The prime minister announced a two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the phone hacking scandal, on 13 July 2011. Lord Justice Leveson was appointed as chairman of the inquiry. He shall examine the culture, practices and ethics of the media. Also the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians. He is assisted by a panel of six independent of six independent assessors with expertise in key issues being considered by the Inquiry The inquiry has been established under the inquires Act 2005 and has the power to summon witnesses Including newspaper reporters, management, proprietors, police officers and politicians of all parties will give evidence under oath and in public.
Self regulation and the PCC has continued, but the authority of the regulator was fatally undermined by the News of the World phone hacking saga The regulator chose to criticise the Guardian saying it’s story “did not quite live up to its dramatic billing”. But in the wake of a string of further phone hacking revelations, culminating in the Milly Dowler Story. The press, and even the PCC itself acknowledge that some sort of reform was necessary.
The British press operates in a constitutional vacuum, circumscribed by the general laws against bribery, libel, and intercepting communications. But there are no specific laws to either protect or regulate the press there is nothing to match the US constitution’s first amendment guarantee of free speech. Lord Justice Leveson at one point suggested parliament could legislate to introduce such as right which could balance the introduction of some form of statutory regulation, either the underpinning of an independent regulator or full blown statutory regulator similar to Ofcom.
It is an incremental change from the discredited PCC Whereas the PCC isSelf-regulation model; it gives power to a currently run by Lord Hunt, PCC chairman;Detailed proposals drawn- “finance body” composed newspapers, the new model Lord Black, press lobbyistup by Lord Hunt and Guy of key figures from the increases the number of lay and Telegraph Media GroupBlack in consultation with industry; it is not members; no legislation is director; Paul Dacre, editorthe national and local press independent enough to required; it will be seen as in chief, Daily Mail; Michaelto handle complaints, with satisfy victims of past press more independent and Gove, education secretary;powers to undertake intrusion; there is no membership of all Boris Johnson, Londoninvestigations for the first guarantee that all newspapers is encouraged mayortime publishers, particularly via long term contracts Richard Desmond, will sign up Some newspapers, Lack of public confidence including the FinancialIndependent regulation due to lack of legal backup; Times and the Guardian;Similar to Hunt/Black self- does not solve the problem Evgeny Lebedev, owner of Legislation still notregulation plan with an of a publisher who refuses the Independent and required, with membershipindependently appointed to sign up; unclear if it can Evening Standard; Ed enforced via a long-termchair, and few or no serving operate as an alternative to Miliband, Labour party contracteditors as part of its courts, meaning wealthy leader; probably Nickmembership individuals can still sue for Clegg, deputy prime libel or take privacy actions minister; possibly David Cameron, prime minister
Statutory support would Would require legislation be seen as a giving politicians new strengthening of the powers over the press, body; could also be used Hacked Off campaignStatutory underpinning which could be hard to to help reduce the costs group, including HughLegal recognition for the pass; risk of Commons of legal actions for Grant. National UnionPCC replacement, or Lords throwing in newspapers who sign up Journalists. Ken Clarke,providing statutory further amendments that to the new PCC, and help minister withoutsupport could impact freedom of create a low tribunal portfolio press (given how many system to handle politicians have had run- complaints previously ins with the media) seen by the courts Broadcasters remain Licensing model gives independent of government theoretical government despite power to take away aStatutory regulation statutory regulation and licence; parliamentaryA licensing system with licences; ITV’s Jimmy passage likely to bean official regulator with Savile scoop shows TV fraught; statutorylegal powers modelled None news can break big regulation createson Ofcom, which exclusives as well as unwelcome globalregulates the newspapers; Ofcom’s precedent, particularly inbroadcasters complaints system is countries where state well used and accepted threat to journalists is by public much greater
Lord Justice Leveson will issue his report on Thursday, but it will not be for him to implement it. If new legislation is recommended, and the government is willing, then it will fall on ministers to introduce the statute required. But the press is strongly opposed to statutory reform, and the Conservatives are split between those who oppose any statute and those who support a modest form of legislation. So, either way, it will fall to the press itself to create a reformed regulator and to chance its own culture and practices. It is unclear exactly how the prime minister will react, but one outcome being canvassed is that the coalition gives the press time to come up with a reformed PCC, and leaves hanging over the industry the threat of statutory Ofcom regulation if Britains highly politicised and factionalised newspapers cannot agree. A noisy few weeks is expected as campaigners, politicians and the press itself fight to introduce the model that they want. The precise outcome is far from certain – but nobody believes that the status quo is an option.