Monday, 28 May 2012

Pressing fairly

Like many, I have watched the Leveson Commission with a great deal of interest, it seems particularly interesting how the interaction between politics, media and police has become blurred.

What started out as an inquiry into press standards now seems to be something a great deal bigger.

My experience of dealing with the local media has largely been excellent, reporters are decent people trying to do their best in reporting local stories.

I have on only one occasion been in dispute with a local newspaper, it was clear then that the Press Complaints commission was a toothless body that was not fit for purpose.

The Leveson Commission has to establish the principle of the freedom of the press, only a free press allows for a free society, people in public life have to be open to public scrutiny, the public interest has to be defended.

Often politicians and celebrities complain about press intrusion and at the same time courting the media.

It's like the politician that places his family on election material then complains about when he or she is caught having an affair, if you don't want your family involved, don't include them in your election material and don't preach about family values.

The other side of press freedom has to be press responsibility, printing a story that is not correct is hurtful, and unless neglect can be proved the Press Complaints Commission will allow the media owners off scot free.

Leveson has to recommend an independent press complaints body, that has teeth and allows individuals a cost free right of appeal to stories that damage their reputations, this should be paid for by a levy on the press owners. At the present time only wealthy people can afford High Court Injunctions, justice should be for all not just the rich and powerful.

Leveson also needs to look at the diverse owners of the media, at the current time too few people own too much of the media, diversity of ownership should help develop a more innovative approach rather than the barons who try to control the diet of news.

The shabby behaviour of some of our news media should not allow our news media to be placed in a straight jacket.

I want a media that challenges government and private business and people that do wrong, I want to live in a free society, I do not want government controlling the media, but the media must be challenged also, it must be fair and not printing stories that have no base in fact or are illegal.

That is the challenge for Leveson, can he meet that challenge?

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