Counterparties: No one likes Leveson
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The eponymous inquiry led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson was intended to be a full account of the Hackgate scandal. It has now delivered a 1,987-page report, along with a more digestible 46-page summary, finding “significant and reckless disregard for accuracy” in the UK press. In the end, it recommended a continuation of self-regulation, with one significant caveat: the press would be licensed and overseen by Ofcom, which is part of the UK government.
John Cassidy notes that the “previous system of self-regulation, under which Fleet Street’s finest largely oversaw themselves, had been reduced to a bad joke”. But John Gapper thinks a regulatory role for Ofcom is a “badly misguided” proposal. And Michael Wolff, author of a Murdoch biography, is exasperated:
Oh, for God’s sake seems to me the fairest response…the inquiry calls for a goopy, bureaucratic, obfuscating oversight board, which could be perilous to the freedom of the press or as likely toothless.
What’s more, the report fails to take a stand on the very issues and people who caused the inquiry to be formed in the first place: the Murdochs.
The report has its odd moments — warning police officers against having drinks with journalists, for instance. It also grants outsize importance to print media, saying that blogs and twitter aren’t news and devoting just one page out of 2,000 to the internet.
Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected the proposal for Britian’s first statutory regulation of the press since the 16th century, saying he didn’t want to “cross the Rubicon” and impinge on free speech. That puts him at odds with members of his own coalition and the opposition Labour party.
The report won’t close the books on a scandal that has affected an estimated 4,775 people, 310 of whom have been publicly identified. Victims have accused Cameron of “ripping the heart and soul” out of the inquiry. — Ben Walsh
On to today’s links: