be called statutory regulation. MPs will certainly be keen to learn what the government’s understanding of this proposed system is.

Strangely, when he finished giving his statement, the judge received applause from the room. Whether he will be applauded by the press once the report has been digested, or whether MPs in the House of Commons will applaud the new proposals for the press, will become clear very shortly.

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Show comments
  • Patrick Drayton

    Some years ago, the institution most comparable with the PCC was the Takeover Panel. Though it has had its ups and downs, the Panel has generally been an effective regulator of takeovers, focused on the interests of shareholders. The (essentially pointless) European Takeover Directive led to a change in the legal status and powers of the Panel, which was enacted in the Companies Act 2006. The impression given by your coverage of Leveson’s report is that he is seeking a form of regulation of the press which provides a similar form of statutory underpinning to that enjoyed today by the Panel. If so, it would not be a form of regulation than can simply be characterised as either self regulation or as statutory regulation and it would be pointless to try and assess Leveson’s proposals by choosing such categories. What would be important would be the composition of the new body, the means by which members are appointed to it, what powers it has and – though this can only be guessed at at this stage – how it performs in practice.

  • Swiss Bob

    Recommendation 38 : “In conjunction with Recommendation 11 above, consideration should also be given to Code amendments which, while fully protecting freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, would equip that body with the power to intervene in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting, and in so doing reflect the spirit of equalities legislation”.

    Mental. As is the idea of one of Brown’s henchmen being in charge.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Yes, there it is – the subjective test for all the usual axe-grinding suspects to shut down anything they don’t like.

  • In2minds

    Trevor, you are so funny, yeah!

  • HooksLaw

    ‘This doesn’t quite make sense.’ – its your lack of English comprehension skills which do not make sense.
    Ever thought of a career in boiler-making? That might suit your deftness of touch better.

    • jamesm171

      MaybeHookslaw you should learn to write English before he criticises others. There is an apostrophe in ‘its’ because it is a contraction of it is.

    • HellforLeather

      You really are a pedantic, intolerant b…..d aren’t you? Or, as Rhoda Klapp, noted recently: Thought your brand had been seen on a Waitrose shelf, but turned out to be Thick Cut!

      You seldom, if ever, contribute to constructive debate. You have a dictatorial mind, dangerous!

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