LEVESON FOR DUMMIES: what tomorrow ought to bring, but probably won’t

Tom Watson has sent a round-robin email to his mates. In it is this phrase:

‘the campaign for a free and accountable press’

The two most important words in the Leveson media debate are ‘free’ and ‘accountable’. Both sides are dodging the one they don’t want.

The Leftist, minority Guardianista clique around Rusbridger have the Rotherham illness, in that for them the issue is simple: Left is right and Right is wrong. Many of us would be happier with an analysis that concluded ‘Left is old and arcane, and Right is older still and archaic’. Too long for the Blairite soundbite culture that mantra, but either way, my point is this: the Guardian NUJ position is a deliberate attempt to fudge the line between ‘social fairness’ and Stalinist State thought-control.

The Rightist, Barclay Brothers Torygraph view from Sark is summed up by an atypically potty piece from Ben Brogan this week, in which he asserts that the UK press pack is now ‘at the mercy of the Left’. Given the Left are (a) the Opposition, and (b) have 1.5 newspapers supporting them compared to 5.5 generally on the anti-Cameron 1922 Committee side, for once I’m unable to agree with Mr Brogan. Again, this is a different flavour of fudge, but it seeks to blur the line separating depraved thro-letterbox-yelling Newscorp grubs from genuine campaigning journalism.

To rephrase the famous TV jingle, “A finger of fudge is just enough to give your hacks a leak”.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As an alternative,  here’s my simple requirement from the Leveson recommendations – before we plebs know what they are, because for some unexplained reason an implicated Old Estonian with an obvious conflict of interest has a right to know before we do:

1. There will be no ownership of press titles by nondoms and foreigners. If they want to take part in the debate, then press barons will be required to pay for their representation like everyone else.

2. If the media get something factually wrong, there will be no bullying libel-case threats, just a grovelling front-page-lead retraction. There will be no recourse to the Law, because the Law is for the rich alone. Any and all retractions will head all non-press UK media bulletins that same day.

3. The decision system for this process will be non-judicial. Instead, it will consist of a constantly changing quota sample of newspaper readers casting votes as to the validity or otherwise of the complaint at issue. In the result of a tie, the Monarch will have the casting vote. In the event of the Monarch having a conflict of interest, the Archbishop of Canterbury will have the casting vote. (I cannot think of a better antidote to gratuitous complaining)

4. There will be no  super-injunctions allowed (beyond the security services) prior to publication, purely on the grounds that 1 and 2 above represent all the safeguards any reasonable citizen outside of MI5/6 might expect.

5. Any official State security officer found to have abused the super-injunction option will be publicly pelted with unripe melons, and forced to listen to the Twenty Golden Greats of Tiny Tim in perpetuity.

6. Apart from putting in place the statutes required to make all this happen, the State will not be allowed – in any shape or form, directly or indirectly – anywhere near any of the recommended process, because the State is nothing more than an alias for ‘unruly mob of controlling, incompetent sociopaths’.

Maximum media freedom alongside democratic punishment: in the Tabloid Age, who could ask for more?

Related: On forcing the pols to make a choice

23 thoughts on “LEVESON FOR DUMMIES: what tomorrow ought to bring, but probably won’t

  1. Tom Watson and his backing crew, the Media Standards Trust (as was when it mattered), have wilfully ignored evidence highly relevant to Leveson (not supposition or innuendo), as have more than a dozen MPs, the BBC, and the Culture, Media and Sports Committee. At the moment it seems it will continue to be ignored by Leveson. Would it have made a difference to Leveson’s recommendations? Probably not a jot – but it is highly relevant.

  2. TO be serious for a second though…

    “If the media get something factually wrong, there will be no bullying libel-case threats, just a grovelling front-page-lead retraction. ”

    mm, well, this would absolutely depend on the nature of the wrong fact, surely? Still leaves things wide one for them to ruin someone’s good name (Certainly not thinking McAlpine here, more the Chris Jeffries’ of the world) with some lurid headline, enjoy a few days of heighted sales, with the only penalty being have to ‘apologise profusely’ for it after the fact. Rather like their playing with libel, but with less to lose.

  3. C4 tonight: Paul (shoot me from my good side) McMullen told Hugh Grant a story about a very minor ‘celeb’ who he regetrfully coerced into eventual suicide. Big story for the screws of her indescretions – non story for the girls eventual death.
    If OFCOM works for the broadcasters, why can’t it work for publishers?

  4. I still think the real danger is what is not reported,it can & has been used to corrupt the establishment & possible even been dangerous enough to be killed for,these people need and deserve( & so do we) somewhere safe to report what they know and see.
    In a healthy society the press keep the police & politicians in check
    the police keep the press & politicians in check
    the politicians keep press & police in check and each should fear the other two

  5. Will Leveson still keep secret the ‘confidential briefing’ he was given about how News International browbeat David Cameron into yielding to their demand (on the same day the McCanns’ book was published and serialised in the Sun in May 2011) for him to agree to an open-ended, limitless-cost, limitless-time review by Scotland Yard into the Madeleine McCann case?

  6. “Given the Left are (a) the Opposition, and (b) have 1.5 newspapers supporting them compared to 5.5 generally on the anti-Cameron 1922 Committee side, for once I’m unable to agree with Mr Brogan. Again, this is a different flavour of fudge”

    Ah – but the political classes take note only of the Guardian and the BBC, so the above is irrelevant. Sadly,

    • Well actually he is quite wrong there. The Left hold more power than most people realise – the Quangos are stuffed to the doors with the buggers. Wardy should read The Times a bit more.

  7. “2. If the media get something factually wrong, there will be no bullying libel-case threats, just a grovelling front-page-lead retraction. There will be no recourse to the Law, because the Law is for the rich alone. Any and all retractions will head all non-press UK media bulletins that same day.”

    And all of the profits while the story is in print should be seized and given to the victim/s or charity.

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  9. I really do like this idea of full front page retractions and apologies for stories found to be inaccurate or gleaned by immoral or illegal means, however it is enforced.

    What Advertiser is going to want to see their Brand appear in full page spreads inside a newspaper that has been forced to state on its front page that its stories have been inaccurate, malicious or the result of shoddy journalism ?

    This would be so much better than any papers getting sued for a few grand, as it would really hit the Media Mogul’s much harder in the pocket if their advertising revenues walked away, and also in their personal aspirations to move in the prestigious circles of the ‘great and the good’.

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