Press Industry Statement on Leveson Talks: Inaccurate, Distorted and Unreliable

Like their newspapers, “representatives of the press industry” apparently negotiating with Conservative ministers over Leveson cannot shed their old habits of inaccuracy, distortion and unreliability.  The statement is misleading and disingenuous, concealing the true position – that the press want to water down Leveson – behind the rhetoric of press freedom

The statement was put out yesterday by a group of “representatives of the press industry” welcoming the Prime Minister’s decision to break off the cross party Leveson talks.  The group consisted of Paul Ashford, editorial director at Northern and Shell; Lord (Guy) Black, chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance; Tim Blott, president of the Scottish Newspaper Society; Paul Dacre of Daily Mail Group; Barry McIlheney, chief executive of the Professional Publishers’ Association; Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive of the Telegraph Media Group; David Newell, director of the Newspaper Society; and John Witherow of News International.   These are representatives of the newspaper groups that unjustly attacked the McCanns and Christopher Jeffries, that hacked telephones and abused hundreds of ordinary members of the public.  They appear to have learned nothing.

The statement needs to be analysed paragraph by paragraph.

We share the Prime Minister’s frustration at the way in which talks about the future of press regulation have broken down and legislation has been hijacked.

The talks did not break down – the Conservative ministers were ordered to walk out by David Cameron.  This was done at short notice, at just when the talks seemed to be making progress.

The Prime Minister is right to reject statutory regulation of the press- free of political control for 300 years – as fundamentally wrong in principle and unworkable in practice.

Nobody has suggested statutory regulation of the press and the Prime Minister did not reject it.  This did not form part of any cross-party talks.

The industry has spent many weeks in negotiating a new independent system of self regulation, based on the Leveson principles, which provides GBP1 million fines and the toughest system of regulation in the western world.

This paragraph is very revealing.  The talks were supposed to be cross-party about implementing Leveson.  The press were not a “negotiating party”.   The Liberal Democrats and the Labour did not negotiate with them. No minutes of meetings or public statements have been made but this paragraph confirms that Conservative ministers and the press were “negotiating” over Leveson.  There are no “Leveson principles” to discuss – only a set of clear recommendations.  The press was using private negotiations with Conservative ministers (which were themselves contrary to Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations on transparency) to water down the recommendations.

We have made major concessions in order to reach agreement, although there are elements of the proposed reforms – such as exemplary damages -to which we remain opposed. However, this need not stop a new regulator being put in place.

When the press refer to “concession”, they mean that they have agreed to accept what Lord Justice Leveson recommended.  Nobody has asked them to go any further.  This paragraph makes it clear that the press have refused to accept a key Leveson recommendation – on exemplary damages.  The statement does not make it clear that the press had refused to accept other key Leveson recommendations – on independence of the Chair and the Board of the regulator, direction of the placement of apologies and the writing of the Standards Code.  At the request of the press, the Conservative Ministers had removed these recommendations from the Royal Charter.  The negotiations – which David Cameron brought to an end – were about restoring these recommendations.

We agree with the Prime Minister that matters cannot be allowed to drift on and that we need now to deliver real change. The UK’s newspaper and magazine publishing industry will rise to the challenge. We are ready to move with speed to establish a new system of tough, independent, effective self-regulation which delivers fully on the Leveson principles and will provide real protection for members of the public. We will aim to get the new regulator up and running as soon as possible.

There is, of course, nothing to prevent the press from moving ahead with the establishment of a new, Leveson compliant, regulator.  The only barrier to progress is their own insistence on watering down key recommendations.   It has been said, for many months, that the press aim to get the new regulator up and running as soon as possible but they have not published any details and there are no public signs of progress.

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Allan Terrillreply
March 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Given what the victims of the press have had to endure, this is truly disgusting. However, it does show David Cameron in his true colours: as a desperate politician who will do *anything* to court the continuing support of the right-wing press.

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Barbara Oxleyreply
March 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Please send this to ALL MPs so they can make a better informed decision

Ian DuCanereply
March 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Slowly but very SURELY the general public are waking from the `long slumber in ignorance` of the massive corruption that lies at the heart of our parliamentary system, they are beginning to understand that only a massive move from the old parties will bring about true social justice. The realisation is dawning that the power that governs them is not in Westminster, that in fact those in Westminster are just “Placemen” “Apparatchiks” whose sole job is to maintain the “Status Quo” If Cameron fails to carry out the orders correctly he will be thrown out and replaced by another dogsbody. It is those behind the scenes who need bringing down and they WILL BE BROUGHT DOWN. At last the writing has appeared on the wall.

Albert Wodarreply
March 16, 2013 at 6:59 am

David Cameron has shown that again he relies so deeply on the press to get re-elected that he is essentially in their pocket giving them power over him.

We elect people into power to run our country and cannot allow unelected press chiefs to run it. I just worry how much influence the press has had on major government decisions in the past!

We must stop this now. We might never get a better chance.

March 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm
– In reply to: Albert Wodar

Unelected press chiefs don’t run the country. They just hold our representatives to account- such as when they fiddle their expenses, use Westminster Palace for sexual liaisons or get drunk and attack people.
One MP today said that journalists who “hide behind pens” should not be given access to parliament.
You can choose what source of news you consume.

Malcolm McPheatreply
March 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

This is the most disgusting brainwashing attempt that has ever been contrived by Dave and his cronies. We can only hope that the worm has really turned and that the British Public have, at last, woken up.

John Woodreply
March 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

Sadly the twin set & pearls, Colonel Blimp and the gullible working and lower middle class supporters of the Tory party will swallow the “resolute path”, to avoid an independent regulator, chosen by the head PR man, Dave, hook line and sinker; which is what is wanted by the PM and his paymasters.

March 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Not statutory regulation? Yes it is.
And I note one of your billionaire prostitute-using backers – the s&m orgy one, not the car sex one – has called for the Internet wires to be “cut” to certain blogs.
I thought it was the Chinese economy we wanted to emulate, not its human rights.

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