The Leveson Report

AP report at Stuff:

Britain needs a new independent regulator to eliminate a subculture of unethical behaviour that infected segments of the country’s press, a senior judge has said at the end of a year-long inquiry into newspaper wrongdoing.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson said a new regulatory body should be established in law to prevent more people being hurt by “press behaviour that, at times, can only be described as outrageous.”

But UK Prime Minister David Cameron balked at that idea, warning that passing a new law to set up the body would mean “crossing the Rubicon” toward state regulation of the press.

I agree with Cameron that it is undesirable to have the state regulating the media. The ball is in the UK media’s court to set up a new regulator along the lines recommended by Leverson.

The full report is here. He notes:

the press is given significant and special rights in this country which I recognise and have freely supported both as barrister and judge. With these rights, however, come responsibilities to the public interest: to respect the truth, to obey the law4 and to uphold the rights and liberties of individuals. In short, to honour the very principles proclaimed and articulated by the industry itself (and to a large degree reflected in the Editors’ Code of Practice).

Do we have that reflected in codes here?

Turning to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), I unhesitatingly agree with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition who all believe that the PCC has failed and that a new body is required. Mr Cameron described it as “ineffective and lacking in rigour” whilst Mr Miliband called it a “toothless poodle”. The Commission itself unanimously and realistically agreed in March 2012 to enter a transitional phase in preparation for its own abolition and replacement.

A fascinating recommendation here:

I have recommended as a first step that political leaders reflect constructively on the merits of publishing on behalf of their party a statement setting out, for the public, an explanation of the approach they propose to take as a matter of party policy in conducting relationships with the press.

Not quite sure what this would be. Would a political party have to state that their general approach is to take journalists out for boozy lunches so they write nice things about them? 🙂

Some key recommendations:

  • An independent self regulatory body should be governed by an independent Board. In order to ensure the independence of the body, the Chair and members of the Board must be appointed in a genuinely open, transparent and independent way, without any influence from industry or Government.
  • The requirement for independence means that there should be no serving editors on the Board.
  • The Board should not have the power to prevent publication of any material, by anyone, at any time although
  • The Board should have the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions, (including financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover with a maximum of £1m), on any subscriber found to be responsible for serious or systemic breaches of the standards code or governance requirements of the body.
  • The term ‘off-the-record briefing’ should be discontinued. The term ‘non-reportable briefing’ should be used to cover a background briefing which is not to be reported, and the term ‘embargoed briefing’ should be used to cover a situation where the content of the briefing may be reported but not until a specified event or time. These terms more neutrally describe what are legitimate police and media interactions.

Our own media regulation in New Zealand is also being reviewed by the Law Commission, whom I expect will publish a final report next year.

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