Transcript of evidence to Leveson Inquiry (of which straightest reporting is in the Mail SHOCK)
Posted on 1 December 2011 | 8:12am
And with thanks to one of my twitter followers, who has sent me cuttings from today’s papers, I can say something I never thought I would say – that the straightest reporting of my evidence is probably in the Daily Mail.
Ok, it is not very big, (which means it went well from my perspective), needless to say there are no mentions of what I said about the paper and its hideaway editor, and the picture makes me look mildly pyschotic; but it does at least focus on my general attack on the press and what it has become. Most of the others, including the Star and the Telegraph (page leads) and the Sun (short piece) go on the already well ventilated issue of my concerns about how stories about Cherie Blair and Carole Caplin got out.
The Mirror finds no room for my mention of their use of private detectives to target me an Peter Mandelson (though the Times does in a small piece) and in terms of the substance of my argument refers only to my ‘extraordinary mononolgue’ (sic) without saying what it consisted of. And its report concludes ‘The Daily Mirror is happy with how the Cherie Blair pregnancy story was obtained.’
The Independent has a few pars inside a story leading on the evidence of the former police officer Alex Owens, who gave fascinating testimony on the failure of the authorities to follow up evidence of huge-scale criminal activity for newspapers.
The Guardian is an interesting one. I had several messages yesterday from Guardian journalists telling me how much they enjoyed/agreed with/supported my basic arguments. ‘I agreed with every word’ said one. And whilst I accept they gave huge online coverage yesterday, as did others, in the paper today there appears to be a couple of paragraphs tagged on the Owens stort, and a gently pisstaking sketch. Old habits die hard.
Interestingly, nobody mentions the PCC anywhere and nobody covers the part of the evidence and statement where I talked about the kind of changes the Inquiry might think about making to the government when its report is completed. So here is a summary.
– The goal should be transparency and information for the public/accountability of people at the top/and empowerment of good journalists to take control of journalism back from the bad.
There have been too many last chance saloons and they’ve got drunk in every one of them. The good have nothing to fear from regulation.
PCC replacement body shoudl be established by Parliament but independent of all political and all current media interests. No serving political or media figures on it.
The PCC code is an excellent basis for a new code of standards, but should be reviewed to take account of the technological changes, eg internet, and of recent events examined by the inquiry.
It should have the responsibility, and the power, to see that the code is upheld. Including the power to fine owners, editors and journalists for serious breaches of the code. It should have the power to order placement and wording of corrections and apologies, and to adjudicate in cases where a right of reply is being refused.
Apologies should be given the same prominence as an inaccurate story, and the victim given a major say in how it is presented.
The replacement body might be the body to pre-adjudicate on privacy/public interest cases. I supported the idea Nick Davies of The Guardian had mentioned of a pre publication arbitration body to which journalists and the subjects of their stories could go for an opinion on the public interest.
The PCC replacement should be able to investigate without a complaint from an individual, and investigate themes as well as stories. Eg Islamaphobia. MMR. The use of papers to promote commercial interests.
There should be an annual report to show how each paper is adhering to an agreed code of standards and values, with league tables rating them according to standards they are expected to uphold.
On the other side – external limits on press freedom need to be examined, eg case law on confidence and defamation. Genuine investigative journalism should be boosted.
Journalism should be seen as a profession with professional standards and qualifications.
The tax status of media owners should be reviewed. They are major political players but with no political accountability. They might be subject to the same taxation status rules as MPs and party donors.
Cross media ownership needs to be re-examined. We should have done it and never did. In fact, we should have done a lot of the above.