Hugh Grant: Leveson's report will spark a 'war'


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The Independent Online

The actor Hugh Grant is predicting that the publication of Lord Justice Leveson's report on the future of the press will start a "war" which will divide Britain.

The film star foresees a "battlefield" in which tabloid newspapers and their supporters, including upmarket titles such as The Times and the Daily Telegraph, will oppose the introduction of an independent press regulator – the proposal he expects Lord Leveson to advocate.

In his introduction to Everybody's Hacked Off, a new book on the Leveson inquiry written by Brian Cathcart, a professor of journalism at Kingston University, Grant writes: "I believe that Lord Justice Leveson will recommend a new regulator and that the battle that follows will be massively uneven."

Grant claims that the reformers include The Independent and The Guardian newspapers and a small group of MPs, lawyers and campaign groups including Hacked Off, of which he is a director.

The actor, who was among the witnesses at the inquiry, argues that the judge has been presented with evidence that makes a clear case for regulatory reform.

"He's heard about a nightmarish pattern of mistreatment of innocent people, of the cynical covering up of wrongdoing, of the industrial-scale quarrying of personal information from confidential databases, of the corruption of public officials and the intimidation of politicians – all of it in pursuit, not of news that might serve the public interest, but of corporate profit," he writes.

But he says powerful media companies will resist change to the current system of self-regulation.

"Their power is daunting. They have the front pages, editorials and opinion pieces, the hatchet jobs and the editorialised news reporting.

"They have people of influence who owe them favours or are paid by them, or might in the future (if they toe the line) be paid by them," he says.

In the middle of Grant's "battlefield" are the politicians who "could go either way", he says, referring to a change in behaviour following the announcement in July 2011 that the News of the World had hacked the voicemails of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

"After the Dowler revelations, these politicians all talked a good game, but last June, pre-Dowler, a lot of them were sipping champagne on Rupert Murdoch's lawn."