By Brian Cathcart
How can press bosses justify these costly legal failures at a time when print sales are in freefall and they are closing local papers by the fistful?
The ‘Enemies of the People’ have been at it again. Two judges in the High Court have defied the will of the corporate press by throwing out the latest attempt to wreck IMPRESS, the Leveson-style regulator. And they have done so in contemptuous terms.
Mercifully, Lady Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Popplewell are probably safe from the kind of front-page pillorying dished out to their colleagues in the past by the Daily Mail, because this was the kind of defeat editors prefer to bury.
That the papers went to court in the first place was a brazen act of hypocrisy. Acting under their collective label, the NMA (News Media Association), the big newspaper groups – Murdoch, Mail, Mirror, Telegraph etc, plus the regionals – argued that IMPRESS should be stripped of its formal ‘recognition’ by the Press Recognition Panel on the ground that it didn’t meet the necessary criteria. These NMA papers are perfectly happy to belong to a regulator (IPSO) that doesn’t come within a mile of meeting the criteria, but that did not embarrass them in the least.
The NMA advanced six points and the judges made short work of all six, concluding in turn: ‘There is nothing in this.’ ‘There is nothing in this.’ ‘There is nothing in this.’ ‘The flaw in that argument is readily apparent.’ ‘We reject this.’ ‘We reject this.’
If the people who own, run and edit the Sun, Mail, Express, Telegraph and Mirror had any capacity for humiliation they would feel humiliated. As it is they will no doubt sweep this comprehensive defeat under the carpet and look for some new way of undermining IMPRESS that is unscrupulous and hypocritical.
If you own shares in these companies, or more poignantly if you work for them or for the unfortunate regional and local papers they are dragging along in their efforts to prevent the development of effective independent regulation, you might at least look at all the money they are wasting.
This is not the first daft legal case they have mounted at huge cost and with no return besides judicial disdain. Remember their attempts to block the Royal Charter in court and their desperate attempts to get their own Royal Charter (an enterprise which left some confusion about whether they were in favour of Royal Charters or against them)? All costly failures.
Does anybody hold them to account for this vainglorious, wasteful stupidity? Does anybody ask them to justify this quixotic squandering of money in court when local papers are closing every month, apparently for want of cash, and when half a million people a year are deciding to give up paying for newspapers? No, but they should.