The Times today publishes a letter from 11 highly distinguished UK broadcasters, [paywall] including the former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, the comedian, Rory Bremner, former Today Programme Editor, Kevin Marsh and the director and producer Peter Kosminsky, rebutting the claim that effective regulation poses any threat to freedom of the press.
“Far from being something to be feared,” the letter argues, “regulation underpinned by statute often acts as a buttress to and a shield for journalism that takes on vested interests and asks awkward questions.”
The broadcasters’ intervention in the debate over the future of the Leveson recommendations follows a forthright attack by ex-Times and Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans on the reaction to the Leveson Report by some sections of the press, which he described as cynical and arrogant.
The Times letter in full:
Delays in implementing the Leveson recommendations have been justified in some quarters by warnings that effective regulation would inevitably threaten free speech.
We are broadcasters with long experience of working within a far tighter regulatory system – underpinned by legislation – than Leveson envisages for the print media. While we make no comment on the detail of the Leveson plan, we would point out that our industry has a proud record of independent, challenging journalism – calling the rich and powerful to account without fear or favour. Our experience of programme-making tells us that effective regulation, far from being something to be feared, often acts as a buttress to and a shield for journalism that takes on vested interests and asks awkward questions.
We can say what we want and make the programmes we want within a regulatory framework that is enshrined in law. The suggestion that such regulation is inevitably anathema to free speech, or automatically places us under the thumb of politicians, is wrong and insulting to us as fellow journalists.