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Tuesday 16 October 2012

Luckhurst’s Lame Leveson Lament

[Update at end of post]

Leveson is coming. And hacks and their supporters are afraid – very afraid. Some are already in a state approximating to wailing and gnashing of teeth (subject, as Dave Allen’s old Ian Paisley joke goes, to there being teeth available for gnashing). Chief among these is Tim Luckhurst, who gives the impression of drifting ever rightwards in his political affiliations.

Tim Luckhurst

Zelo Street regulars may remember Luckhurst from his sneering piece in the Mail after the AV referendum last year aimed at, well, anyone who disagreed with him. He sold the pass in style by extending his disdain to those who are partial to sun-dried tomatoes, and thus alienated many who shop at such temples of lofty intellectual superiority as Asda, Aldi and Morrisons. What a star.

Now, he is exhibiting signs of rank paranoia at the prospect of Leveson recommending something that he actually doesn’t know about, but which will be Very Scary Indeed, and A Dark Day For A Free Press. That’s eyebrow raising for someone who made his recent reputation designing the University of Kent’s well regarded BA in Journalism and the News Industry.

And what is truly bizarre is the recent content of the Luckhurst Twitter feed, on which he has declared “We have effective regulation”. That would be an endorsement of the PCC, which has shown itself to be little better than a joke. If Luckhurst thinks the PCC is “effective regulation”, perhaps he could explain the way the Daily Mail got away with its 2000 defamation of the Taylor sisters, with the PCC’s blessing.

Yes, as Nick Davies noted in Flat Earth News, the Mail has been using the PCC as a doormat for many years. Luckhurst’s assertion that all will be well with “effective policing” is bunk. There can never be either effective regulation or policing when bodies like the PCC are run by the same people who generate the complaints. And nor is the issue the binary one that Luckhurst suggests.

He upbraids the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour by declaring “Do you support state regulation or not. There is no compromise”. Our broadcasters manage to work under the compromise of Ofcom and the statutory framework under which that body operates, and they have no problem managing objective investigative journalism under its supervision. Luckhurst must know this. He isn’t stupid.

Instead, he goes into Strawman mode, claiming that hundreds of local newspapers are going to be punished, and becomes so desperate that he invokes the Geneva Convention. What he manages not to address are Operation Motorman (not one rogue paper there), the Madeleine McCann affair, Christopher Jefferies, Robert Murat, and all the other transgressions of a newspaper industry out of control.

Leveson may bring an Ofcom-style framework to papers. Good. Deal with it, Mr L.

[UPDATE 17 October 1230 hours: Tim Luckhurst has chosen not to address any criticism in this post, nor to explain how the past excesses of the press are defensible, but has taken issue with my styling of the course he designed as "well regarded". This is clearly an insufficient compliment for him.
He implies that this is factually incorrect. It is not. So not a good start for the Professor of Journalism, then. And worse was to follow, as he failed to check his own facts and went off on another rant.
He states that I do not endorse a free press. This is total bullshit (that's an allowable part of any good polemic, Prof, before you start objecting). Then there is an accusation of authoritarianism, which is at least consistent. Unless Luckhurst can show how the UK's broadcasters are less than free - and the best of luck in so doing - then he is a busted flush.

There's no credible "free press" defence to the obsessive pursuit of slebs, use of Private Investigators to blag information, defaming people on the basis that they're not rich enough to fight back, and of course using the supposed regulatory body as a way of fobbing off the aggrieved. Removing the freedom of the public at large  just to score a few more sales is irresponsible and unprincipled - or does Prof Luckhurst's course not consider things like journalistic ethics?

If those who are teaching journalism use the kind of language and attitude shown by Tim Luckhurst, small wonder that so many hacks can't behave themselves]


rob said...

It is very easy for some to say we have effective regulation and that the law should take care of a recalcitrant press.
But what if the law has been compromised by a too powerful dominant member of the press or the law, even when minded to act, has to prioritise terrorist threats with its limited resources?

Carl Eve said...

Leveson will be a hammer to crack a nut out in the sticks. We're already feeling effects of HMIC recommendations to regional police. The locals didn't do what the nationals did, no hacking, no payments, no listening in to voice-mail, no scandalising celebrities. But we will be subject of Leveson despite not being a part of this scandal.
Now, tell me that's right and fair Tim...

And then tell me what you think if someone suggested regulation of the blogs... hmmm... I think the same answer would come - If you weren't part of the problem, why should you be part of the criticism and the regulation...

Tim Fenton said...

Carl, I take your point, but I don't see how we can say what will be recommended by Leveson when we don't know - or that a framework similar to Ofcom would be so bad.

What has to be done is to avoid a situation like that of the PCC which is clearly not fit for purpose, significantly because the industry is such a significant part of it. There is no independence whatever.

Leveson couldn't compel bloggers to be part of any new framework - it just isn't conceivable - but if there were some kind of voluntary scheme to which bloggers could sign up - some kind of blog kitemark, if you will - I'd give it serious consideration.

After all, the last thing I want is to be lumped in with the kind of blogs that are rated less trustworthy than Twitter and Facebook, never mind the least trusted tabloids.

rob said...

@ Carl Eve

"The locals didn't do what the nationals did, no hacking, no payments, no listening in to voice-mail, no scandalising celebrities. But we will be subject of Leveson despite not being a part of this scandal.
Now, tell me that's right and fair Tim..."

The majority nearly always have to suffer rules/laws etc as a result of a minority's actions. There's not much fair about right and wrong even if you can agree on those definitions.