Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

Guardian editorial on Leveson gives far too much credence to Dacre-Murdoch vested interests protection plan

Posted on 2 November 2012 | 9:11am

I would not normally concern myself too much with the sleeping patterns of the editor of The Guardian, but judging by his editorial on the upcoming Leveson Report, I sense a lot of tossing and turning has been going on. Apologies for not providing a link, but I am having a technologically challenged morning, so instead I have cut and pasted and put the editorial at the bottom of this blog.

The Guardian, and in particular reporter Nick Davies and editor Alan Rusbridger who gave him the time, resources and support to pursue a story that other media, politicians and police preferred to will away, must rank among the heroes of the story which has brought us to the point where Leveson is about to report, and hopefully make recommendations which will lead to a change in the media culture which has been exposed.

But there is enough in the editorial below to suggest Rusbridger will end up on the side of the villains who can claim the largest share of responsibility for creating the culture in the first place. That may sound harsh, but I worry a little when I read words from the pen of The Guardian editor, giving credence to the plans of Lord Black, one of the long line of failed heads of the failed Press Complaints Commission, still working away for the press interests to whom he owes so much to be granted just one more, final, absolutely last time honest your Honour, booze up in the last chance saloon.

When the Rusbridger editorial points out that the Black proposals have ‘widespread support among the press’, we should be immediately suspicious. The press is a major vested interest. If they support a particular plan, it is because that plan suits their interest, not the public interest, and I think we have seen enough at Leveson to know that the media interest is often not the same thing as the public interest.

The difference with other major vested interests is that the press can act as player and spectator in the media game. The largely one-sided framing of the debate right now is a major part of that, owners and editors using their papers to seek to influence the judge, public opinion and the politicians who will have to rule upon whatever the judge brings forward, not least by constant suggestion that any role for Parliament is tantamount to an end to press freedom. Yet even the useless PCC had to be set up by Parliament.

Another interesting example has been the poll recently carried out showing overwhelming public support for the kind of tough and statutory regulation that the press falsely claim would amount to a huge curb on their freedoms. If you have seen any reference to this poll in the newspages of newspapers which love to claim they speak for and represent their readers’ interests, then you have read more papers than I have. Barely a day goes by without newspapers using polls to fill space, provide new angles on running stories, and generally give the sense of taking the public mood seriously. But when a poll says something that goes against their own vested interest, it heads immediately for the electronic spike.

The Black plans, the Hunt plans, any plan that is cooked up by the same media power brokers who cooked up the PCC, chief among them Paul Dacre of the Mail and senior executives of the Murdoch titles, should be seen for what they are – a defence of the status quo dressed up as a plan for change, a tactic designed to allow them to carry on as they always have once the report is published, Parliament’s view is taken, and the caravan moves on.

When all the Guardian agonising is done, the editor and his team need to ask one simple question … Are they with Dacre, Murdoch and Black, or with the Dowlers, the McCanns, the Watsons, the Christoper Jefferies of this world, and all the others who have cause to be grateful to their brilliant investigative journalism, which has given Britain a once in a lifetime chance to save the press from the damage it has done to itself and to the country?

Here is The Guardian editorial…

Somewhere in the corridors of the Royal Courts of Justice, Sir Brian Leveson is toiling away on his keenly awaited report into the ethics and standards of the British press. Even at this late stage – the white smoke is expected within a few weeks – there is much furious lobbying, both by those who wish Lord Justice Leveson to turn the statutory thumbscrews on journalists and, on the other side, by those who believe that the judge may be set on sweeping away 200 years or more of press freedom.

Into the midst of this heady atmosphere has burst the Jimmy Savile story – which has been instantly seized on by all sides to prove one point or another. Savile can be a clarion call for an unshackled press or, seen differently, it can demonstrate that statutory regulation is hardly an obstacle to robust investigative journalism (the story was, after all, broken by Ofcom-regulated ITV). In other hands it can demonstrate how admirably transparent the BBC is, or else can be used to prove that the corporation – which is probably the most trusted and admired news organisation in the world – is in fact utterly corrupt and contemptible and in need of a Leveson inquiry all of its own.

Middle ground

The debate has, in other words, become a little overheated – particularly given that few, if any, have any idea what Sir Brian actually has in mind and that the judge is unlikely to be much impressed by vocal last-minute campaigning by either side. He presumably well understands that the lobbying is less aimed at him as at the politicians who will, in time, have to reach a decision on his recommendations.

From his own pronouncements and questions while his inquiry was sitting, we can hazard a guess that Sir Brian is likely to be examining the middle ground between the two extremes being urged on him. There is real opportunity in this space, otherwise known as independent regulation.

Sir Brian can build on the real progress made by Lord Black in outlining a new system of regulation which enjoys widespread support across the press. This proposal is not, as its critics claim, the status quo. It promises real investigations, tough sanctions and a commitment to the enforcement of standards that its predecessor, the PCC, did not have. It is, as drafted, far from perfect. It vests too much power in an industry funding body which retains key powers over the regulator, especially the ability to appoint the press members of key committees. Students of the PCC – and of how it came to produce such a lamentable response to the phone-hacking scandal – will know these are the very mechanics of the old discredited system. Leveson will surely reject them, as would parliament.

Use of statute

But there is still merit in the outline Black plan, which goes some way to solving the so-called Richard Desmond problem – the fear that major publishers could undermine the system by simply leaving it – by requiring all publishers over a certain size to sign a five-year contract. Critics argue that this is insufficiently enduring. But this is where Leveson’s idea of adding an arbitral arm to the regulator for legal press complaints could be critical. The arbitral wing would give cheap and quick justice to complainants and publishers alike. It would reward those in the system by offering legal defences and lower penalties.

Some observers point out that such an arbitral system would need to be enshrined in law with the press regulator recognised in statute. That may be true, but this use of statute merely builds on the precedent of section 12 of the Human Rights Act, which asks judges to consider regulatory codes in their deliberations over free expression. For the press to oppose such a limited use of statute as a matter of principle would seem to be counter-productive. This creation of a quick and simplified arbitral system – along with the defamation bill currently wending its way through parliament – would do much to address the scandal of Britain’s libel laws as well as making the new regulatory system work. One of the most important media lessons about Jimmy Savile may be that, while there was nothing in regulation to stop newspapers exposing Savile during his lifetime, there was plenty to deter them in the libel laws.

Some of the victims of hacking are, understandably, sceptical about any voluntary system. We sympathise with these concerns. But the trouble with compulsory regulation is that, in the wrong hands, it could edge us back towards something that looks like the licensing of the press and of journalists – something that was abolished in the late 17th century and which has no place in a free society. Some counter that this is a baseless fear, claiming that it would be possible to enshrine in law the regulator’s independence from both government and the newspaper industry.

These are reasonable arguments to make in reasonable times. But will we always live in such times? The question is whether, having once conceded parliament’s right to lay down the law about the regulation of the press, a Rubicon has been crossed – at least politically. Europe may be on the brink of a period of social turbulence – with all the authoritarian responses that will almost inevitably follow. See this week’s arrest of the Greek journalist Costas Vaxevanis for publishing the names of alleged tax evaders. And look at the fury recently directed by the press and MPs at the BBC’s news operation and see how ugly the mood can turn against even the most ethical and professional news organisations.

Independent regulation

There are plenty of laws already affecting journalists in this country. The argument is sometimes advanced that – given these laws – we should just leave it to the police. But the phone-hacking saga revealed that Britain’s largest police force behaved in an extraordinary way when confronted with the might of one immensely powerful newspaper group. The law on its own is not sufficient – which is why Leveson has to consider regulation and then ask searching questions about media plurality. He must help politicians see why no media baron must ever again be allowed to carve out the kind of dominance enjoyed for more than a generation by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Our own position remains as we argued it before the inquiry this summer. We believe in independent regulation, both from politicians and the press itself. We do believe in a contract system – not the use of statute – to secure participation. But we also believe in an arbitral arm which incentivises the regulated to pursue high standards and penalises anyone who walks away. We believe that the regulator must have real investigatory powers and sanctions. And, above all, we believe in the importance of plurality.

  • Anonymous

    Planet Earth to Alastair, are you receiving me? Think Disqus is playing up since they are putting more mods (modifications) in, since I noticed they have put a “comment to” type thing in, eventually.

    Anyway, The Guardian seemed to been doing OK a couple of years ago, but they seem to be losing their way. Might be down to over self-grandisation or something, or over-confidence, or just the basic human trait of complacency.

  • Anonymous

    Planet Earth to Alastair, are you receiving me? Think Disqus is playing up since they are putting more mods (modifications) in, since I noticed they have put a “comment to” type thing in, eventually.

    Anyway, The Guardian seemed to been doing OK a couple of years ago, but they seem to be losing their way. Might be down to over self-grandisation or something, or over-confidence, or just the basic human trait of complacency.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Free press?
    Alan Rusbridger is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation.
    Ditchley Foundation is a mini-Bilderberg. Bilderberg Group´s steering committee sometimes holds its monthly meetings at the HQ of Ditchley Foundation.
    Bilderberg Group falsely claims that its only activity is its annual meeting.
    Other governors of Ditchley Foundation include Lord Butler, Lawrence Freedman, Jeremy Greenstock, David Manning, Will Hutton, Andrew Knight, Bronwen Maddox, John Sawers, Gus O´Donnell and Philip Stephens.
    Ditchley Foundation works closely with Tavistock Institute which was founded by money from the Rockefellers.
    Both Alan Rusbridger and Will Hutton (Bilderberger) also sit on the board of Scott Trust which owns the Guardian and the Observer.
    Another board member is Anthony Salz, vice chairman of Rothschild.
    Rothschilds are a taboo subject in British media.
    No one dares to tell that they have more media power than Mr Murdoch.
    Rothschilds own ITV, Penguin, FT, Economist, IPC Magazines and Reed Elsevier.
    They are the second biggest shareholders of News Corp and BSkyB.
    Britain does not have a free press.
    Not a single journalist dares to tell the truth about the Committee of 300, the biggest secret of British politics, or Order of Garter (freemasonry) and Club of Isles (secret investment vehicle of the elite).
    The following Britons attended the 2012 Bilderberg meeting:
    Marcus Agius chairman of Rothschilds´ Barclays
    Nick Boles MP
    Ken Clarke
    Robert Dudley CE of Rothschilds´ BP
    Douglas J. Flint chairman of Rothschilds´ HSBC
    John Kerr
    Peter Mandelson close friend of the Rothschilds
    John Micklethwait editor of Rothschilds´ the Economist
    Gideon Rachman of Rothschilds´ FT
    Peter Vose of Rothschilds´ Shell
    Martin Wolf of FT
    Niall Ferguson author of books on Rothschilds
    According to accounts of Bilderberg Group the funding for it comes from Goldman Sachs (Rothschilds), Microsoft (Bill Gates/Rothschilds) plus from David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger personally.
    So the media, bankers and politicians are all in this together.
    Any hope of better media culture is a mirage.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Free press?
    Alan Rusbridger is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation.
    Ditchley Foundation is a mini-Bilderberg. Bilderberg Group´s steering committee sometimes holds its monthly meetings at the HQ of Ditchley Foundation.
    Bilderberg Group falsely claims that its only activity is its annual meeting.
    Other governors of Ditchley Foundation include Lord Butler, Lawrence Freedman, Jeremy Greenstock, David Manning, Will Hutton, Andrew Knight, Bronwen Maddox, John Sawers, Gus O´Donnell and Philip Stephens.
    Ditchley Foundation works closely with Tavistock Institute which was founded by money from the Rockefellers.
    Both Alan Rusbridger and Will Hutton (Bilderberger) also sit on the board of Scott Trust which owns the Guardian and the Observer.
    Another board member is Anthony Salz, vice chairman of Rothschild.
    Rothschilds are a taboo subject in British media.
    No one dares to tell that they have more media power than Mr Murdoch.
    Rothschilds own ITV, Penguin, FT, Economist, IPC Magazines and Reed Elsevier.
    They are the second biggest shareholders of News Corp and BSkyB.
    Britain does not have a free press.
    Not a single journalist dares to tell the truth about the Committee of 300, the biggest secret of British politics, or Order of Garter (freemasonry) and Club of Isles (secret investment vehicle of the elite).
    The following Britons attended the 2012 Bilderberg meeting:
    Marcus Agius chairman of Rothschilds´ Barclays
    Nick Boles MP
    Ken Clarke
    Robert Dudley CE of Rothschilds´ BP
    Douglas J. Flint chairman of Rothschilds´ HSBC
    John Kerr
    Peter Mandelson close friend of the Rothschilds
    John Micklethwait editor of Rothschilds´ the Economist
    Gideon Rachman of Rothschilds´ FT
    Peter Vose of Rothschilds´ Shell
    Martin Wolf of FT
    Niall Ferguson author of books on Rothschilds
    According to accounts of Bilderberg Group the funding for it comes from Goldman Sachs (Rothschilds), Microsoft (Bill Gates/Rothschilds) plus from David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger personally.
    So the media, bankers and politicians are all in this together.
    Any hope of better media culture is a mirage.

  • Gilliebc

    ‘So the media, bankers and politicians are all in this together.’ Exactly Olli. All that remains is for them to get the police (fully) on board and we will have a full blown facist/communist totalitarian dictatorship.

  • Anonymous

    Boils down to:
    Was phone hacking bad? Yes. Are the Sun, NOTW, Murdoch and Dacre scum? Yes.
    I won’t pretend we’ll end up like Russia or Iran if we do something but we could end up like France.
    Is it better to have government regulation like in France where the press cannot investigate and report on government ministers properly? No.

    I am not saying there should be no intervention, I think it is right to make sure there are no monopolies (like BBC and Sky) or cartels like the right wing cartel that dominates most of the news media. So bust up monopolies and cartels, but give the rest freedom.

  • http://twitter.com/Janiete Janet Edwards

    In a recent Twitter exchange someone asked how she should go about improving her awareness and understanding of news and political issues. I’m sure she is not alone in feeling she cannot exercise her duty as a voter properly, unless she has access to sound, honest information.

    This goes to the heart of the problem of our media culture, where facts, impartiality and truth are, at best, secondary to comment and persuasion. I haven’t read or heard anywhere in our media that fusion of news and comment has even been discussed at Leveson. John Major’s cutting point ‘how is the reader to know the truth’ hasn’t been repeated or replayed anywhere. Yet how often have we heard protests about the dangers of statutory regulation on our free press? Has anyone heard how exactly, being made to tell the truth, would curb a free press?

    The most alarming thing for me is how these current press norms have infected our broadcast media. We are so used to news being a journalist’s subjective view of what has happened, or what someone said, that we seem oblivious to the extent of manipulation taking place. We are so used to not getting the facts that we hardly notice any more. In a democracy this is a very dangerous state of affairs.

  • Anonymous

    Oh dear Gilliebc – did you see newsnight last night?

    Newsnight pulled out of outing a politician last night, but if they were in the shadow cabinet at the end of the ’70s AND in Thatcher’s first 1979 ministry AND has been stated to be still alive, equals only about half a dozen or so people. The others alive will be tarred with same brush now if that certain person is not outed.

    But we will hear who it is in the next couple of days, no doubt – I bet in the tabloids tomorrow. Where is the NOTW when you need them? Oh yes toasted, all round.

  • Anonymous

    self-aggrandisation even, flipping spelling brainblocks.

  • Anonymous

    Tried posting this earlier, but since Frisco Disqus in their ultimate wisdom has decided to do some modifications this brit timed zoned morning, with all is going on, I will try again, since I copied it and hope they become alive again, as they have done Alastair, it looks.

    I quote myself and paste, Alastair,

    “Thanks goodness they have seen sense to cancel tomorrow’s marathon in NYC Alastair.

    Bizarre rabbits caught in the headlamps carry on – I feel sorry for all those that have travelled from all over the World to be there for it. Anyway, the organisers can always give them a shovel and a wheelbarrow and help out. AHHHH, that must have been the grand plan, I get it now, silly me! : ) ”

    And another song for Statten Island, downtown Mannhatten, and New Jersey, if I may Alastair, with a : ),
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAdottB7UU8

    Chins up, keep stiff upper lip, and all that, east coasters from across the pond. I would be over there straight to help you all, if you were only a few miles down the road, rather than a couple of thousand, with my wholesome honest mates/clan.

  • Anonymous

    As I thought, US is in shutdown with even this yank Presidential election coming. The fucking twats.

    Need to set up elsewhere, to get away from these trantrumouse feet stamping, look at me, loud talking, twat yankies, who don’t know they are born since WWII, until last weekend. Twats!

  • Anonymous

    What the hell is going on with this blog site these days.

    Anyway, Obama on the back of a train truck, being taken around, to say his message,
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-20181224

    In video,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsdZ1FGFDh0

    Yes that is him, talking sense, the most sense in the US, it looks.

  • Anonymous

    The three NY papers that I read online Alastair don’t make good reading, that is the NY Times. NY Daily and the NY Post.

    Common sense failure. Thank god the luftwaffa was out of their range in WWII. Song,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apnRojgtmXs

  • Olli Issakainen

    Free press? – Part 2
    David Rockefeller´s Trilateral Commission met in Helsinki (Finland) 3-4.11.2012.
    It met to discuss the future of Europe.
    Chairman of the meeting was Jean-Claude Trichet of the Group of Thirty.
    Mario Monti (Goldman Sachs, Bilderberg Group, Spinelli Group) was also present.
    Members of Trilateral Commission include:
    Carl Bildt foreign minister Sweden
    Lord Brittan UBS bank
    John Bruton former PM Ireland
    Alfonso Cortina Rothshilds Europe
    Caroline Daniel FT
    Vladimir Dlouhy Goldman Sachs
    Lord Guthrie former director NM Rothschild
    Simon Henry Shell
    Nigel Higgins CE The Rothschild Group
    Lord Kerr Shell
    Rachel Lomax HSBC
    Lord Mandelson Global Councel, Lazard
    David Miliband MP
    Lucas Papademos former PM Greece
    Rory Stewart MP
    Peter Sutherland Goldman Sachs
    Finland´s PM took part in the meeting together with Trilateral members Esko Aho (our former PM), Erkki Liikanen (chairman of Bank of Finland) and Lauri Kivinen (head our “BBC”).
    Finland´s president met with the Trilateral Commission.
    160 top people in Finland to discuss the future of Europe.
    One would expect this to be on the front page of every paper.
    But our biggest newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (HS) did not even mention the event.
    Total media silence. Why?
    The editor of HS and its top columnists are all Bilderbergers.
    As are our head of Yle (“BBC”), PM, president, head of Yle News, chairman of Bank of Finland – you name it.
    And Finland is supposed to be a democracy..?
    Ps. David Rockefeller also founded the Bilderberg Group.

  • http://twitter.com/Janiete Janet Edwards

    Why would statutory, independent of government regulation stop the press from investigating anyone?

  • Gilliebc

    A well observed and apposite post if I may say so Janet.
    Democracy! What democracy?

  • Gilliebc

    Yes indeed Ehtch, what a damp squib Newsnight turned out to be. Many disappointed people on many blog and comment sites. Apparently ‘he’ threatened to sue again for the second time last weeek. They will never allow this scandal to reach into the real high upper echelons, which is where this evil stuff emanates from. They may give us a few ‘has been’ politicians just to satisfy us. But it won’t reach any further. They could give us the late batchelor Tory PM from the early 1970’s. What he was seems to be almost common knowledge now.

  • http://twitter.com/Janiete Janet Edwards

    Thank you Gillie, that’s very kind of you. But unfortunately you’ve set me off again!

    I have spent the past week yelling at the TV, as I so often seem to do. We’ve had plenty of discussion of the Government’s position on the EU budget, which was to attempt to negotiate an increase in line with inflation. To make this sound tougher on Europe, the Government described this as a ‘real terms freeze’, no surprise there. The BBC dutifully repeated this carefully spun line, rarely explaining to listeners that it was actually an increase to the current budget. Worse than that, they frequently referred to it merely as a budget ‘freeze’, casually dropping the all important words ‘real terms’.

    Compare BBC reporting of the same kind of, in line with inflation, increase given to pensioners and benefit recipients in April this year. At 5.2% it was described as generous and out of step with increases in wages. So much so, that it prompted discussion and even recommendations, that Osborne should announce a change to the automatic ‘with inflation’ rise in benefits in his Autumn Statement. There was rarely a mention of the sly switch from RPI to CPI, already reducing levels of benefit and pensions. For that matter, when a pay freeze for public sector workers was announced I don’t recall the media, especially the BBC, describing that as a real terms cut.

    Our broadcast media, as well as the press, are in the manipulation game. How many people think Denis MacShane falsely claimed £13,000 for personal financial gain? The BBC’s presentation of the story was designed to give that clear impression and I thought that was the case until I read more detailed coverage on the Guardian website, which made clear he hadn’t been accused of that. I am not seeking to excuse what he did at all, and he must face up to the consequences of his actions, but the BBC deliberately withheld this important caveat to the story. They didn’t do that when reporting the £40,000 falsely claimed by David Laws, when it was made clear he only took the money to keep his private life secret.

    I could go on and on but you’ve probably had enough of me sounding off. I’ll go back to yelling at the TV!

  • Gilliebc

    Sorry for setting you off again Janet ;-) On the other hand I am pleased that more and more people are seeing through the ‘presentations’ of the so-called news we are expected to believe. All of the MSM are guilty of that, but the TV and especially the BBC are the worst culprits. It’s all about the presentation and the emphasis on the trivial that irritates me. The stories are so slanted and spun at best and at worst it is pure propaganda.
    I came across the following statistics a few days ago from somewhere/someone called Injustace Facts. I haven’t been able to verify them. But, I’ll pass them on anyway. Someone might know if they are accurate or not, perhaps.
    There are 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 TV stations, 2400 publishers – all owned by only 3 corporations.

  • Anonymous

    Did your grandmother tell you the story/fable of how donkies got their line down their back? Have a look at the next donkey you come across, I am not bullshitting.

    Well, my grannie did tell me at least. They got it God given for all donkies from when that donkey carried the Virgin Mary into Bethlehem to have Jesus, year dot. It’s true it’s true, please don’t tell me any different, and you can’t tell me any different. And I would never gossip about Mrs Christ!

    Song for xmas, from Liverpool, modern day,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShN8UIk5-mw

    Uh, time to start where I am going to buy oranges and nuts to put in my young rels socks for then, I suppose. Ach, send them a Beano book from the attic stored, as I always do. This one he fought with his brothers and sisters last year – it was carnage,
    http://shop.beano.com/content/images/products/527/Beano%201969%20unframed%20main.jpg