Maria Miller, the Telegraph and Leveson: how statutory regulation begins & how the press is bringing it on itself

Now I’m more than a little sceptical about Leveson: I think he’s firing the wrong bullet (regulation backed by statute) at a target that’s moving out of range (the ‘dead tree press’). However, I’m also deeply sceptical about the press’s ability to report facts straight.

Which leaves me a bit conflicted at this morning’s report: The minister and a warning to the Telegraph before expenses story.

On the one hand, you have a clear signal of the danger of letting politicians anywhere near having a say in how the press should be (self-)regulated, with culture secretary Maria Miller’s special advisor Joanna Hindley issuing a clear warning to Telegraph journalists to watch what they print:

“Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about.”

And so it begins… This is how state regulation of the press would work in Britain: not through official statute, but through unofficial back-channel whispers. This is why Leveson’s/Hacked Off’s campaign for a ‘dab of statute’ has always missed the point of a free press: the belief that you can ‘underpin’ without undermining is deeply flawed.

However, it’s also not hard to see why Leveson and Hacked Off have ended up where they are, with the Telegraph inadvertently revealing its rather flexible attitude to fact-checking — it was, the paper confesses, only after the intervention by Maria Miller’s adviser,

The news group decided to delay publication in order to ensure the facts were correct.

How tedious! Imagine having to check what you’re about to print is accurate before printing a million copies of your paper! It’s political correctness gone mad!

In fact, it turns out that ‘having carried out further checks’, the newspaper was reassured ‘the story was accurate and decided to publish the article at the first opportunity’. Which is kind of the process I’d have hoped they might have gone down from the start…

And of course when it comes to slack fact-checking of MPs’ expenses the paper has form, having smeared Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson (among others) when publishing its exposé of some MPs’ abuses of the system.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

Read more by or more about , , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/32127 for Twitter and emails.

7 Comments

  • In this case the government have something to hang over the press – the threat of robust, independent regulation. It’s hard to see what leverage they would have once that’s implemented. There would be no scope for further legislation and no political involvement in self-regulation.

    In a way, Stephen, the best option for reducing politicians’ bargaining power would be to implement Leveson as soon as possible. The worst thing would be for the Coalition or Labour to hold this over the press as something that could be done in a year or two, or post-2015.

  • Daniel Henry 12th Dec '12 - 11:36am

    Hacked off are calling for an independent regulator with objective standards rather than regulation through ministerial whims, so i can’t agree with “this is how press regulation would work”

    Fingers crossed that it will lead to more of this fact checking though! :)

  • “In a way, Stephen, the best option for reducing politicians’ bargaining power would be to implement Leveson as soon as possible.”

    But how do you do that, when all the political parties appear to have rejected (or at least not accepted) Leveson’s preferred option for validating the new ‘self-regulation’ body – validation by Ofcom?

  • Paul Walter 12th Dec '12 - 1:43pm

    Leveson proposed that there is a responsibility placed on the government, by law, to guarantee the free press. That seems to have been forgotten.

  • Tony Dawson 12th Dec '12 - 4:24pm

    I do not read the Telegraph’s ‘renewed fact-checking’ in the same way as Stephen Tall does.

    The newspaper was being ‘shaken down by this pumped up puffed up SPAd who had obviously watched one too many episodes of ‘The Thick of it’. They decided ‘what the hell, we’ll double-check, and tell the jumped up little so and so this, too, so Maria Miller has ABSOLUTELY no sob story to tell that nice (sic) Mr Cameron. And they checked again. And the facts were still the facts.

    In my view, the Commission of oversight should be established and monitored by someone appointed by the judiciary, not the executive or any of its quangos.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User AvatarCharlie 26th Oct - 1:07am
    Glenn From my time at university and discussion with many charity /ngo workers. An example is golden rice which through genetic modification has much greater...
  • User AvatarSarah Noble 25th Oct - 11:24pm
    Callum: mind you, that would mean that a) the SNP would have to drop their policy of abstention on English matters and more importantly, b)...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 25th Oct - 11:21pm
    I think it's fair to say that I am not a fan of the Labour Party. One of their first acts in government was to...
  • User AvatarStevan Rose 25th Oct - 11:18pm
    Since only the already relatively decentralised matters of education and NHS gained majority support amongst members of the party most in favour of localism, does...
  • User AvatarA Social Liberal 25th Oct - 11:18pm
    No Adnan, the reason Yugoslavia fell apart was because it depended on one man to hold it together. Tito was a great leader but he...
  • User AvatarIgor Sagdejev 25th Oct - 11:17pm
    @Tony Greaves Yes, we've had enough of miscoalition.