“Leveson: EU wants power to sack journalists” proclaimed the Maily Telegraph’s point man in Brussels, Bruno Waterfield, yesterday. The idea that those meddling Brussels bureaucrats were going to take control of press regulation was a dream come true for the anti-EU brigade. And anything that is too good to be true should cause anyone with brain engaged to stop and think.
Because not only is there no Leveson connection, there is also no move to give the EU power over hiring and firing of hacks: Waterfield’s talk of “setting up state regulators with draconian powers” is scaremongering baloney of the crudest kind. So what has actually happened? Well, a “high-level group to discuss freedom and pluralism of the media across the EU” has been established.
Yes, the “freedom and pluralism” got filtered out by the Europhobes. Nobody should be surprised. But what has this group achieved? That question is answered by its report submitted on Monday to the European Commission (EC) [.pdf]. Note that the report has not been issued by the EC: the EC has not responded to it, so there are no proposals to implement part or all of its recommendations.
But let’s just address some of the flagrantly dishonest claims made by Waterfield in his Tel piece: there is no proposal to “rein in the press” (note that the report quotes Article 11.2 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, “the freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected”, on its first page), and nor is there any urging of “tight press regulation”, or “state regulation”.
The EC has not taken a position on the Leveson recommendations, and as these are a matter for the UK, does not intend to do so. There is no proposal to put “Brussels”, or indeed any EU body, in control of press regulation in any member state. So what has been suggested? EC Vice President Neelie Kroes gives a hint with “Ensuring the independence of regulators across the member states and their cooperation”.
Ah, “independence of regulators”. Not “state control”, then? No: the recommendations talk of acting “to protect media freedom and pluralism”. And “The EU should raise the issue of journalistic freedom in all international fora where human rights and democracy are discussed”. Plus the one the Tel doesn’t like: “All EU countries should have independent media councils”.
How “Independent media councils” can be centrally run from Brussels is something that the usual suspects, like Douglas Carswell, Philip Davies and Nigel Farage, and less principled hacks like Bruno Waterfield (and the loathsome Toby Young, plus their pals at the Mail and Express) prefer not to address. After all, that would mean admitting that they were advancing a seriously false prospectus.
Thus the freedom of the UK press, to peddle any old rubbish it can get away with.