Phone Hacking, An Inquiry and a lot of Posturing.

Two years on and most still feel a little hacked off, if we’re being honest. Now I’ve got you thinking… Yes It really has been two years since the first Leveson Inquiry report. Breaking news at the time, but has anything really changed, or have we been fooling ourselves all this time thinking that it would have made a difference in how our press operates and how it is regulated?

As you’ll most rightly remember the Leveson Inquiry was conjured up by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in the wake of the News of the World Phone Hacking Scandal; 13th July 2011, if you want the exact date. Probably the largest scandal involving the press in modern times, this scandal even led to the fall of the News of the World newspaper. High profile victims such as Hugh Grant and Charlotte Church were involved, but what shocked the public more was the fact that people such as the McCann’s, victims of the 7/7 attacks and Milly Dowler were all targeted by journalists. You can clearly see why we so desperately needed an inquiry into the press.

Lord Leveson was asked to chair the an inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, this inquiry would become known as the Leveson Inquiry. Leveson was called to the bar in 1970 and in 1986 he took silk, since then he has become a prominent judge in the English and Wales Judiciary and he is currently the President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court.

The inquiry was split into two parts, most originally named Part One and Part Two… To me that is like naming a street “The Street”, but who am I to comment? Part one was broken down into four sections which dealt with the relationships the press had with the public, the police and politicians and also set for recommendations concerning the regulation of the press. Part two of the inquiry is yet to be published and will not be so until current police investigations and court proceedings have been completed.

Now here is the interesting part, well at least it was for me… You see, I could tell you about the backlash from the media and political merry-go-round that ensued the publication of the Leveson Report, however, I was hard pushed to tell you more than one of the recommendations that Lord Leveson had set forward. So here they are!

It was stated that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC, the current press regulatory body) was not sufficient and that a new independent body was to be set up. The PCC was seemingly pretty useless from what our lecturer was telling us, for she had many dealings with them in the past. This is probably due to the fact that the PCC was set up, funded and headed by those at the top of the press industry… As you can imagine, they weren’t prepared to start giving themselves lectures on ethical codes. It was also stated that this new body that was to be set up would be given the power to impose fines and sanctions, amongst other things. However, membership to this would not be arbitrary, with only things such as kite-marks to be used as incentives. Even with these recommendations of more stringent regulations it was strongly denied by Lord Leveson that this was a form of statutory regulation of the press.

The media reaction to the report was strong, to say the least. A fun little fact provided by someone in my class: there has been the equivalent of six articles published everyday for a year about the Leveson Report… You know, I don’t think they were bothered in the slightest. Only six articles a day for a year, not that many really…

Mainly papers felt that the freedom of the press was being threatened and whilst most agreed that Lord Leveson’s recommendations should be implemented it was to be done on their terms in their time. The BBC have given a very good summary on the reaction of the press: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20546397

So here we are, two years on, we could swim in the newspaper articles written on the subject, we still gasp at the extent that some people are willing to go to get a headline, but has anything really changed? Although a regulatory body has been set up: Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), not all of the national papers have signed up to it and it has recently been stated that this new body resembles its predecessor. The political headache that followed the Leveson report saw the Lib Dem’s and Labour back peddle from a statue to a royal charter, but who could really blame them? They still want the papers to help with their election campaigns and that is very unlikely to happen if they backed a statue that regulated the press.

The whole fiasco has seemingly left us with the status quo that many wanted to be rid of. Whilst there may be better intentions floating around now, nothing is happening which leaves a rather unsatisfying taste. Maybe when Part Two of the report is published it will re-light the fire and something may actually happen. We can all live in hope, right?

Until next time,

R

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