Thursday, March 14, 2013

Statutory State Regulation of the Press - Strike against Democracy

Have to admit David Cameron's decision to bring cross party talks on Lord Leveson's proposals to statutorily regulate the press to an end took me by surprise. I had expected an agreement based on Royal Charter. I am hugely disappointed no agreement has proved to be possible, but I am pleased that we are going to put this taxic issue to bed on Monday. Personally, I do not support statutory regulation - no matter how its dressed up. It crosses a Rubicon for me. No matter how appallingly the press has behaved, (and some of it has) the answer is to come down ruthlessly when the law is broken, not to pass new laws designed to regulate it. So while Monday's debate and vote may be difficult for some, it will not be so for me. I know exactly which way I will vote.

Now I know lots of people will disagree with me over this - which discomforts me. They genuinely believe the press should be brought to heel by state regulation. I understand how angry those whose mobiles were hacked feel. They were treated appallingly - and the guilty should feel the full force of the law. I've had my fair share of what I thought to be very unfair coverage in the press over the years. Damn near broke me once. But in the end I just took it and said nothing. Life moves on. And its not that I have any sympathy at all for the press (in general anyway). It's unacceptable behaviour has brought this situation about. But responding by using the law to regulate the press is undermining what makes the UK a free and open society. I cannot vote for it.

Its clear that the Labour Party and our Coalition colleagues, the Liberal Democrats want new legislation as recommended by Lord Leveson. I did not, do not and it seems that David Cameron doesn't either. He knows its wrong and he knows he will take some stick - but he also knows he's doing what he believes to be right. This is how a Prime Minister should behave. So lets be done with this poisonous issue. Its been hanging over our democracy like a black rancid cloud for too long. If a majority of MPs want to back state regulation of the press, they must vote for it - and if they are in a majority, so be it. Let the evil deed be done, and we can move on to other things. I'm pleased that David Cameron has said (I think) that should he ever control a majority in Parliament he would reverse it - but once we are on the road to state regulation it will be damningly difficult to get off. It does strike me as rather sad that great political parties which have played a proud role in how our democracy has developed, underpinned by a free and sometimes unruly press, are contemplating bringing an end to press freedom as we know it. Thank God for the Internet.

5 comments:

john davies said...

No-one wants to limit responsible press freedom,but we asked Leverson to take a long and hard look at press behaviour over many decades - then we ignore his key recommendation. They should have had their last drink in the 'saloon'.

Anonymous said...

A very sensible view, eloquently put and one that I agree with. But for the freedom of the press there would be the opportunity to suppress.

Bill Smith said...

....and a lot of good a Royal Charter has been for the BBC !

Bill Smith said...

....and a lot of good a Royal Charter does for the BBC!

John said...

I believe in freedom of the press. Self-regulation generally keeps content within bounds of what is publicly acceptable, as with any system of rules and regulations there may be times where they have got it wrong. I am not in favour of government intervention to bring about official regulation. What is publicly acceptable is ever changing, some press reports that were not acceptable 5 years or 10 years ago are now openly published. There is still recourse through our legal system for obscenity, slander and libel, Official Secrets etc. The Industry self-regulatory bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority and the Press Complaints Commission have themselves to keep moving with the times, especially taking account of social media. What is the point of censoring our daily newspapers when most of us can log on to the internet and find articles posted on the world wide web. Of course as with any press articles we must make our own judgements whether they are true and factual