Sunday, 13 October 2013

Leveson and Regulation of the Press

The press are still at it. Wittering on about how important they are to a free democratic society as if anyone still believed anything they read in the papers. I've got some news for them. We are increasingly getting our news from the internet and social media. But they still go on in their precious way about being the guardians of freedom despite being controlled, as I've said before by a few self important families or individuals. About the only things they are really good for is telling us what all the other media told us yesterday, mopping up large spillages and training puppies where and where not to piss.

If the press are so important in holding governments to account then that is really a case for giving them fewer powers, because they have usurped the role of democracy and the democratic process. Governments should be being held to account by the democratic process and if the press are doing that job then it is surely the democratic process which needs to be more powerful and not the press.

And when it comes to holding institutions to account, where were the press during the phone hacking that went on for years until it eventually had to come to the surface because it jeopardised a murder investigation? Many of the papers did it and most of them knew. Where was the holding to account when it came to holding their own to account? Criminal conduct was ignored because knowing which celebrity was kissing which other celebrity was clearly in the public interest, or so they would have us believe. Going through pop stars' bins was vital to uncovering … I'm not sure what.

But I've never seen a 'kiss and tell' story published by a newspaper, even a 'quality' newspaper, exposing the peccadilloes of the proprietor or editor of another paper. They must all be real paragons of virtue. But they all knew about Robert Maxwell's conduct and published not a sniff of it until he died falling off a luxury yacht and the workers, as usual, were left without a pension. Where was the holding to account? As I said, they all knew.

Just as they all knew about the systematic corruption of police and other public officials by many newspapers, but said not a word until it all came crashing down around their ears at Leveson. Where was the holding to account when it came to their own? Nowhere in sight, that's where.

So I say again, I'd rather governments were held to account by people I have elected to do the job rather than a troop of Tory 'grandees' wielding more power than they should have and exercising it in their own interests. They want to be above the law and not have their conduct regulated by law. But they have had many opportunities to put their house in order and they are being offered what should be their last chance to act responsibly. They should be told, 'Take it or leave it', and if they won't commit to behaving responsibly and having an oversight body which regulates that behaviour, then there should be legislation to make sure they do. It will take a 60% vote in both houses of Parliament and in the Scottish Parliament to change the deal they are being offered, and to be honest, if all of that lot agrees you're no good then chances are you're bloody awful. They should sign up, and sign up right now.

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