Leveson’s legacy and the future for British press

By Emily Wight

Following the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s 2,000-page report last week, the Frontline Club hosted a panel of media experts on 3 December.

The talk was chaired by BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas, he was joined by: Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust and one of the founders of the Hacked Off campaign; former Daily Star reporter, Rich PeppiattMick Hume, editor of the online magazine Spiked and Kirsty Hughes, of Index on Censorship.

The discussion began by considering Leveson’s proposal for an independent regulatory body underpinned by statute. Were the government to fail in following through on this, Martin Moore set out the alternative:

“Let’s say you don’t do the independent verification process, let’s say you just let the press get on with it and do it themselves. What would happen is the leading figures within the biggest news organisations, the biggest nationals, particularly Lord Black and Paul Dacre, with the help of Lord Hunt, will put together a new self regulation system of their own.”

Mick Hume was opposed to the view that the press needs to be regulated further, a suggestion he views as an assault on freedom of expression. He told us how puzzling he found it that many left-wingers today are in favour of further press regulation:

“It’s quite shocking that something that was once the great cause of the radical politics in this country, to free the press, that those who would think of themselves as being on the left and liberal minded have now become those who are now the most forceful advocates of some kind of statutory involvement and regulation of the press. I find that a bit shocking.”

He also spoke of what he saw as threats to investigative journalism, calling it “a very dangerous step.” This was something that Kirsty Hughes agreed with:

“How are we going to have decent investigative journalism, how are we going to get whistleblowing if we’ve got everything monitored or recorded?”

Rich Peppiatt’s argument was that our modern society is incomparable to the era that Hume evoked, as the power structures are very much different:

“You had a huge powerful state and you had a small press that was rebellious, that was trying to speak for the little man, but that’s not the modern world, our democracy is fairly weak compared to the corporate power that exists. That’s the real power in our society: corporate power, these days. The press is part of that corporate power.”

Peppiatt then pointed towards several people within the media showing bias in their argument:

“Those with the biggest guns always want the least gun regulation. Of course you have these big corporate interests that want the least regulation because they want the biggest megaphone.”

The discussion then opened up to the floor, which was fairly divided in its views. One thing everyone did agree on, however, was Torin Douglas’ observation that in Leveson’s report, the police and politicians seem to have got off lightly compared with the press.

Watch highlights from the discussion here: