In 2012, when I clicked on a link in order to watch a family friend appear in front of the Leveson Inquiry, I little realised just how much the subject of press regulation would get under my skin. Sometimes in a good way. But, all too often, it’s more like formication.
I wrote about Leveson at the time. In the five years that have passed since then, I have attended several dozen seminars on the subject of press conduct, publicly castigated the chairman of one press regulator and privately debated with the chairman of another.
Along the way, I have met a number of journalists who would like to see a change in the way the industry conducts itself and many of the folk at Hacked Off who are campaigning to achieve that outcome. Contrary to the impression given in the press, Hacked Off is not a collection of luvvies. They are mainly lawyers, journalists and victims of press abuse (something which the Daily Mail may try to claim it has acknowledged here).
In recent weeks, the press has bombarded its readers with warnings that the Government is threatening to destroy centuries of press freedom by imposing financial penalties on publishers which do not sign-up to IMPRESS, the “state regulator” (no, actually it’s not – it’s just a regulator). These warnings are utterly misleading on so many levels. I have published my brief research into the deception and made a more detailed submission to the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Home Office.
We expect our press to inform the public and hold power to account. That is why press freedom is valued so highly. It is beyond irony that those very freedoms are being used to flood the public with misinformation in a campaign to get the government to bend to the publishers’ will. It’s just another demonstration of how much our press needs a regulator that lives up to Leveson.