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A free press?

by ceebs Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 02:19:50 AM EST

Since the end of the formal witness interview section of the Leveson Inquiry, we have had a variety of people in what appears to be an almost coordinated attack on the upcoming report, culminating in last week's Daily Mail poison pen letter to the world about one of Lord Justice Leveson's assessors.

The bullying attitude of the press has been in full flow against something they have yet to see. The attitude is that the end of the world is coming, and that Britain is on the verge of being reduced to little better than a dictatorship. Witness Fraser Nelson in yesterday's Telegraph:

Call a truce, before centuries of free speech are brought to an end - Telegraph

It is not quite clear at what stage Conservatives stopped thinking that freedom of speech is important, but we have a useful point of comparison. Five years ago, the then Labour-dominated Culture, Media & Sport Committee made a powerful declaration in a report. "Statutory regulation of the press," it concluded, "is a hallmark of authoritarianism and risks undermining democracy." This was a point of principle: you can't have a little bit of state control, any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. Either the press is free, or it must operate within parameters defined by the state. Bahrain made its choice. And soon, so will Britain.

I suggest that he looks at the bottom of what is normally the back page of most newspapers. There you will see in small print: "Registered as a newspaper at the post office". Now this relates to the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act 1881, and Companies House has this to say about registration:

Newspaper Libel and Registration Act - GP03

Section 1 of the Newspaper Libel and Registration Act 1881 (the Act) defines a 'newspaper' as any paper containing public news, intelligence, or occurrences, or any remarks or observations therein printed for sale, and published in England, Wales or Ireland periodically, or in parts or numbers at intervals not exceeding 26 days between the publication of any two papers, parts or numbers. This Act does not cover Scotland.

Also any paper printed in order to be dispersed, and made public weekly or more frequently (but not at intervals exceeding 26 days) containing only or principally advertisements.

Now further to this there are exemptions to this under which registration is not needed, but why does this law, which appears to offer minor defence against libel actions and a reduced postage rate for newspapers, not equally form the "thin end of the wedge" which is being screamed about? Does this thin end of the wedge not matter if the newspapers are making a few pennies on the deal?

What can Cameron do? There's a big push for him to kick it into the long grass, do nothing as the public is no longer angry, let it die down even further and then forget about things, leave the status quo till the next scandal 20 years down the road. But is this a tenable approach?

If he was to follow this line, what would the consequences be? The majority of people who have looked at this have commented purely on the voting numbers, the amount of votes that Cameron can guarantee for the inevitable vote, or the amount of support he can see at the next election, essentially by bribing the press for electoral support. There is a danger however in this short-term view being adopted. If we look at the next couple of years, the initial court date for Coulson, Brooks et al is September 2013. However it has been widely commentated that the date will slip by roughly a year, as decisions are made whether to add other charges into the main case and further cases with other arrestees are added in from Operation Elveden, Weeting and Tuletta. On top of this there is the possibility of a second round of delays where a Scottish court case has to be fitted into the schedule. Each of these will push the court case further and further towards the 2015 election date. So whilst superficially attractive to put the regulation of the press off, or even to take no action for short term political gain, there may well be a major price to pay when trials happen less than six months out from the next general election.

Judging by Cameron's normal PR based view which appears to be based around keeping the next day's papers clear, rather than dealing with long term problems, I wouldn't bet on him not choosing to avoid the present problem and finding the crisis re-emerging at a point where it can do much more damage to him. If ever there was a point in time where Nick Clegg could put clear yellow water between himself and the Tory party, what better opportunity than six months before the election when Cameron's former right-hand man was up before a judge?

The next week all will become clear.

Twitter / DrEvanHarris: 18 mnths & 800 articles ...
18 mnths & 800 articles since appointment, Mail finally snaps & describes LJ #Leveson as "Orthodox Jew". http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2237956/Cameron-set-defy-Leveson-law-allow-state-controlled-press--now.html?ito=feeds-newsxml ... #hackedoff

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 07:08:12 PM EST
Christopher Jefferies: 'I have had no letter of apology' | UK news | The Observer

Christopher Jefferies is the sort of man who owns two copies of Tolstoy's War and Peace. They sit together somewhere in the middle of a huge wall of books that takes up one side of his study.

Before the shelves is his antique desk with everything in its place: stamps, a magnifying glass, a printer and an article on French tax. There are signs that Jefferies, 67, who lives in the Bristol suburb of Clifton, was recently delayed by rail company First Great Western. A compensation form awaits completion.

But then Jefferies has been a busy man, not just recently, he says, but ever since his ordered life was violently thrown into disarray two years ago by press reporting that was described as "vilification" by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, as a "monstering" by his solicitors and, in his own words at the Leveson inquiry into media practices, as a "mixture of smear, innuendo and complete fiction".

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 07:13:37 PM EST
In some ways it's academic. The Press - as we know it - is on its way out. The entire Fourth Estate media-conglomorate version is on it's way out. What will replace it is still in question.  

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 07:34:17 PM EST
Probably the propaganda arm of a capitalist dictatorship.

Oh, wait.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 07:37:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remain optimistic, but that's me.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 07:39:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The giant plug of the Intertubez could still be pulled - but if it isn't, then all unhappiness will join forces and throw out the bums.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 07:42:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well its a combination of hope and fear, as they circlethe plughole, they'll cause more and more damage.  Economics get tighter so more and more shortcuts get made. more stories get printed about the poor and unfortunate and who cares if they're correct, because they can't afford lawyers to fight back

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 09:57:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even the Financial Times Deutschland is closing and laying off nearly 400 employees.

El Pais recently dumped 1/3 of its workforce while the CEO of PRISA keeps his salary of several million euros a year.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 01:48:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the CEO of PRISA keeps his salary of several million euros a year.

Of course, he's doing the Right Thing.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 02:17:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Two journos on the Marr how this morning, one more or less pro legislation, the other anti. Both agreed tho that Brooks etc was charged under current legislation, various people sued under libel laws etc etc.

What was never addressed was that if the exisitng system of complaints about the press had worked in any way that was satisfactory, the whole issue of intrusion would never have reached the point where the tabloid press thought it had carte blanche to intrude so excessively that we end up hacking the phone of dead teenagers or soldiers as a matter of course

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 07:18:56 AM EST
I think this is key - the newspapers are trying to make it all about government regulation - but the most pressing issues from my point of view are:

1) Concentration of ownership - in the ideal world, no person/company would own more than one national newspaper. And certainly no-one should ever be allowed to own more than one of TV station/national newspaper.

Odds of anything being done about this - less than zero.

2) Ability for ordinary people to get redress when their lives are turned upside down by the tabloids. This could be done by establishing a statutory ombudsman with real teeth - or by creating a new set of laws that recognise that if your income is below a certain level you can't afford a normal libel trial. I think a special libel law for people at median income or below could make a real difference to the press. Obviously there are devils in the detail though.

Odds of anything being done about this - less than zero.

3) All communications between government ministers and members of the press (or press companies) to be published at the end of every month. We have to get more transparency into the corrupt networks.

Odds of anything being done about this - less than zero.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 07:37:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is exactly why the Daily Fail and the Telecrap are focusing on this battlefield; they're desperate to divert attention from the points you've raised, where their ox would not just be gored, it would be turned to chutney.
by rifek on Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 10:19:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Independent: Boris Johnson warns against 'sterilising, pasteurising and homogenising' Britain's media (25 NOVEMBER 2012)
Speaking in India to BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Johnson said: "I am a bit nervous we are heading in the opposite direction to many other countries in the world which are liberating their press and allowing free speech.

"I can tell you that compared with most other jurisdictions in the world, we have a political system that is largely free of financial corruption and bribery.

"I think it is very largely because we have a pretty uninhibited, vociferous and exuberant media that gets on and turns over all sorts of flat rocks.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 03:55:20 PM EST
Well it is noticeable that all the major figures who have come out to say the sky is falling have all been Columnists in major right wing newspapers.

One would hesitate to say it but there may be a conflict of interest

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Nov 25th, 2012 at 07:06:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not the best time to make comments like that about other countries liberating their presses in India.
When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage.

So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 01:49:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"liberating their press"

well, I guess that all depends on what the meaning and context of liberating is

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 02:55:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
largely free of financial corruption and bribery

Doris pointedly didn't mention anything about political corruption and bribery.

For me, as horrified as I am about ordinary decent people being savaged by the press, the worst, most corrupt and morally repugnant aspect of the UK press in recent decades has been the Faustian bargain between the politicos and the press. Mostly, and most explicitly between Rupert and the Cons/Newlab/the Cons again.

Fortuitously this link is currently broken. Will it stay broken? What needs to be done to ensure that the remnants are eradicated root and branch, and that it never happens again?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 04:16:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When the referendum on the voting system came back with a "don't understand this continental PR rubbish, let's keep what we have", one of the tabloids had the headline "the day Britain stood up for democracy".
It must feel strange sometimes, reporting from the Empire and 1945.
by Number 6 on Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 04:35:43 AM EST

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