After the House of Lords inserted amendments to the Data Protection Bill which effectively put Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act back on the table, the proposed legislation is returning to the Commons. And here the press establishment has a problem: not only do the Tories not have a majority without the help of the DUP, not all of their MPs can be relied upon to vote against the amendments.
(c) Steve Bell 2014
So now the process of buying off Tory rebels has begun, and as with any promise from the press establishment, it is not worth the hot air from which it is formed. Our free and fearless press wants to be able to carry on as before, bullying, smearing, lying, misleading, manipulating, all with no comeback, with only the well-off able to seek redress against press abuse, while little people continue to be dumped on.
What the press will not do is to accept any measure that makes regulation of the industry independent, and gives the little people access to redress. But those Tory rebels need to be bought off. So press non-regulator IPSO has told anyone foolish enough to listen that it will make its arbitration scheme “compulsory”, unlike their previous effort, which was only voluntary - papers could pick and choose which complaints they took there.
Here’s the Press Gazette take: “The Independent Press Standards Organisation is creating a compulsory version of its low-cost arbitration scheme in a move towards greater compliance with recommendations made by the Leveson Inquiry … The scheme offers an alternative to court action for someone with a ‘genuine claim’ against a national newspaper, for example in a libel, privacy, data protection or harassment dispute”.
Do go on. “In order for the new scheme to come into force and be effective, members must sign up to it. They have until Friday 4 May to tell IPSO whether they will be joining up”. And will they? Professor Brian Cathcart is unconvinced: “These are the people who, launching IPSO in 2014, promised us front-page corrections, vigorous investigations and million-pound fines, and not one of those has happened”. Quite.
Also, note the quote marks around “genuine claim”. Who decides on that one? IPSO does. And who controls IPSO? The press establishment. The same press establishment that ensures IPSO’s Editor’s Code has holes in it large enough to accommodate a coach and horses. The same press establishment that, even then, abides by that code only until push comes to shove, and then chucks it out the nearest window.
And the press knows it has the Tory leadership in its pocket - hence PG telling readers “Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said he welcomed the move, calling it an ‘important step forward for a press that’s both free and fair’, but adding: ‘Now the papers need to sign up.’” As he knows all too well, either they won’t raise a finger by the Friday deadline, or the small print will have a get-out clause and the press will be able to disregard it all.
Call me cynical, because in all these years of observing the vicious and dishonest machinations of the press establishment, that is what it does to you. The press just wants to carry on shitting on whomsoever it wants, and with zero comeback. Any MP who buys this supposed concession is being had for a mug.
The press leopard hasn’t changed its spots. It never will. That is all.