Three corporations clinging to the PCC wreckage

by Brian Cathcart 

And then there were three. Far from being the work of ‘the newspaper industry’, the latest attempt to prevent effective, independent press regulation on Leveson lines is being led by just three organisations.

The Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Murdoch papers – all of them, incidentally, rich and profitable – have learned nothing from the experience of the past two years and they still believe they should have the right to trample over the rights of ordinary people and face no consequences for it.

When, years ago, public opinion turned against them, they refused to print the opinion polls that proved it. When the industry’s misdeeds were exposed before and during the Leveson Inquiry they failed to report the evidence or distorted it beyond recognition. And when Leveson made sensible and cautious recommendations they grossly misrepresented them in print and then tried to engineer a private ‘fix’ with the Conservatives.

Now, after every single party in Parliament has backed a Royal Charter delivering the Leveson recommendations, they have come up with an alternative charter that would take us straight back to the world of the old Press Complaints Commission, where sham regulation provided a cover for editors to abuse the public at will.

Their rhetoric is shallow and hypocritical. They say, for example, that Parliament’s charter represents political interference in the press, where in fact that charter introduces a whole range of measures to ensure that politicians have no influence whatever over any aspect of regulation.

Their own proposal, by contrast, opens the way for Lord Hunt, a former Conservative Cabinet minister and an active, working Conservative peer, to run their new regulator as he currently runs the discredited PCC. It would also allow a working Conservative peer and Telegraph boss, Lord Guy Black, to run a funding body that would have a stranglehold on every aspect of the new regulation scheme.

The truth is that, for all their hysterical warnings about state regulation and the spectre of Zimbabwe and North Korea, these three organisations actively want political control of the press – because they are used to controlling the politicians who matter and they think they can go on doing so.

This is about power, but it is not really about the power of the press because for most of us that should be something precious, something that holds authority to account and shines a light on wrongdoing and falsehood. No, this is about the power of a few people at the Mail, the Telegraph and the Murdoch papers who have had things their own way for a very long time and who refuse to see why anything should change. The last thing they want is accountability, and they would never allow their own actions to be reported upon critically in their own papers – or each others’.

Their charter is a challenge to free speech and an act of defiance against both a collective, democratic decision of Parliament and the considered recommendations of a year-long, judge-led public inquiry. It is also an insult to the public and to all of those who have suffered abuse at the hands of newspapers in the past few decades and who are desperate to see meaningful change.

Brian Cathcart is director of Hacked Off. He tweets at @BrianCathcart.

Find out more: 10 questions and answers about the Press Barons’ go-it-alone draft Charter

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Ruth Schallerreply
April 26, 2013 at 2:04 pm

You have done a phenomenal job of clearly and repeatedly articulating Hacked Off’s position continuosly throughout the inquiry and well beyond. Keep up the good work!!! Your intelligence, work ethic, and stamina are staggering.

Evan Harrisreply
April 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm
– In reply to: Ruth Schaller

Thanks for your kind words and keep in touch by signing up for our newsletter below.

Evan Harris
Associate Director, Hacked Off

Bede Davidreply
May 2, 2013 at 6:53 am
– In reply to: Evan Harris

I am certain that the work you are doing is of immense importance to the integrity of our society, profit has for too long been the sole yardstick of behaviour.

Robert Lavelreply
April 26, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Brian, you write

“The Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Murdoch papers – all of them, incidentally, rich and profitable”

Apart from the tautology (hardly likely to be rich if they weren’t profitable!), would you prefer it if they were loss-making? (The Times is and virtually always has been, by the way. As you well know.)

April 26, 2013 at 4:19 pm
– In reply to: Robert Lavel


Brian’s point is that the industry big guns have a vested interest in the status quo not that they should be loss-making.

Evan Harrisreply
April 29, 2013 at 2:57 pm
– In reply to: Robert Lavel

The reason we make the point that the main groups promoting the rejection of the Leveson scheme are rich and profitable (which are indeed separate considerations because a loss-making company can be cross-subsidised by a rich parent company) is that some in the industry claim that they can not afford to set a up a Leveson-compliant self-regulator. This would – most experts reckon – cost a few million pounds (as did the PCC). Given the hundreds of millions that News International/News Corporation has spent fending off or settling phone-hacking litigation, this suggestion is laughable. The new self-regulator could choose to enable these corporations to bear the start up costs of the regulator and if the regional press do not need to use the arbitral scheme there is no reason why it would cost anymore than the PCC.

Evan Harris, Associate Director, Hacked Off

Edel Sunde Hinsereply
April 26, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I soooooooo agree with Ruth!!! Please,don,t give up!!

Evan Harrisreply
April 29, 2013 at 2:58 pm
– In reply to: Edel Sunde Hinse

Thanks for your support!

Evan Harris,
Associate Director, Hacked Off

April 26, 2013 at 4:19 pm

The public hasn’t turned against them, otherwise the public wouldn’t be buying them.

Now stop being silly.

You don’t speak for “the public”, merely the – admittedly – large protest group.

But very much NOT “the public”.

Davis Monroereply
April 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

This nonsense just shows the fascism at the heart of Hacked Off. You know what, we don’t want our laws written by bitter celebrities and the lawyers who fawn over them just so they get invited to their dinner parties. You are a mouthpiece for them and the politicians who want revenge for exposing their expenses, Cathcart. People have died to preserve the freedom of the press. You should be ashamed.

Mark sreply
April 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Isn’t it depressing to see how desperately they are trying to maintain the status quo. Each and every bit of Leveson reporting I’ve seen outside of the Guardian is riddled with falsehoods and wilful misreporting of the facts, do they really believe their readers are swallowing it? I can only imagine that the reason The Mail and Telegraph will not allow comments on any Leveson articles is because they realise that even their readers are able to spot the blatant lies they peddle as they desperately try to cling to their cosy PCC ways. Other than the concession on £1 million pound damages (which will doubtless never be awarded as its their peers who’ll be deciding on any appropriate damages still) is anybody able to tell me how their proposal is in any way different from the toothless PCC?

‘Bankers propose new system if self regulation’ – it just wouldn’t happen would it, and if it did the press would rightly be up in arms, but this is completely different because… Hmm yes how is this in any way different?

April 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

You seem to have to forgotten to mention that the alternative Charter is supported by 1,100 local newspapers and all national newspapers, except the FT, Independent and Guardian

April 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

This piece in the Southern Daily Echo clearly sets out what the alternative Charter is all about. Don’t believe Cathcart’s half-truths and distortions

April 27, 2013 at 11:18 am


USE the website to identify and attack the MAJOR players in the media industry and those that want to cling on to power – Lets seriously attack them and weaken them – let’s name them publicly so we know if it Black or Hunt and Murdoch

Launch another successful petition – the matter of a minority controlling huge percentages of the media channels has not yet been resolved – to have power you MUST attack a portion of the opponents territory and only if successful will he yield

There is NO freedom of the press and never was – it is a lie, a myth a complete con – it is an idea set out to manipulate 60,000,000 and mind control them – in the foreign press today the headlines are ” America might go to war in Syria ” – in England the headlines are ” drones flying over Aghanistan are now operated from Lincoln ” – HOW STUPID can the citizens be to allow three or four overlords control the information flow AND concentrate enough power to topple Governments?

Have we not learned from the banks?

The petition of Hacked Off was the most successful action ever – Hacked Off has a database of 174,000 members capable of reaching 100,000 signatures in a few days to force the Government to take steps – let’s attack on laws allowing three or four to control ALL the media and ALL the information flow

The ” freedom of the press ” is the most LAUGHABLE con ever played on the citizens – the press is TOTALLY CONTROLLED, the information flow and what we are ” allowed to know ” is all carefully selected and posted to force the Government to yield and share power with the overlords – there is no ” freedom of the press ” and never was – it is a clever process of deception played on us to make us believe there is any goodness coming out from the press

Robert Reynoldsreply
April 27, 2013 at 11:33 pm

At first sight a noble aim, in reality the emulation of democracy is next to impossible, and so – for the same reason – the emulation of ‘a free press’. Masters and servants, in the media as much as in politics, without security in agreed equal partnership, will remain subject to the same fear and greed as those upon whose conduct it should be their duty to report.

Between ‘the press barons’ and ‘the craven parties’ there is an unholy conspiracy, to dismiss or ignore that which could set all free, leaving the public bemused and vulnerable, any small aspirational gain soon to be mocked by dictates of narrow profit in a ghettoised market, the operational goal of even the best remaining pragmatically blinkered political entrenchment.

When the current roulette-spin comes to its end, where the ball rests will set the tone of hope: and in that lies its importance.

The mighty will still trample, and the poor will still hesitate to complain, but with the existence of a Royal Charter good enough to be opposed by the narrowly self-interested, agreed as sensible between main-party leaders, some help will come to those who might wish to raise and maintain their own agreed standards, as owners, managers, editors and vitally journalists.

So the battle for public understanding and support is worth fighting, even though personal costs fall mainly on the public-spirited, baronial mischief being charged to ‘expenses’ and so to readers and the national Exchequer. The barons are close to ‘going too far’, exposing themselves plainly for too long to just too many, as to be made decent only in actual democracy, in equal partnership, and never really in its vain if not pretended emulation.

With ‘the baronial gloves now off’, notice being served of challenge to the government in the end to grapple with substantive legislation – necesarily with the definition and conditions of democracy as the context for press freedom – it is perhaps time for Hacked Off to help styart the process of public education for real democracy.

Beyond logical contradiction, IF we wish Rule Of, For, By The Equal People, rather than continued corruption, conflict and ruin, then we must understand and agree enduring equality in material means of influence for the individual (income), supporting conscience in everyday life and in representative public debate, the latter necessarily served by a single multi-part press, bound and free, by law, to defend democracy and in its name explore, inform upon and challenge all other aspects of law.

Press Says No to Royal Charter But the People Say Yes, A New Survey Reveals | Roam Magazinereply
April 30, 2013 at 12:49 pm

[…] things that were uncovered during the Levenson inquiry is not journalism it’s vandalism,” says Brian Cathcart, director of Hacked […]

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