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Wednesday 28 November 2012

Leveson Is Served (35)


Today, Lord Justice Leveson’s report has been passed to Young Dave for his exclusive perusal, and it may not even be leaked to anyone else. The report has been in its final form for some days now. This much is at least conceded by all concerned. But, in advance of general publication tomorrow, the barrage of propaganda from the Fourth Estate shows little sign of letting up.

And typical of the barrel scraping mud-slinging is an attack by Richard Pendlebury on behalf of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. The Mail piece singles out Gavin Freeguard, who has previously worked for the Media Standards Trust (MST) – indeed, he was the contact for the MST’s Orwell Prize for a while – and who has now secured a role advising Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.

This is a double bonus for the Vagina Monologue: Ms Harman is a Mail hate figure for, well, being herself, and Freeguard’s presence allows Dacre and his pet hack to wheel out the hatchet job on David Bell, citing a “powerful nexus of left-of-centre individuals”, suggesting that this is all some kind of conspiracy, and for good measure throwing in the name of Johann Hari.

Sadly, what Dacre and his flailing minions cannot or will not take on board is that, as far as the Great British Public is concerned, the game is well and truly up, as a YouGov poll for the MST demonstrates. The sample size, at 3,620 adults, is a large one, and the results should at least cause some editors and owners to stop and think, not least that 79% of respondents backed an independent regulator.

Moreover, 86% believed that continuing with self-regulation would bring the risk of repeated unethical and illegal behaviour. 82% believed that newspapers should be obliged to join a new independent system, and the same percentage said it was no longer acceptable for owners and editors to control the complaints process. Support for an independent regulator was 81% even among Daily Mail readers.

The margin supporting the contention that Government should implement Leveson’s recommendations was ten to one (60% to 6%, the remainder being “don’t knows”). Peter Kellner’s analysis of what we can glean from this and other recent polls makes equally persuasive reading: the current system will not do, and its replacement must be genuinely effective and independent.

Much of this ground was covered by Hugh Tomlinson QC, as I noted the other day. It is, as the hackneyed but true saying goes, not rocket science: regulation that is independent of both politicians and papers that is seen to be fair to all, while protecting the freedom of the press to be otherwise as raucous and analytical as it pleases. It is surely now time for the protests to end and engagement to begin.

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