Leveson: the press will be horrified by this radical change in the way that newspapers operate

The prospect of the broadcast watchdog Ofcom having a role in newspaper regulation will be too much for an industry that has been free since 1695

Share
Related Topics

The press is going to be very upset - and Lord Justice Leveson knows it. Anticipating the inevitable onslaught against his findings that will begin this afternoon, he states: “Despite what will be said about these recommendations by those who oppose them, this is not, and cannot be characterised as, statutory regulation of the press”.

But the newspapers will not see it that way. The demand by Leveson for statutory underpinning of a regulator which he portrays as being “genuinely independent” will simply be seen as an unacceptable compromise of the autonomy of an industry that has been free since 1695. For most papers this is a simple matter of principle - Parliament has no role in the press.

Add to that, the judge's call for radical changes in the way that newspapers operate - inevitable after the misdemeanours by the tabloids which provoked this inquiry - and the press industry has even greater cause for concern. There are calls for fines of up to £1 million, a new compliance culture where the regulator decides where apologies are published, a public hall of shame where past apologies and corrections are on permanent display, and the prospect of inquisitorial arbitration hearings where journalists are grilled by legal experts.

Lord Leveson has couched his description of the new regulatory body in language which suggests it will be a champion of the right to freedom of speech. “Legislation,” he claims, “would enshrine, for the first time, a legal duty on the Government to protect the freedom of the press”. But the newspapers will take a different view. They will be horrified at the prospect, set out by Leveson, of the broadcast watchdog Ofcom having a role in newspaper regulation, perhaps even as a backstop if the press fails to “grasp this opportunity” of the model the judge is proposing. This is Leveson using Ofcom as a stick.

This will be too much for the entire spectrum of the newspaper industry, from the conservative titles who backed Lord Black of Brentwood's proposal for a continued system of self-regulation, which Leveson says “fails to meet the test of independence”, to papers such as The Independent and The Guardian which have reported extensively on press misbehaviour and favour a regulatory system without statutory involvement but one which is truly independent of the industry.

For Hugh Grant and Hacked Off, the campaign group which has lobbied hard for radical press reform, this is a moment of triumph. Leveson has given them the ammunition which a parliamentary majority -made up of Labour and LibDem MPs and a rump of Tory rebels - is likely to use to support their demands. The press had hoped they would be given a final period of grace to put their house in order. But Leveson's language diminishes that possibility. A momentum for radical reform is there and - whatever the backlash on newspaper websites this afternoon and in print tomorrow morning - David Cameron will find it difficult to override the judge's wishes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
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