LAWYER NAILS NEW REGULATION
Cometh the hour, cometh the man: with so many in the press talking the most ridiculous guff about the supposed horrors of what Lord Justice Leveson might dump on their industry, Hugh Tomlinson has cut through all the verbiage and told clearly and concisely what, ideally, should be contained in any new regulatory regime and why it would be beneficial for both press and public.
Tomlinson is not any old lawyer: he represented both Robert Murat and Christopher Jefferies, as well as several slebs who found themselves on the wrong end of the Screws’ appetite for phone hacking. He was at the forefront of pressing for the release of information on MPs’ expenses. And – full disclosure here – he is a founder member of the Hacked Off committee.
His intervention, in The Lawyer, argues that Leveson “should propose a system of media regulation that promotes and protects the right of the media to publish information on public interest matters and the right of the public to receive it” and “should balance between the expression rights of the press with and the rights of individuals to privacy and reputation”.
He continues “It should guarantee the right of the public to accurate information on matters of public concern. It should provide a mechanism for the swift and cost-effective resolution of disputes involving the media”. Two things here: that would encourage the press to more effectively separate news and comment, and would work in their favour – it would bolster, not undermine, public trust.
Moreover, an effective dispute resolution system, which Tomlinson recommends should be exhausted before taking action for libel, would save significant sums of money for all concerned – and such a suggestion gives the lie to those who keep asserting that lawyers will benefit from any new system, their implicit suggestion also being that such people are by definition self-serving.
Then Tomlinson nails it here: “The key features of a system of media regulation that achieves these objectives are independence and effectiveness. The new regulator should be independent of both the Government and the press. This independence should be guaranteed by statute”. Statute, as David Allen Green noted earlier, can be used to guarantee independence. Here is an excellent example.
A regulator that is free of both press and politicians would give much needed confidence to the public. That should be welcomed by the press, and used to show that they are prepared to play hard, but play fair. As I suspect Leveson will propose something rather similar, one has to wonder what all the protests are about. If only those protests were directed to giving the public that same confidence.