Leveson: What his paper should say

With the inquiry due to report on media regulation next week, a panel of experts, chaired by The Independent's James Cusick, discusses what we have learnt from it

The Leveson Report will be published this coming Thursday. After evidence from 378 individuals and 120 organisations, what did we actually learn about Britain’s press?

Max Mosley: There were things going on that were really completely irresponsible. Things were exposed that had long been suspected, but not generally known.

Charlotte Harris: From what victims and politicians said, a different story emerged from behind the front pages. Before Leveson a certain amount was taken for granted about what a newspaper said and why they said it. Now there is less naivety. News will no longer be taken at face value.

Mick Hume: I learnt this inquiry had nothing to do with the phone-hacking scandal, and was a pretext for pursuing a much broader agenda about purging the press of things not to the tastes of those who think “popular” is a dirty word.

MM: That simply overlooks what the public wanted. They were so shocked by what happened over [Milly] Dowler and the closure of the News of the World. It was essential the facts came out. The vast majority of the press behaved properly. But the small minority whose behaviour verged on being criminal … this has been exposed.

CH: Mick, you said “free press”. But what we had wasn’t really free. It was and has been censored by its proprietors, and a lot of this has to do with power and flying the flag.

MH: The whole debate has been premised on the idea that the British press has been too free to run wild. Actually, the truth is the British press is not nearly free or open enough.

Paul McMullan: Most people were lying in front of Leveson. A few people told the truth. I was one of them. Hardly anyone put their hands up to admit they did these things.

James Cusick: (moderating for The Independent): Will David Cameron get the report he wanted on Thursday?

MM: Leveson needed a big remit. The law was not being enforced. The police weren’t acting as they should have. The PCC had no means of enforcing their own rules.

CH: Milly Dowler triggered the inquiry. A debate on whether editors were acting responsibly was already in play. It was the “super-injunction spring”, and the public were making their voices heard. They said, “We want to know this; we don’t like the idea of secret courts, secret judgements and so on”.

MH: The one person now regretting he set up this inquiry is David Cameron. It’s a complete nightmare for him and will get worse. The phone-hacking scandal was already being looked at in the biggest police investigation in British criminal history.

JC: Paul, you mentioned in your inquiry evidence that the way newspapers operated was always down to who bought each title.

PM: You have a judge and jury. People pull out a pound and say “Yes I want to read that”. And sometimes they don’t if they are repulsed. I asked a taxi driver if he bought the NOTW. He said, “I used to, but since you stopped doing all that hacking stuff there’s nothing in it anymore.”

JC: So nothing you heard at Leveson embarrassed you? Not even your own testimony?

PM: Yes, I sort of turned into a typical NOTW whipping boy. But people seemed to have forgotten that it was me and Sean Hoare [the former NOTW showbiz writer, now deceased] who started it all. I wrote a really bad book  ... about inside the NOTW. I rang up [Guardian journalist] Nick Davies and said I need a book deal. He said what you need is publicity – go on the record about phone hacking.

JC: Will this report help restore lost confidence in the press?

MH: None of the problems with the press are going to be addressed by tighter regulation.

MM: The press themselves now realise that what we had before was completely inadequate. So we have the Hunt-Black proposals [a self-regulation system to replace the PCC with membership and rules enforced by contracts]. But setting up some elaborate contract will be difficult to enforce.

JC: If Leveson recommends statutory regulation, what will that mean?

CH: Newspapers are framing this as state regulation versus self-regulation. What Leveson may recommend is simply an independent panel. I’ve been disturbed by articles describing even a dab of independence as MPs deciding what you’re going to read.

JC: So is there unnecessary hysteria?

CH: I don’t think there’s wide support for the interference that is being propagated on some front pages.

PM: I’m embarrassed about the number of British journalists that have been arrested. In the league table of arrests, Burma is No 1, Iran is No 2 and we are No 3 now. Isn’t that a worldwide embarrassment?

CH: But wouldn’t journalists be calling for people to be arrested? Isn’t that why you need a free press? And then, when journalists get arrested you go bonkers.

PM: Because they’ve tried to find the truth... I wrote a story about Broadmoor in 1991. Mental patients were going into Jimmy Savile’s pond and killing ducks and cooking them. He came down on me like a ton of bricks, using libel. We backed off. So he used libel to carry on being a paedophile.

CH: Which you didn’t reveal.

PM: Well if only I’d had his phone number.

JC: You would have hacked it?

PM: Yeah.

CH: The NOTW hacked people’s phones just because there was the prospect of a good story.

PM: All the best stories come from fishing expeditions.

MM: There’s no question of censorship, nor of interfering with press rights. You’ve got rules. Leveson will probably say that we need an independent tribunal to enforce them.

JC: If the NOTW had been operating under some form of statutory control, would it have made any difference?

PM: No, of course not – you’d just try not to get caught a little better. They hacked phones too much and did it badly. They should have done it a little more selectively and they’d have got away with it. Instead we had a group of idiots in charge. They didn’t know how to go about an investigation. They wanted absolute proof about which celebrity or whoever was on the phone saying “Yeah let’s meet up on Wednesday for a shag.”

JC: Has Leveson made a difference?

MH: Absolutely. The danger here is not censorship, the danger is conformism, and being left with a more sanitised and tamed press.

CH: I’ve been doing phone hacking cases since 2007. The press knew. If it is such a free press and you’re worried about it becoming sanitised, why did that happen?

JC: Are we making a mistake in treating the press as one uniform unit? The Independent hasn’t broken any laws.

MM: The analogy is motorists: a vast majority of motorists obey the law, but for a small criminal minority you need laws to keep them under control.

CH: The vast majority of journalists are really good. I’ve never had the same problem with broadcast journalists as I have with the tabloids.

MH: You’ve really hit a major danger because the whole thing is premised on the idea there are two types of press: an ethical press and non-ethical press. And the tabloids have been at the dock, meeting every qualification of a show trial. The verdict was decided before anybody gave evidence. We just don’t know what the sentence is.

MM: The whole thing has been explained by Paul – his morality was don’t get caught. There’s a whole underworld that says that. On the free press, how can you say the press is free when two individuals control more than 60 per cent of it?

JC: Who failed in all of this ? The press, the police, the law?

PM: A journalist is sometimes supposed to break the law: 25 years ago when I started, being a journalist was the No 1 job for graduates. Now journalists are held in low esteem whereas all I have ever tried to do was work for the benefit of society and occasionally hacking David Beckham.

MM: It’s your 25 years on the job that’s done that Paul.

MH: If journalists had not been prepared to break the law and outrage every convention of society we would never have had a free press. All of my greatest heroes of journalism, from John Wilkes onwards, were complete rogues, scoundrels and lawbreakers who defied every single convention.

JC: Sir Brian Leveson isn’t going to decide what the law should be. That will be left to Parliament. Does David Cameron have a problem here?

CH: There will be some outcry from newspapers.

MM: It will be a balance of which is the least pleasant course for him to take. He won’t want to upset all the press.

MH: Mr Cameron set the inquiry up in a panic and he’ll be panicking even more. He signed a blank cheque, telling Parliament that whatever Leveson came up with the Government would have to abide by. He cannot backtrack from that. He’s caught between a Hugh Grant and a Michael Gove.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web Designer / Digital Designer

£25 - 40k (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Web Desig...

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments