Tag Archives: leveson inquiry

Small-scale blogs to be excluded from post-Leveson media regulation

A week ago I posed (and answered) the question, After Leveson: which blogs are to be regulated? Answer: no-one yet knows. Well, we do now know.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) yesterday announced a ‘refinement’ of the Leveson legislation included within the Crime and Courts Bill. And it confirms that small-blogs are no longer to be expected to join the proposed self-regulator (though they can do if they wish):

The amendments, which have cross-party agreement, make clear that small blogs will not be classed as ‘relevant publishers’, and be considered by the House of Commons on

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After Leveson: which blogs are to be regulated? Answer: no-one yet knows.

Leveson report front pageI was one of those invited to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) this week for what was termed a ‘Small scale blogger stakeholder discussion’.

A quick reprise of why:

  1. As I posted here three weeks ago, concerns about the legislation are widespread and include both those who are pro-Leveson and anti-Leveson.
  2. Civil servants at the DCMS are now scrambling within a very short timescale to try and make sense of the cross-party legislation passed by the Commons to implement the Leveson Report through a Royal

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Government pauses on web regulation to ponder question, “What is a small-scale blog?”

A follow-up to my weekend post, Bloggers unite to oppose “botched late-night drafting” that proposes new press/web regulation, highlighting the concerns of many — including the Hacked Off campaign group — that politicians’ hasty law-making had resulted in legislative over-reach.

lord mcnallyIn the House of Lords last night, the Government accepted an amendment that will exclude from the Royal Charter-backed independent self-regulation plans ‘A person who publishes a small-scale blog’.

How ‘a small-scale blog’ is defined will be consulted on by the culture, media and sport department. Patrick Wintour in The Guardian reports this as “a miniconsultation with the newspaper industry on how best to construct a workable definition of the bloggers”, which would be an, erm, interesting way of going about it.

Here’s what Lib Dem justice minister Lord (Tom) McNally told peers:

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Bloggers unite to oppose “botched late-night drafting” that proposes new press/web regulation

I’m one of 17 signatories (on behalf of LibDemVoice) to a letter published in Saturday’s Guardian, reproduced below, which opposes the “fundamental threat” of the draft legislation approved this week by MPs of all parties which would regulate blogs and other small independent news websites.

It’s not often you’ll see us, ConservativeHome, LabourList, Guido Fawkes, Liberal Conspiracy and Political Scrapbook agree on something. But what we term the “botched late-night drafting process and complete lack of consultation” has, for once, brought us together. And, as the letter notes, perhaps even more remarkably got Tom Watson and Rupert Murdoch agreeing, too.

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Nick Clegg’s statement to the Commons on press regulation

clegg on levesonLast night we published Nick Clegg’s email to supporters setting out his views on press regulation. Here’s the text of his full statement in the Commons yesterday:

Mr Speaker, when Lord Justice Leveson published his recommendations, the Liberal Democrats supported them. I agreed with his basic model of a new, independent self-regulatory body for the press…
With a new recognition body authorised to check, periodically, that the system is working properly.

Given the importance of the relationships between politicians, the public and the press… I said at the outset

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Nick Clegg writes… Press regulation: a liberal solution

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has written to party supporters tonight…

Having been in face to face negotiations till nearly midnight last night – followed by calls, texts and emails for many hours afterwards – I am delighted to have stood up this afternoon in the House of Commons to welcome the cross-party agreement on implementing the Leveson Report. It wasn’t easy but after a lot of hard work – led on our side by the tireless Jim Wallace, we have got there.

The Leveson Inquiry was established after public revulsion at the phone hacking scandal. So, when Lord Justice Leveson published

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Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Protecting individuals and press freedom”

Nick Clegg’s latest email missive arrived in my email inbox this weekend. Two odd things about it…

First, as Paul Walter and Jonathan Calder have already picked up: the absence of any mention of last weekend’s debate on ‘secret courts’. I understood why it wasn’t mentioned in his leader’s speech last weekend: he wanted to keep the media’s attention focused on the party’s core message. But if we go back to the original intention of the Letter from the Leader, it was – as Nick himself wrote in the first one – “to give you a bit more of an insight into what’s going on behind those Whitehall doors and how we, as Lib Dems, are dealing with the issues and challenges that come up.” Hands up all those party members who think Nick’s lived up to that pledge on secret courts?

The second odd thing is the repeated request to send us to a paywalled website to find out more about Nick’s plans for Leveson: that’s right, Lib Dem supporters are invited to hand over money to Rupert Murdoch to get the party leader’s views on how the Lib Dems intend to crack down on the abuses perpetrated by Rupert Murdoch’s company. Now, I’ve already made clear my disagreement with Nick on this issue. But I’ve no doubt he’s speaking for the majority of party members in backing a Royal Charter to implement the Leveson Report. Yet instead of directing them to a Lib Dem website, or capturing emails via a Lib Dem petition website, the Leader’s Letter invites supporters to bump their head against a paywall and make their views known through a third-party website. Neither are especially smart.

My gripes over — read on…

libdem letter from nick clegg

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I’m a liberal and I’m against this sort of thing. Leveson-style press regulation, that is (as well as secret courts)

Leveson report front pageI’ve got used to describing myself as “a liberal first, a Lib Dem second”. Most of the time the Venn diagram works out pretty well. But not the last couple of weeks.

First, there was ‘secret courts’ and the decision by Nick Clegg, backed by most Lib Dem MPs (though not by party members), to extend legal proceedings which directly conflict with natural justice and that elevate the state above the individual.

And now there’s Nick Clegg’s decision, again likely to be backed by most Lib Dem …

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Clegg statement on Leveson: our proposals pose no danger to press freedom, but will give assurance to victims

clegg on levesonNick Clegg – who declared on Thursday his backing for a free and fair press – has now published a statement on how he’s approaching next week’s critical Commons vote on how the Leveson Report is taken forward:

Next week MPs will have the chance to deliver the robust, independent self-regulation for the press that Lord Justice Leveson recommended in his report.

It was hoped that talks between the party leaders would be able to agree how such a system would work, but the Prime Minister’s decision to end

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Nick Clegg on Leveson: “I want a free and fair press”

cameron clegg miliband 2Nick Clegg has emailed Lib Dem members today to set out his view on David Cameron’s decision to pull the plug on cross-party talks seeking to find an agreed way forward on the Leveson Report’s recommendations for self-regulation of the press underpinned by statute:

As you may have seen this morning the Prime Minister has decided to call off the cross-party talks on implementing the Leveson proposals on press regulation.

Throughout the talks I have sought to defend a free press while making sure ordinary people can be protected

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The Leveson Report: what Lib Dem members think of his proposals for the press

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 500 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

LDV asked: Generally speaking, which of the following best reflects your view?

    20% – It is vital for our democracy that a free press is protected. Whatever the failings of a few journalists, statutory regulation set up by politicians would risk damaging our press freedom

    65% – The behaviour of our press

Posted in LDV Members poll | 1 Comment

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

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Opinion: Leveson – Do we need a new Court of Appeal?

It looks like we are going to get a new Code of Practice and a system of voluntary self-regulation by the press. But is that all we need? Shami Chakrabati wrote an instructive objection to the concept of “legal underpinning” and has subsequently said she “would rather leave the question of whether the tests are met to the courts and not to involve a quango . . .” (such as Ofcom). As one of the six advisors to the commission and an expert in Human Rights Law, she is in a good position to comment. What is

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This week in Europe… 3-6 December

Europe fails on carbon storage and capture

Battersea Power StationHopes of Europe becoming a world leader in the development of a key technology to combat global warming have been dashed, and more than €1.5 billion of EU funding available to support carbon capture & storage (CCS) projects will now be diverted to new renewable energy schemes. The announcement today that steelmakers ArcelorMittal will not proceed with their Ulcos project in France means that not one single new CCS scheme is set to proceed.

Europe’s Prime Ministers declared in 2007 …

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Opinion: Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with ordinary exploited people

The McCanns, the Dowlers, and the Gurkhas threatened with deportation are ordinary people thrown into exceptional situations, their lives tossed from one side to the other not just by fate but, like ‘cargo’, to be exploited for cash and credit by the powerful and the acquisitive.

Liberal Democrats in general and Nick Clegg in particular have always been at their best when standing shoulder to shoulder with ordinary people against a conniving, power-hoarding Establishment, be that Fleet Street, corrupt local officials, or self serving bureaucracies. That was the message that connected him to a huge audience watching the first …

Posted in Op-eds | 14 Comments

Leveson: a devastating case for changing the status quo

Leveson has made a devastating case for changing the status quo of press regulation. A system which abuses many innocent people in an “outrageous” way must be reformed.

History shows us that this is a repetitive problem. In their pursuit of sensational stories, in order to sell more copies, editors and journalists eventually go too far, their behaviour sinks so low that there is a scandal, and action is taken to restore the rule of law and acceptable standards. The system works but at a terrible price including many individuals whose lives are ruined.

The challenge issued by Leveson is to improve the system, to introduce an innovation that retains the integrity of the press and yet provides the protection of the law to individuals.

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If Leveson is a slippery slope, I’m a teapot

It’s funny, but before two weeks ago, I can’t remember the last time I heard the phrases “slippery slope” or “crossing the Rubicon”. In the run up to, and immediately after, the publication of the Leveson report we have heard of little else. – That and “underpinning”, another phrase not otherwise in general use.

Hopefully, the weekend has allowed people to actually read some of Leveson’s report and we may now hear less of slopes slippery and rivers Rubicon.

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Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader, No. 5: Leveson – “the Prime Minister and I disagreed”

Here’s Nick Clegg’s latest missive to Lib Dem members and supporters — and no prizes for guessing which topic is the subject this week: Lord Justice Leveson’s report into media standards…

On Thursday afternoon I made a statement in Parliament on the Liberal Democrat response to the Leveson Inquiry. I spoke after the Prime Minister, to outline my view that we must implement Leveson’s plans for an effective new press watchdog, underpinned by legal guarantees.

As you may have picked up, the Prime Minister and I disagreed; there is not yet an agreed “government line”. That’s in part why we had to make separate statements – a major departure from Parliamentary protocol, apparently.

I’m often non-plussed by the arcane rules of the House of Commons, most of which make no sense to ordinary human beings. To me it felt like the most natural thing in the world: two opinions, two statements.

Rather than repeat here what I said in the Commons do watch for yourself here.


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The Fourth Estate needs a makeover – what would Borgen do?

Who said: “In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism”.

No, not Hugh Grant. Oscar …

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Leveson, the morning after the Report before: what Lib Dem bloggers say

Caron Lindsay blogged about Nick Clegg’s Commons statement here on LibDemVoice: Nick Clegg: We won’t find better solution than Leveson’s. Here’s a quick round-up of other reaction so far from Lib Dem bloggers to Lord Justice Leveson’s report on media standards…

Contributors split on broadly pro/anti-Leveson Report lines. Let’s start with the pro-Leveson bloggers:

Shock as politician behaves like a grown-up! (Caron Lindsay)

I can’t, for the life of me, see what the problem is with Leveson’s clever proposal for a self regulating body with true independence – ie not full of newspaper editors or chaired by politicians. It seems pretty

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Press regulation – something a liberal party can support?

My reaction to the report of the Leveson Inquiry today was mixed to say the least. On the one hand, any intrusion of Parliament into our free press seems fundamentally illiberal to me – the heavy weight of bureaucracy coming smashing down to dampen our fiercely independent media, which has shown itself more than capable of exposing the very worst excesses in recent times. After all, it was Nick Davies at the Guardian whose reporting exposed the phone-hacking scandal that led to the Leveson Inquiry in the first place. And it was the Daily Telegraph that reported on the …

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Nick Clegg: We won’t find better solution than Leveson’s

Nick Clegg has just told Parliament that the victims of phone hacking and tabloid abuse deserve swift progress on Lord Leveson’s “proportionate and workable” reforms. After the Prime Minister had told the House that he was unconvinced for the need for any changes in the law, Nick said that it was important that Leveson’s incentive scheme was recognised in law so that the courts could take account of it. He also cited the example of the Irish system as having statutory underpinning. He said he wasn’t aware of complaints from the many UK newspapers with Irish editions.

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Nick Clegg: “Let Leveson speak”

The Leveson Report on the culture, practice and ethics of the press will be published today at 1:30pm.

Speaking to the BBC this morning Nick Clegg said,

I think we should leave Lord Leveson to speak for himself. But my views on this subject are well known.

I believe in a vigorous free press that holds the powerful to account and isn’t subject to political interference. But a free press does not and cannot mean a press that is free to bully innocent people, or free to abuse grieving families.

I hope when Lord Justice Leveson gives his full statement later today, we will

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Opinion: What free press?

Stand strong, Nick. Do not cave to Cameron over Leveson because if you do so, you go against your party’s wishes and, according to the polls, those of 86% of Daily Mail readers!

As a journalist, I have long defended the principle of a free press as a vital plank of democracy. The protests of journalists that we are facing the abyss are not unfounded. Yet there is a myth about the British press that is more fantastic than many of the stories it publishes; the myth that we have a “free” press, at all. The sheer quantity of coverage across …

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

Whatever the Leveson Report recommends, it’s worth remembering the value of the Leveson Inquiry

I’m as clueless as anyone else at the moment about what Lord Justice Leveson will recommend in his report, to be published tomorrow, on press standards in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

I’ve said already I oppose any form of state regulation which would allow the government of the day, whether explicitly or (far more likely) implicitly, to interfere in the content of the free press. My co-editor Mark Pack has a different take on things here. But, regardless of whether Mark or I end up most agreeing with Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations tomorrow, two points I …

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John Leech MP writes… Remembering the reasons for Leveson

The Manchester Evening News has a regular slot in the paper where they get a number of MPs to write an opinion column on topical issues of their choice. This week just happened to be my turn, so I thought that I would comment on the eagerly awaited Leveson report, due out on Thursday.

For those of you who don’t know, the MEN is owned by Trinity Mirror, and along with other major newspaper groups, are totally opposed to independent regulation of the press. They claim that regulation will be the end of freedom of expression. How ironic then, that the …

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Duff arguments to ignore over Leveson

Here is a safe prediction: whatever the Leveson report recommends for British journalism, there will be an awful lot of duff arguments rolled out. Despite much of the debate being couched in how important it is for the press to tell the truth and how many difficult judgements there are to make, we’ll hear plenty of simplistic rhetoric based on shonky factual foundations.

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As Leveson reports… Why I’m sticking up for ‘Press freedom with no buts’

Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal will report this week. His recommendations on the future of press regulation are the subject of intense speculation, with essentially three positions being staked-out:

What’s being proposed

‘Independent regulation backed up by statute’
Advocates, who include Evan Harris and the Hacked Off campaign group, argue that the only way to ensure the press does not abuse its position in the future is for it to be regulated. But, they insist, this should be independent both of government and the press, the two main …

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Nick’s second ‘Letter from the Leader': featuring PMQs, Leveson Inquiry & tax-cuts for the low-paid

Nick Clegg’s second letter to members and supporters has hit my inbox… This week’s email focuses on two issues. First, the impending Leveson Report into what form of media (self-)regulation will be needed to ensure newspapers don’t continue to abuse their power in the way that was exposed so forensically during Sir Brian’s inquiry. And secondly, on re-inforcing the Lib Dems’ number one achievement from the Coalition: raising the income tax threshold so that millions of the lowest paid in society have more money in their pockets.

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On Twitter, Leveson, media standards… and Labour MP Ian Austin labelling Russell Brand “a disgusting, sleezy [sic], horrible creep”

I love Twitter and I hate Twitter. At its best, it is a brilliant way of enjoying a shared moment with friends and friends-of-friends, whether glorying in the Olympics or bitching about X-Factor. At its worst, it is a bile-filled bearpit, where opinions are sprayed with scant regard for their accuracy in the race to be first or funniest or most outraged.

For fans of cognitive dissonance, it’s a wonderful window-on-the-world which explains much about how and why the media works as it does. Lord Justice Leveson would have learned much from observing a life-in-the-day-of Twitter.

He would, for example, see …

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