Welcome back to the new Zelo Street game of Spot The Whopper, where we try to find the choicest dishonesty about press regulation. And today’s contestant is ... what’s your name Sir? Fraser Nelson, I see, a fine Scots name, and you’re ... editor of the Spectator magazine. We’re truly honoured to have you on the show Fraser, and don’t worry, we won’t mention the Barclay Brothers too often!
So what’s your Starter for 10, then? “We don’t need politicians’ permission to have a free press in Britain: it’s a sacred right we have enjoyed for more than three centuries”. Yes, that’s a fine opening whopper, as nobody is taking away the freedom of the press, and you won’t find anything on the subject in any sacred text, whatever your chosen Deity. Good start!
Tell us about the cross-party proposal! “ [It is] proposed to set up a bizarre, politically-designed regulator”. I can give you extra credit for that, a real smokescreen that says nothing, and executed in the style of Andrew Gilligan! “What the government is now proposing – and the Privy Council is considering – would be illegal in America where freedom of the press is protected by the First Amendment”.
Fraser, you’re spoiling us with the standard of your sheer brass neck! Alleging that guaranteeing freedom of speech does the opposite is a fine whopper. Give us another. “It would, for the first time, allow politicians to set the parameters under which the press operate”. Bonus points for being really sly there, misinformation rather than whopper, no press operation would have its parameters set.
“The British press has just proposed the toughest self-regulation in the Western world, with £1 million fines”. A fine double whopper there, there’s nothing tough about what the press is proposing, as it’s only a Mark 2 PCC, and we all know just how useful that was. And I’ll give you extra credit for not mentioning that the £1 million fines are like Robert Maxwell’s £1 million Mirror bingo payout.
There’s more? “The newspapers should forget this medieval pantomime and get on with implementing the new, beefed-up system of self-regulation”. Another good double whopper there, not admitting that the only reason you don’t like the Privy Council is that you didn’t get your own way, and that the press’ proposal beefs up nothing. And not telling that the cross-party proposal is proper self-regulation!
One final whopper, Fraser? “So if it [Privy Council] does reject press freedom, as Newsnight predicts”. Excellent – restatement of previous whopper along with the dishonest suggestion that the BBC endorses your view! The dishonesty bar really is being set high this week, and with that, it’s my pleasure to thank Fraser Nelson for coming along to play Spot The Whopper! Give the man a big hand!
Can anyone out-whopper that? You betcha, says Sarah. So we’ll be back later.