Springingtiger's Blog


Press Regulation

I have always believed in a free press and have worried that statutory regulation might restrict the ability of the press to call politicians to account. If I am honest,  I have always held the celebrities seeking protection from the press in contempt; why should the indiscretions of the rich be concealed?  However, because of the Daily Mail,  I now believe some action may be necessary to compel the press to behave in a civilised manner.

Newspapers should be free to report the news,  they should also have a right to comment.  What they should not be allowed to do is to smear anyone,  not even politicians,  under the pretense of reporting.  The Mail’s infiltration of a private family memorial service, in order to seek material for their smear campaign against Ed Milliband (why bother,  surely no one’s going to vote for him?) is yet more evidence of a press out of control.

One concern must be the concealed partisanship of certain newspapers which underlies their distortion of the truth. I think papers should have to declare their allegiances.  I have said before that the Daily Mail should be declared in  Conservative Party election expenses, equally the Mirror should be declared by the other lot.

Personally I think before we go down the road to regulation we should try the alternatives. The first thing is to change the way papers are owned. I am totally opposed to state control of the press, which I fear might be the end result of statutory regulation, but we do need a structure that will put the brakes on the worst abuses of press freedom.

The ownership of the press should be broadened,  no one person or organisation should be able to own more than ten percent of any newspaper or news broadcaster, and all news media, apart obviously from the state broadcaster, should be listed on the stock exchange. I also think that newspapers should not be allowed to have limited liability, which might help the shareholders focus on the consequences of libel. I would also have no cap on libel penalties. Hopefully there will be no need to regulate the press, but the climate needs to be made conducive to self regulation.

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