NEW REGULATOR – SAME AS THE OLD PCC
The Tories could not drag their feet any longer: after consulting with a variety of newspaper editors – for which read “having to entertain the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and letting him drone on and on without anyone else getting a word in edgeways” – Young Dave and his jolly good chaps (well, Oliver Letwin, anyway) are bringing their new press regulator to the table.
And, to no surprise at all, the new press regulator, having merited the approval of the Vagina monologue, may turn out to strongly resemble the old press regulator. And we all know how wonderfully effective the old press regulator, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), was – not at all. And the majority party of Government seems to think that replacing one Dacre doormat with another is an acceptable solution.
The air of misgiving was voiced yesterday as Hacked Off held a conference marking two and a half months since the Leveson presentation (and with precious little action, except the tsunami of knocking copy from the usual suspects in the Fourth Estate). The keynote speech was given by Gerry McCann, who knows a little about the high principles of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet.
And Dr McCann was singularly unimpressed with the noises coming from Cameron and Co. He and wife Kate had not put themselves through the stress of appearing before Lord Justice Leveson for fun, and if nothing changed “it will be a permanent stain on the reputation of this Government”. He also noted that Leveson has recommended that the press regulate itself.
So what is the problem? Simples. What Leveson has recommended – that the new regulator be totally independent of interference, by not only Government, but also editors and proprietors – has frightened most papers’ management witless. The Dacre concept of “editing with freedom” means just that: to say what he likes, when he likes, and stuff any opposition.
In order to preserve this particular status quo, there has to be a Press majority present at the regulator such that the interests of that press may override any public interest. At the PCC, this manifested itself in rejection of inconvenient complaints, declining to even make rulings (the Taylor sisters were fobbed off with that one), or the use of Newspeak to excuse abuse and dishonesty (“it’s only an opinion column”).
All of which means that Brian Cathcart, Evan Harris and the rest of the Hacked Off crowd (plus the McCanns, Christopher Jefferies and other victims of press freedom as practiced without restraint or independent regulation) will not get the outcome they want to see – not without a great deal more hard pounding.