Chances are you’ve already heard of the Leveson Report; let’s be honest, it’s been dominating our newspapers, radio and TVs for the past year. But what does any of it actually mean? Does it really matter or is it just a waste of time and money?
The truth is that the Leveson Report does affect you; it affects what news we see and how we find out about it.
Following the phone hacking scandal at News International, in July 2011, David Cameron announced that a public inquiry would be made into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, particularly focusing on the press’ relationship with the public, the police and politicians. Cameron claimed that the inquiry would be chaired by Lord Justice Leveson and thus, the Leveson Inquiry was born.
In total, over 300 statements were taken in the year long period and among the 337 witnesses were the Gerry McCann, father of Madeleine, David Cameron and other previous prime ministers, Piers Morgan and, actor and public spokesperson for the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign, Hugh Grant. The sheer variety of witnesses reflected the extent to which the Leveson Inquiry and Report matters; from celebrities to ordinary families affected by the poor judgements and mistakes made by the press – the outlook of the report concerns everyone.
On Wednesday of last week (28th November) David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg received the complete 2000 word Leveson Report, the next day it was published and released to the public. Later that Thursday, Cameron made a statement about the report to the House of Commons, shortly after this, Clegg made his own statement; it appeared that the coalition was in disagreement.
In his report, Leveson makes clear that the current system for press regulation, the Press Complaints Commission, is not working and that a new body, independent of both the government and the press, is needed “to promote high standards of journalism and protect both the public interest and the rights of individuals”. However, and this is the bit that so many newspapers and certain politicians disagree with, he believes that this independent body must be backed by law, claiming that, “there should be legislation to underpin the independent self-regulatory system”. The reason that this proposal has received criticism from the industry is that it would mean that for the first time in 300 years, the press would no longer be a free press.
Cameron sparked anger after his statement on the report revealed that he did not agree with all of Lord Justice Leveson’s findings; despite supporting the main principles behind the recommendations, Cameron says that he has, “serious concerns and misgivings” of the suggested laws that would underpin and support the new body. Clegg, on the other hand, disagreed and claimed that the recommendations were both, “proportionate and workable”. This has raised issues among victims of the phone hacking scandal and supporters of the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign as Cameron previously told the group that “if [the report’s recommendations are] not bonkers, we’ll implement it” – a phrase that appears to have had no effect on his decision.
For now we just have to wait to find out which parts of the Leveson Report the Prime Minister has cherry picked and what this will mean for the future of our press. In my opinion, something has to be done so that the public can regain their faith in the journalism industry, whether that needs to be held in place by laws is something to be debated. Whatever happens, the government’s disagreement and Cameron’s delay in making a decision on what will happen means that the future isn’t looking particularly promising on the press front.
By Meaghan Spencer