LibLink Nick Clegg: Regulating media, empowering citizens

Nick Clegg has a piece in Huffington Post UK today, on media regulation, responsible reporting and replacing the Press Complaints Commission.

He calls new news outlets, such as the newly-launched UK version news and comment website Huffington Post, “a welcome breath of fresh air” at a time when public confidence in the media establishment is being rocked by phone-hacking allegations.

Here’s an excerpt:

The hacking scandal throws up an array of insights. But one in particular stands out to liberals: information is power. It always has been. When elites deploy secretive and opaque practices, it is nearly always to protect their own position. And when you reveal those secrets, you rock the foundations of the powers that be. Just think back to Wikileaks for that.

Or think of the Arab Spring. It’s well-understood that Twitter and other social networking sites are playing an unprecedented role in galvanising support for popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East. So, yes, he who holds the secret holds the key. But those who can spread the word can break the door down.

And it’s how we treat information that divides societies across the world today. There are closed societies, where dictators and propagandists reign supreme; where citizens are discouraged from looking out at the world; and the rest of the world is prevented from looking in.

And there are open societies, where information is dispersed; where people are given the facts to make their own choices; and the state is properly transparent so that the people it serves can hold it to account.

The UK falls of the right side of that divide – an open and democratic society. But this week’s headlines remind us we mustn’t take that for granted. We must continuously work to ensure that those who wield power do so in plain view. And we must make it possible for the powerless to speak out against vested interests.

In the media, that means a full, judge-led public inquiry to get to the bottom of the hacking allegations, as well as a further inquiry into the culture, ethics and practices of the British press. And we need to replace our feeble Press Complaints Commission with a body that is truly independent, and willing and able to take on powerful media interests when needed.

Nick also cites the Open Public Services White Paper, published yesterday, which will make available unprecedented levels of data in a useful form:

Parents, for example, will be able to see how successful local schools are in helping children of different abilities achieve better. People will be able to judge nearby health services by reading up on the experiences of other patients. You’ll have access to a map that shows you how well crime is combated on your street. And, where information isn’t already available on how well local services are performing, people will have a new, legal right to request it.

Read the whole article at Huffington Post UK.

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7 Comments

  • Daniel Henry 12th Jul '11 - 5:12pm

    Dan, here’s the comment I left on your blog page:

    I disagree with the parallel between banks and media outlets. Our problem with the banks is that their reckless practices required us to bail them out. Breaking them up will allow us to let bad banks fail rather than having to bail them out.

    The media’s problem is a severe lack of morality in their conduct where they mess with problems lives and even spread misinformation. How would breaking them up solve this? What would stop the merely formed smaller outlets strom using the same unscrupulous methods to win sales?

    If I was to compare the media problem to banks, it would be the problems where they unfairly treat customers e.g. unfairly applied bank charges our mis-selling of financial products. To prevent such practices, isn’t regulation the only way?

    As I understand it, the PCC had the right moral code and the right demand of standards but is a but weak in applying them. We just need to replace it with an organisation with a bit more muscle.

  • Agree with Dan. The Metropolitan Police seem to suggest that NI was so big and so well advised that by refusing to co-operate with a police inquiry they made it impossible to proceed..

    In that context what could a regulator do?

    (And look at how limited an effect the INformation Commissioner has had)

  • Daniel Henry 12th Jul '11 - 5:33pm

    Couldn’t that be solved by making the actions that blocked the investigation illegal? Even if we broke down Murdoch’s UK empire, wouldn’t his worldwide empire still leave him powerful, resourced and informed enough to still act as he has done?

  • We also need to do something to shake up the police – some seriously poor management going on there.

  • Don Lawrence 15th Jul '11 - 12:08am

    How many UK voters read the Huffington Post? Nick, get out in the real world and do some party leading!

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