It was so dramatic and enthralling that I hoped some producer would pick it up and use it as the next big reality show. Watching celebrity after celebrity, the odd newspaper owner and even some idiot politicians giving evidence at the Levesen inquiry was rather entertaining for me at least. But my fear now is that the recommendations by LJ Levesen, due to be published on Thursday, will be ignored or watered down and the whole thing will have been a massive waste of time and money. The amount of politicians and members of the media who have been arguing against statutory controls before the recommendations have even been published is worrying.
Before I go on I’ll declare my position in the whole debate. I’m in favour of an independent body which has statutory underpinnings to give it strength and powers that newspapers will take notice of. I briefly did some work at the Press Complaints Commission and having witnessed what they do first hand I have to say on the whole they do an excellent job. They were let down by the lack of powers at their disposal. When a complaint was made they could talk to the newspaper, find that they had breached the editors code and… that’s about it. They have no powers of investigation or ability to give a meaningful sanction like a fine.
What I would like to see is a PCC plus if you like, essentially the same body but give them the powers to keep the media in check. There are many people, mainly journalists and people with commercial interests in the media, who argue that the press should be completely free. That the benefits of a free press outweigh the phone hacking, police bribing and celebrity harassing. I don’t doubt that a free press is important. In recent times there have been plenty of examples of the benefits, MP’s expenses, Jimmy Savile (although they were a bit late with that) and the list goes on. But in the same way that everyone is entitled to liberty until they commit a crime and are imprisoned for public protect their has to be limits on freedom.
People go about their daily business without the fear, generally, of being thrown in a van and shipped off to prison without a fair hearing. If people stray over the criminal line then prison is normally the destination. Likewise with the press having the meaningful sanctions there, e.g. a sizable fine, then they will be kept on the right side of the moral line. So long as the boarders between what will be in breach of the new rules and what won’t I really can’t see the problem.
This inquiry was long overdue and much needed, the state of the press is not sustainable. Once scrutiny is taken away I have no doubt they will revert to type. Lets not forget most of the people who were involved at the News Of The World and other papers with phone hacking are still working in the industry. I really hope the recommendations are implemented. Not just for LJ Leveson as I’m quite sure if they are then a big promotion to the Supreme Court will probably be in the offing, or even a Master of the Rolls/Lord Chief Justice position. But for the good of the country as a whole, our press are revered world wide as bastions of free speech and I would hate too see that corrupted by scandal.