back to article Leveson tells media to set up independent regulator or bow to Ofcom

Independent regulation of the British press underpinned by legislation has been recommended by Lord Justice Leveson today. The peer, who has carried out a 16-month-long inquiry into press ethics following phone-hacking and other allegations aimed at the now-defunct Rupert Murdoch owned Sunday tabloid News of the World, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Perhaps I am wrong, but why is new legislation needed to regulate the press? I assumed that what they had done, the phone "hacking" and all the other issues, were already illegal?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      It isn't legislation to regulate the press. It's legislation to provide benefits for the press actually following their own regulations (e.g. reduced damages when sued/prosecuted) in return for providing the general public actual recourse to monitor and object.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Why?

      If you put a senior lawyer in charge of an enquiry, don't be surprised if he comes up with recommendations to create more jobs for lawyers.

    3. Geoff332

      Re: Why?

      The problem is that if someone relatively minor (like me) gets unjustly attacked by the press, I currently have no recourse. The PCC is weak. I can't afford to prosecute a suit against a big media organisation. And they'd not actually be breaking the law (lying itself isn't illegal - if it was, the Daily Mail wouldn't exist).

      A stronger regulatory body is required to protect people against the power of the press - protection that they don't currently have - and statute is required to make sure that regulation has teeth. Statute does not require the Government to actually regulate the press. Of course, the press isn't smart enough to understand the difference.

      Either that, or it's against their self-interest to understand the difference and they are deliberately mis-representing the issue.

      1. Magister

        Re: Why?

        I would agree that the press needs to be held to account; being able to make things up and then print them as fact has to be wrong. (This allows for genuine mistakes)

        But I do get concerned at any suggestion that there should be further government intrusion. Quite simply, they are just too bloody incompetent to do a job right, they are even less trustworthy than the press and it would end up being more money from our taxes to pay for some self-important twerp(s) to sit on his (their) arse(s) and do sod all.

        Do I have an answer? No; I wish I did. Breaking up some of the media groups might help, but I'm not too sure that would be enough.

      2. Graham Marsden

        Re: Why?


        "Either that, or it's against their self-interest to understand the difference and they are deliberately mis-representing the issue."

        Which do you think it is?!

    4. Joseph Lord

      Re: Why?

      Phone hacking and bribing policemen were already illegal. There are plenty of other things that came up in the evidence to Leveson that were in many cases legal but definitely unethical and breaches of the editors code and general decency without being illegal.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In the executive summary, just print from page 33 onwards (on the printed page, this is 32 onwards) -this will give you the Summary of Recommendations.

    None of the press have to sign up to join any body of any sort. So no change then. The 'Encouraging Membership' section (printed page 35 of the executive summary) is a complete joke as the first paragraph is "A new system of regulation should not be considered sufficiently effective if it does not cover all significant news publishers."

    This means, without compulsory membership, the whole proposal falls apart. Not enough carrot and nowhere near enough stick.

    People will say, what about publishers on things like Twitter? Well, you could have compulsory membership for any organisation where the revenue is greater than £10,000 gained as a result of information being generated, weather to the author or technology provider (online or print).

    What a waste of time and money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: summary

      You seem to be confusing Lord Justice Leveson, a judge, with Rt Hon David Cameron MP, a legislator. It was Leveson's job to assess, establish the facts and make recommendations on how best to prevent this from ever happening again, not to provide detailed plans on exactly how to do it. Learn how your fucking government works before you post again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: summary

        That's why on page 39 of the Executive Summary there are detailed recommendations for the Ministry of Justice on detailing which legislation needs to be amended. On page 40, there are similar recommendations to the Information Commissioner and on pages 41/42 detailed information on recommendations for changes to Criminal Law and Civil Law.

        I will post what I want when I want, who's going to stop me (apart from El Reg moderators) ?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what a pile of shit.

    basically the status que with few tweaks.

    printed press should have to abide ny the same rules as TV media

  4. Chris007

    This one change would be a good deterrant



    Red top headline covering all front page "john smith is a paedo"

    john smith is found not to be a paedo

    Red top print 8pt apology on bottom of page 24


    how it should be


    Red top headline covering all front page "john smith is a paedo"

    john smith is found not to be a paedo

    Red top print apology covering all front page "Sorry, we were wrong" and explain why

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This one change would be a good deterrant

      "Red top print 8pt apology on bottom of page 24"

      or just below the "fold" if you are reading the web version.

      would be good - going to the Daily Mail/Sun/Guardian/etc webpage and seeing the words in inch-high letters


    2. auburnman

      Re: This one change would be a good deterrant

      I don't know if that'd be good idea. Great in principle, but I think a full front page "We are wrong and stupid and here's why" article would be the only thing on this Earth that could make me buy the Daily Mail. Depending on how many people feel the same way, their front page apology punishment could well turn out to be a record seller. Maybe an automatic fine with every retraction?

    3. Alan Edwards
      IT Angle

      Re: This one change would be a good deterrant

      > Red top headline covering all front page "john smith is a paedo"

      > john smith is found not to be a paedo

      > Red top print apology covering all front page "Sorry, we were wrong" and explain why

      At the very minimum...

      It should be accompanied by an automatic fine equivalent to the sales (not profit, including online and print advertising sales) for any day the slanderous article appeared, and judicial oversight of everything for the following week.

    4. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: This one change would be a good deterrant

      AFAIK it is actually already law in some countries that a correction or apology should take up the same place in the same style as the original offending article, IMHO a good idea.

  5. DrXym Silver badge

    Just watch as nothing happens

    You only have to look at the apoplexy affecting the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Sun in particular at the moment to see the overt hostility to any form of regulation. This of course has nothing whatsoever about their fears of censorship and everything to do with them afraid of being held to account if they repeat some of the atrocious things they have done in the past. The press complaints commission was a poodle and that's just the way they liked it.

    The government will make a lot of sympathetic noises and do its upmost to not do anything at all. Press regulation would make the press cross and if the press are cross they'll take it out on the government.

    1. Flatpackhamster

      Re: Just watch as nothing happens

      Mmm, the problem I have with your argument is that you seem to be saying that a Free Press - that is, a press that is free to criticise the government - is a bad thing. And you're in agreement with the Guardian on this, for whom the whole Leveson malarkey has been little more than an attempt to crush Rupert Murdoch's papers.

      A Free Press is a good thing. Vile though some elements of it might be, it is the only thing that stops the government doing whatever the hell it likes. Government fears the press.

      If elements of the press break the law, then they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But handing the controls of the press over to OfCom (which is run by one of Gordon Brown's spin doctors) is a terrible, terrible mistake.

      I hope that Leveson's enquiry dies the death it needs to and we step back from the abyss.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Just watch as nothing happens

        No, what I am saying (and I shall say it in detail to avoid you having to put words in my mouth) is that the press complaints commission is toothless and the newspapers like it that way. It's not worth complaining because it rarely acts and if it does it usually just issues a mild slap on the wrist. The only other recourse is the courts and it should be obvious why many people do not take that option. So the press cynically calculate they can commit the worst abuses knowing they're rarely get punished for it. And this isn't happening in the public interest either but to sell newspapers.

        It's also clear the government needs the press on their side and is scared of the press. Look how chummy Cameron was with Rebeccah Brooks for example. Look how prominently UKIP has featured in the last few weeks (certainly not for the importance of the story. The press is overtly threatening the Tories by trying to split their support base across some other party. The Daily Mail and Telegraph has been particularly virulent of late in this regard.

        It was fortunate that the phone tapping scandal was so big that not even the government could deny calls for an inquiry into press conduct. But that doesn't mean the government will necessarily legislate. They'd far prefer the press "voluntarily" submit to some stronger form of self regulation. They'd prefer to pretend they cannot legislate, despite the fact that broadcasting is legislated and manages to function. So expect the government to weasel out of doing anything and for the new "voluntary" regulation to be so emasculated as to be useless.

        One hopes that enough members parliament, under the guise of "cross party support" if necessary have the balls to legislate even if the government does not.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: Just watch as nothing happens

          A Free Press might be a good thing - as long as it's also an accountable Press. And that's what the enquiry was about. The UK press had gained too much power to do as it jolly well pleased, and sod the rights of anyone they decided to ruin the lives of.

          Part of the problem is, of course, that certain people got away with things that were flat out illegal (in this context I'm watching with interest the events surrounding Piers Morgan) and the average individual was simply not having much of a chance for redress. Not everyone has the kind of lawyers that Sienna Miller employed (she has to date not lost ONE SINGLE CASE in court, notice how the newspapers have gone vewwy, vewwy quiet about her), and the fact remains that doing illegal things had gone from being mildly frowned upon to accepted practice. Well, it's time that got spiked (might as well use a press euphemism).

          It's FAR too early to draw a conclusion about good or bad - the Enquiry was only the first step. It laid bare some seriously dodgy habits, and the police has already had a good time rounding people up (in some cases their won for accepting cash for "assistance beyond the call of duty", so to speak). Now it's up to the politicians to show they either have the backbone to do the right thing, or to hand back the power to the newspapers this Enquiry has ripped from underneath them. The clever ones will do the right thing because it ends the implicit blackmail.

          The only problem is that I'm not sure they *are* that clever to see the opportunity. Many will be wined and dined and featured by the press in an attempt to water down whatever measures will follow - the coming few months will show what stuff the current crop is really made of - and if the assembled Press has the balls to do things right instead of easy.

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Or they could just do a Starbucks

    The newspaper is owned by "Tits and Bums - Grand Caymen ltd", the web site is hosted in Libya, the printing is done by a wholly owned subsiduary who has no editorial control and the "journalists" and editors are all self employed contractors.

    So you print a story about John Smith and even if he does sue - the only people the court can go after is a few easily replaceable journos.

  7. Chris Rowland

    Paying attention to what the press say about this seems to me like asking the criminals what sentence should be imposed - and even what counts as a crime.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Why are politicians afraid of the press?

    Because the press told them to be.

    They should stop wetting themselves about what the press (IE Murdoch) knows

    It's interesting that "The Press" has suddenly discovered an interest in "freedom" (albeit mostly their own) while the Communications Interception Programme rolls on.

    A bit f***ing late in my opion.

  9. James 100

    The new West Lothian Question

    One detail many seem to have missed is that press regulation is a matter devolved to the Scottish government - meaning whatever law Westminster might pass for England, Scotland will not be covered. Salmond had already rejected the idea of statutory regulation, even if Westminster did impose that south of the border; with the report published, he seems to endorse the compromise approach - but would the Scottish ombudsman body be the same one as England's? (Remember, during the Ryan Giggs gagging mess last year, the English gagging order only prohibited those south of the border from talking about him - so the Sunday Herald was free to publish the story.)

    The concept seems a bizarre compromise to me: a "voluntary" regulatory body under the oversight of Ofcom, it says ... but opt out of that and you get regulated by Ofcom instead. Avoid government regulation - by involving the government regulator!

    "Clearing" the police - the same police who took bribes and provided the press with illegal information - was a rather bizarre contortion too. Shouldn't they, of all people, be expected to obey the law?! (Those were plain old crimes, though: no need for an "inquiry", just a proper investigation and prosecution.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    The Data Protection Act recommended changes are huge

    A couple of the recommended changes to the Data Protection Act are significant, affecting every company not just newspapers or journalists.

    From the summary report:

    Para 50: "It should be made clear that the right to compensation for distress conferred by section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998 is not restricted to cases of pecuniary loss, but should include compensation for pure distress." This means you could claim 'distress' and therefore monetary compensation from any organisation that breaks the terms of the act e.g. an insurance company that spams you with emails/letters spelling your name wrongly, something that I find highly distressing. ;-)

    Para 55: "The prosecution powers of the Information Commissioner should be extended to include any offence which also constitutes a breach of the data protection principles." So the Information Commissioner can prosecute *any* offence from any piece of UK legislation - if a data protection principle was also breached? Wow! And (para 56) they only have to *consult* with the Crown Prosecution Service, not get their approval or support.

    This introduces a whole new prosecuting authority... which means that it is one recommendation that is highly unlikely to make it into law.

  11. Winkypop Silver badge

    Carry on

    Rich men make rules that rich men don't need to follow.

    Status quo restored, now back to your cubicles.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cue nothing happening

    As we continue our national hobby of ordering expensive enquiries then ignoring the results. "These are not the answers I asked for"

    Every sector that has the power to do damage has some sort of regulation - police, health, tv, schools, phone networks... and the press in general has shown they do have that power. So I'm all for something other than a recourse to the courts after the fact.

  13. Alan Edwards

    Nothing changes, then

    Replace the PCC with the same thing but with a different name, run by the same bunch of cronies. An appropriate back-hander pushes any infractions under a suitable carpet unless they do something monumentally stupid and get caught.

    Add a threat that if they don't play ball regulation will be handed over to the toothless wonder, AKA OFCOM.

    > Leveson insisted, however, that his recommendations did not amount to "statutory regulation of the press."

    No shit, Sherlock. It's the complete opposite.

    All in all, a waste of 16 months. We had the opportunity to set up a truly accountable press that isn't free to use whatever illegal tactics it deems necessary to sell its rags. Oh well.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Nothing changes, then

      No - this was only stage 1: establishing facts and getting some recommendations out. The real fun is about to start, and will show the true colour of the politicians. And, AFAIK there are a number of cases pending as a result of investigations - that too will be interesting to watch, if only to see how objectively the press reports on the prosecution of its own..

  14. Clyde

    I'm quite gobsmacked there's so few responses

    I'm quite gobsmacked there's so few responses to this article. It's actually a helluvan important issue in the country.

    We CANNOT have any controls against free speech. Full stop. The press as much as anyone must be free to say what they want.

    However, when they do say something bad - damaging - hurtful - not true, they MUST be held to account, they must atone for their sins.

    So if it's a printed nasty, then a printed retract in exactly the same place in the same publication, as the original slander. Then a fine on top of that for getting it wrong against public morality.

    And absolutely strong policing of that. This is the ONLY place that legislation should come into it. On the redress side. And there has to be a body that makes sure this happens, because the average wage earner is never going to be able to hire QCs to do it.

    Forget regulation of what the press says - but hammer them when they do it badly for the sake of profit.

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