The Leveson inquiry into press standards was long, laboured and often laborious.
Many gave their evidence but the most revealing were those from the world of celebrity. Several had built their careers on publicity granted by the press, but didn’t like the attention shown towards them once they had become famous – or in some cases infamous!
Lord Leveson has recommended that a new independent regulator with statutory underpinning in law should be set-up to monitor press behaviour and standards, but is there really any need?
The events leading up to the Leveson inquiry were indeed shocking and came to a head when it was revealed that among the hundreds of people who’s phones had been reported as hacked, were the parents of missing school girl Millie Dowler.
And therein lies the truth. Phone hacking has always been against the law (unless, of course, you are part of GCHQ) and the journalists and those others responsible should have been prosecuted long before the necessity for Lord Leveson’s inquiry.
The ‘press’, when used in it’s collective form, is generally responsible and will act accordingly. However, there has always been a section of the media who feed from the scandal and personal lives of those within our new ‘five minutes of fame’ society. This section was once referred to as the ‘gutter press’ but it seems they have now found an even lower depth, although their sales are still huge – please draw your own conclusion on today’s society!
The unnecessary demand for 24 hour news has created more vacancies for those who gather news, while the budgets for news outlets is ever reducing. Hence, college leavers with degrees in media studies, but with little real experience in standards, are employed and pressured for ‘exclusives’ – and often promoted too soon. A recent example of such was when the attempt to embarrass the prime minister on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ went so badly wrong and cost the company thousands – it was just a cheap stunt which an experienced journalist would not have entertained as an idea.
In any democratic society, freedom of speech, and the press, is a foundation stone. Without good (not lazy)investigative journalism we might never have heard of the abuse by many MPs of their expenses. We certainly don’t need politicians trying to gain political ground by suppressing such basic foundations.
My fear is that once a potential law underpinning press standards is passed, it will only advance the efforts of those wishing to suppress our freedom to speak.
History has demonstrated that the power of law is normally built upon, and only rarely is it diminished.
(Picture courtesy of Media Week)