back to article After Leveson: The UK gets an Orwellian Ministry of Truth for real

Ever wondered what a British coup d’état might look like? You’ll have to bring your own visuals, but the soundtrack would probably go like this ... “Other than an Index of Censorship press release, where is your evidence for '300 years' of freedom?” demands one Reg comment-poster after your correspondent suggested MPs had …

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  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Megaphone

    There's no need for press regulation per se

    Merely an enforcement of current laws. As pointed out, everything that led to the Leveson enquiry was already illegal - it just wasn't being enforced.

    Print what you like, as long as it's accurate and you can prove it; if you can't prove it expect to be taken to the cleaners... at the very least, a correction in the same place, font, and size as the original article.

    But it doesn't need another round of regulation on top of existing laws.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

      "Print what you like, as long as it's accurate and you can prove it; if you can't prove it expect to be taken to the cleaners... at the very least, a correction in the same place, font, and size as the original article."

      Suing somebody is an option if you're rich, it probably isn't if you're just some regular person that a newspaper has decided to shit on to sell a few papers or generate hits on their site.

      For example we learned that a transgender teacher killed herself 3 months after Richard Littlejohn ran an opinion piece in the Daily Mail basically describing how this person was "selfish" and not fit to teach or be anywhere near children.

      It's incidents like this (plus 3 months of examples in the inquiry) which demonstrate why the regulation as it exists is toothless and needs to be strengthened.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

        Well - the upper piles of the British press are full of noisy little shits like Littlejohn, who bully the weak for profit.

        And let's not get started on some the riper things that have happened elsewhere in press land.

        As for 'freedom' - duh. What freedom do poor people have when someone like Littlejohn picks on them? Or when someone like Murdoch decides who's going to be the next PM?

        The current situation is already as Orwellian as it gets.

        Instead of telescreens, we have phone hacking, GCHQ, Facebook and Google.

        Instead of Two Minutes Hate we have pitiful self-righteous 'crusades' against so-called scroungers and immigrants.

        Instead of MiniTrue we have Campbell and Mandelson and Hutton, and Coulsoun doing PR for Dave from Marketing.

        Freedom, you say? Really, citizen?

        1. Gio Ciampa

          Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

          Won't Coulson (hopefully) be doing time soon? I wonder if he'll take Dave down with him?

      2. Rupert Stubbs

        Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

        Hang on - are you saying that Richard Littlejohn is not allowed to express his opinion? Because it might cause someone distress? I'm not sure you've got the hang of this "principle of free speech" business.

        1. Naughtyhorse

          Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

          littlejohn is free to say what he likes, just so long as I am free to reply

          in person

          and if my mouth happened to be full of petrol and i was holding a lit match when i shouted my response in the oleaginous little turds face...

          so what?

        2. DrXym Silver badge

          Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

          "Hang on - are you saying that Richard Littlejohn is not allowed to express his opinion? Because it might cause someone distress? I'm not sure you've got the hang of this "principle of free speech" business."

          No I'm not. That would be called a straw man argument. He can spout any bollocks he likes but if he makes someone a victim of his bile they should have a fair and simple mechanism for seeking redress.

      3. Greg J Preece

        Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

        For example we learned that a transgender teacher killed herself 3 months after Richard Littlejohn ran an opinion piece in the Daily Mail basically describing how this person was "selfish" and not fit to teach or be anywhere near children.

        As others have said, he should be allowed to be a shit-stain, and we should be allowed to call him such in response.

        Depressingly, what gives his shit-stainery the power to hurt people is the legion of knuckle-dragging fuckwits who agree with him, not his stupid little column.

      4. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

        "It's incidents like this (plus 3 months of examples in the inquiry) which demonstrate why the regulation as it exists is toothless and needs to be strengthened"

        It is being strengthened anyway. You make no case for any kind of state regulation, at all.

        What you're doing is what I describe in the piece. Find a victim - pin their corpse to the front of your bulldozer, and steam through the crowd.

        It's pretty shameless.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

          "What you're doing is what I describe in the piece. Find a victim - pin their corpse to the front of your bulldozer, and steam through the crowd.

          It's pretty shameless."

          True.

          But when we talk about how the British press is "kept in check" or some such by the law of libel only if you're rich enough to afford it.

          That's like Americans going on about how they have the best healthcare in the world, with the (unspoken) addition the company has a decent health plan or you can afford it directly.

      5. Flatpackhamster

        Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

        Yes, and we 'learned' that from The Guardian which omitted to mention the poor woman had already tried to top herself twice before the Mail article was published. Because

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

    With Communism you know you are not free, with Capitalism you have the illusion you are free.

    1. Forget It

      Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

      If you don't have to fight for it then it is probably not freedom.

      1. kissingthecarpet
        Thumb Up

        Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

        Nice one.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

      > With Communism you know you are not free, with Capitalism you have the illusion you are free.

      Meh.

      Please explain again what State Control of Media has to do with "Capitalism".

      1. TomChaton
        Stop

        Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

        Or Communism, for that matter.

        The fact that most Communist states have been totalitarian too is a coincidence (more probably linked to the propensity for greed in the human race).

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

          > The fact that most Communist states have been totalitarian

          You mean, 100% of them?

          > more probably linked to the propensity for greed in the human race

          More probably linked to the propensity of control in the sociopaths.

          Orwell knew exactly what he was writing about when he described the end result of the Fabian's drive to societal "good management".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Big Brother

        Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

        Please explain again what State Control of Media has to do with "Capitalism".

        To put it simply, it ain't you who writes the menu, you just scoff what's put on the plate in front of you irrespective of the chef.

        Your sincerely

        A. Misanthrope

    3. Fibbles

      Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

      Surely that should be Totalitarianism and "Democracy" rather than Communism and Capitalism?

  3. Pete 2

    Boo hoo

    > MPs had ended three centuries of freedom from political interference of the published word

    Alternatively: newspaper owners gave up 300 years of responsible reporting and professionalism.

    Saying that something is "in the public interest" is an easy and lazy defence that can be applied to pretty much any newspaper article. It's also completely unprovable - and attributing increased sales is the worst possible rationalisation for "public interest".

    What's happened to newspapers is what happens every day in thousands of households across the land: where exasperated parents say to their misbehaving toddlers "if you won't play nicely, we're taking your toys away". The press brought this sorry state of affairs on themselves. Maybe they thought they were "too big to fail regulate" - it looks like their arrogance was called.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boo hoo

      All true, and I don't have much sympathy for the press in this. But I think the main point of the article is that we will all lose because of this. The press aren't the only Truth-manipulators out there, and we really do need the press to be free to point that fact out.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Boo hoo

      All true? No pretty much all false.

      > 300 years of responsible reporting and professionalism

      Anyone with a slight knowledge of history could point to countless counterexamples. The first purpose of any newspaper* is to maintain its existence - this is just as true of noble and fearless publications such as The Guardian as it is of The Star. To succeed, they must sell papers, and that doesn't always lead to responsible and professional behaviour.

      > Saying that something is "in the public interest" is [...] completely unprovable

      If laws have been broken and the cases are deemed sufficiently serious, they may be and have been tested in front of a judge and/or jury. This defence does not always succeed, as numerous journalists have discovered to their cost.

      * Any commercial newspaper, this didn't apply to Pravda or Izvestia, if that's where you prefer to get your information.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Boo hoo

        "The first purpose of any newspaper* "

        A fact known even to the readers of JK Rowling.

        Newspapers (like all media outlets) are businesses after all.

    3. Amonynous

      Re: Boo hoo

      "Saying that something is "in the public interest" is an easy and lazy defence that can be applied to pretty much any newspaper article. It's also completely unprovable - and attributing increased sales is the worst possible rationalisation for "public interest"."

      You are confusing 'in the public interest' with 'of interest to the public'. Simple example for you (although it is already explained perfectly well in the article):

      Public interest: Newspaper obtains evidence by phone hacking about a government minister making fraudulent expense claims to fund a crash pad for his bit on the side.

      Of interest to the public: Newspaper obtains evidence by phone hacking about minor celebrity using his own money to fund a crash pad for his bit on the side.

      The courts are perfectly capable of determining these things; sometimes the balance can be a fine one, but that is why you have the seemingly endless appeals process. That is all going to be swept away now, and decisions about what you get to hear will be made by an unelected quango subject to all sorts of hidden special interests. And don't think it will all be after the event either; serious investigative journalists (of which a few do remain) will have to think long and hard about who and what they take on in the future. That certainly isn't 'in the public interest'.

      Celebrity now happy since he can keep his illicit shagging quiet (but he could have anyway if existing laws were actually enforced). Dodgy politician even happier, since he too can keep his illicit shagging and criminal activity quiet, which he previously could not have done despite the journalist having broken the law.

      You tell me who emerges the winner in all this? It ain't you or me, that's for sure.

    4. Al Jones

      Re: Boo hoo

      Just because the public are interested in it, doesn't mean it's in the public interest (and vice versa!)

    5. P. Lee Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Boo hoo

      > Alternatively: newspaper owners gave up 300 years of responsible reporting and professionalism.

      Not really. Newspapers as a source to truth and righteousness is a myth from Superman. We've always known that publishers basically only tell their readers what they want to hear, however in the past we've accepted that as a cost of freedom of speech and the occasional gem of journalism.

      Regulation isn't the issue either. The Papers could have been regulated simply by enforcing the existing rules. The issue here is that a powerful interest group took a hard and tragic case and used it to bulldoze through legislation which (a) wasn't required and (b) completely changes the relationship between the state and those who write things, for their own benefit.

      We now have freedom of speech as long as you don't write it down. Legal due process has been effectively replaced with a government agency with regard to the written word.

      When the MPAA tries to bypass legal due process, most commentards here are quite rightly are outraged. How tragic when not just a principle is at stake, but also a key freedom, that so many are so focused on "getting the right result" in one case, that they can't perceive what they are giving away to get it.

      Having seen the past 20 years of governments lie about their activities and take away more and more freedoms in an effort to force people to be more liberal (the irony!), I am amazed that people trust the government to do anything. To pretend that more legislation is needed when the old laws weren't enforced is willfully deceitful. By all means regulate commercial entities, but to fail to define "publisher" appropriately is gross and deliberate negligence and the resulting laws will be abused as intended.

    6. Dick Pountain

      Re: Boo hoo

      Precisely. This paranoid rant is worthy of the Tea Party. Not a word about the corruption of journalistic standards by politically-partisan, monopolistic press owners (with the power to fire or not hire dissenting journos). The regulatory body isn't to be a state agency, that's Tory spin.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "“Other than an Index of Censorship press release, where is your evidence for '300 years' of freedom?” demands one Reg comment-poster after your correspondent suggested MPs had ended three centuries of freedom from political interference of the published word - brought about by giving the nod to a new, powerful press regulator."

    Press ethics is the prblem, not freedom of speech.

    Opponents would not be shouting so loundly if they were the subject of intrusion by the press.

    Clearly the british paper reading public are mugs anyway! Who beleves the shit the press put out? And who still reads newspapers? They are about as accurate as the weather forecast. It's all bollox.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      pragmatic most

      when was the last time you read a newspaper?

      I haven't for years.

      a pox on all their houses. fucking noisy dinosaurs.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    I really hope the British press isn't kowtowed. You don't have to look too far from the UK to find out what happens when the press' job is little more than taking down what the government minister says.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      taking down what the government minister says.

      which is somehow worse than

      "taking down what the rupert murdoch says."?

  6. Thomas 4
    Mushroom

    There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

    For those of you that move in LGBT circles, the name Lucy Meadows has been making headlines this week. For those unfamiliar with the story, about 3 months ago, Richard Littlejohn of the Daily Mail wrote an extremely degrading "expose" of a transwoman in Manchester, describing her as being in the wrong job and that her transitioning was "having a devestating influence" on the children in her class.

    She killed herself last week after three months of press harassment.

    To date, no official action has been taken against Richard Littlejohn. The PCC refuses to get involved despite literally thousands of third party complaints. Do I want journalists to have completely free reign? Not if they can destroy lives and get away with it.

    1. ACx

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      Same sort of thing with that nurse who got scammed when Kate Middleton was in hospital.

    2. Magister

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      I think that here we have an example of where things are going wrong.

      There is / never was any requirement for press intrusion into the life of the individual; nothing was covered up as the school made an announcement to the parents and they would have had the opportunity to remove their children from the school if they felt this necessary on moral / religious grounds. (I don't personally believe that would have been appropriate, but accept that others might feel it necessary)

      However, there are also examples of people that court publicity for various reasons; but want to be able to block any news reports of them that are critical. I'm thinking for example of an elected person that tried to have information on specific illegal behaviour covered up.

      We need to have a balance between what is really "in the public interest" and prurient intrusion into people's lives, just because it sells a few more adverts. How do we achieve that? Damned if I know, but I suspect that this is not the last we have heard on this topic.

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

        We need to have a balance between what is really "in the public interest" and prurient intrusion into people's lives, just because it sells a few more adverts. How do we achieve that?

        Follow the money.

        Write to all the advertisers in the paper telling them that you and all your friends will boycott them until they remove the adverts.

    3. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      There is an old legal maxim - "hard cases make bad law". Of course this was a tragic case, but if, in order to safeguard the rights of a few (be they transgendered or super-rich), we trample over the rights of the many, then that is a bad law. Have your press regulator if you want, but don't come crying to me in a decade's time when bribery and corruption in government have become rife and the Press are powerless to expose it.

    4. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      Intriguingly that article is no longer visible on the Daily Wail website - I can't find it either searching on "Lucy Meadows", or "Nathan Upton" or even clicking on "see all of Littlejohn's articles".

      Can't think why it might have disappeared...

      1. Thomas 4

        Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

        I only first became aware of it on FreeThoughtsBlog; someone had managed to cache the page before it was taken down. It didn't do any favours for my blood pressure.

    5. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      "Do I want journalists to have completely free reign?"

      RTFA.

      We don't.

      1. Thomas 4

        Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

        I've re-read it and I have been hasty in my initial post, for which I apologise.

        That said, with your example about the PR wanting to get an article taken down, what if it had been an individual that has been the victim of unfair press? The PCC is a remarkably toothless organisation and the only other option is legal action, which for an individual going up against a national newspaper, must seem like a futile task. A newspaper can hire an army of lawyers, an individual can't. Plus someone that's had their life intruded into by the press is already under a colossal amount of stress and pressure; to go through expensive legal action with a highly doubtful outcome...

        There does need to be a way for individual people to be able to call newspapers to account but allowing them to do so in a way that cannot be abused by more powerful people...that's beyond me.

      2. Joseph Lord
        FAIL

        @AO

        I was trying to take the article seriously when after stating that newspapers are already regulated but the laws aren't properly enforced it described the ongoing criminal investigations as witch hunts and from that point it was very hard.

        The current proposal may be very bad but I have very little sympathy for the whingers in the press and hold them accountable for it getting to this stage. The demand for the pointless (because they are already regulated by defamation laws and other general laws) principle of no statutory aspect to press regulation has prevented proper discussion of what might actually be a reasonable system, pushed the process into the realm of Royal Charters, the Privy Council and other closed door manoeuvrings.

        I do worry that there may be impacts on Private Eye and other proper investigative journalism but I don't think that the effect of the regulation will be as bad as you fear but the section on the last page about your view of the practical effects and added power to PRs was the most interesting (and most persuasive) part of the article rather than the bulk based on a rose tinted and generally deluded view of the last few hundred years of British history.

        I went looking for the views of Private Eye and The Guardian and found this from Alan Rusbridger which I hadn't previously read but agree with to a great degree although it is probably weak in considering impact on magazines and purely online journalism.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/24/need-reform-free-press-time-openness

        And anyone talking about 300 years of freedom of the press should be hit round the head with plank of wood with "D-Notice" written on it until they shut up about 300 years.

    6. MrXavia
      Mushroom

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      I can't find the original article, so there is no way for me to comment on what they said,

      but hounding someone until they kill themselves is something the press should never get away with, I thought there were laws against harassment already to stop this...

      But freedom of speech means people have the right to make their opinions heard, it is a fine balance between freedom of speech and protecting the free...

      She had rights, so did the kids, the parents and the community, it was bound to cause friction and very strong opinions..

    7. Naughtyhorse

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      a free reign, but to be held to account.

      lynch the fucker

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

      Bugger me but because some stupid twat tops herself we have to put up with press censorship ! Get a grip man. A free press ain't everything, but it sure as hell is better than a press that carries out the government's wishes.

      What is almost unbelievable is the degree to which posters on this site support censorship by and for the government. The government is NOT you friend, never has been , never will. Government is for those who are in and who control those who are in government. And one thing they really value is the ability to do such illegal and unworthy things and to have those activities concealed from the hoi-polloi. Quite why one would support the bastards helping themselves is somewhat beyond me.

      1. Martin 71 Silver badge

        Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

        Your second paragraph (aside from the first sentence thereof) I agree with. However, insulting someone who was driven to suicide puts you in the Littlejohn category

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

          Committing suicide is just about the most selfish thing a person can do.* This person proved Littlejohn correct - and is therefore stupid.

          *My past career as a psychiatric nurse, and being someone who has been close to killing myself, give me the insight to say this.

  7. El Presidente
    Big Brother

    Rusbridger of The Guardian

    Wrote recently (http://tinyurl.com/cqa7euk) that the press should be allowed to continue to self regulate and have a year for their system to bed in. This falls well short of an apology for *that* article which it could be said was *the* catalyst for Leveson which, in turn, gave Hacked Off the boost they needed to attempt to overturn long established freedoms. Not even an offer of resignation.

    Ironic that yet again 'The Left' prove to be less liberal than they bill themselves.

    Thomas Paine 1791:

    It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few... They... consequently are instruments of injustice ... The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

    Hugh "$20 Ho" Grant (et al)

    "Hacked Off welcomes the cross-party agreement on implementing the Leveson recommendations on press self-regulation"

    Leveson is as much of a bodge up as it is a stitch up and it is not fit for purpose. It defines 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' and typifies the sort of incoherent policy and legislation that 'career' politicians churn out on a regular basis.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not everything is covered by existing law

    The Leveson inquiry also took evidence from groups campaigning for accurate reporting of facts in the media (e.g. FullFact). Innaccurate reporting of issues, science etc was demonstrated to happen regularly, and has the problem that it often does not directly damage any individual per se, but instead causes wider indirect problems by leading to a mis-informed public and decision makers.

    The evidence showed a systemic lack of willingness by some major publications to cooperate or correct major errors when raised through the PCC. Self regulation as it stood was clearly not working.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Not everything is covered by existing law

      Look at the business with misreporting and sensationalism over the MMR vaccine. There are still people even today who believes it causes autism. Unsurprisingly the number of cases of measles has shot up alarmingly in the last decade and is now described as an epidemic. Some of those kids will be scarred for life and potentially die, just because of bad reporting.

      See also every day of the week when either the Express or the Mail declares a substance to cause / cure / or cause AND cure cancer, or when they run campaigns to ban / promote health screening or vaccinations for specious reasons.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not everything is covered by existing law

        "Unsurprisingly the number of cases of measles has shot up alarmingly in the last decade and is now described as an epidemic"

        The Swansea area is currently suffering from a major Measles outbreak, linked to a lack of vaccination.

        1. DrXym Silver badge

          Re: Not everything is covered by existing law

          "The Swansea area is currently suffering from a major Measles outbreak, linked to a lack of vaccination."

          And before that Liverpool. Aside from the human cost, the economic cost of treating what should be easily preventable disease must be staggering. All thanks to hysterical news paper reporting.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Not everything is covered by existing law

            > All thanks to hysterical news paper reporting.

            Mainly due to people who cannot think their arse out of a paperbag. And due to some of the medical profession who think they are the saviours of the human race but are actually run-of-the-mill quacks.

            Opening a paper doesn not mean "disengage brain".

            Like with El Reg. There is good stuff, there is bad stuff. Sometimes by the same author.

            Then there is utter tripe, best avoided.

          2. P. Lee Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Not everything is covered by existing law

            > "The Swansea area is currently suffering from a major Measles outbreak, linked to a lack of vaccination."

            > And before that Liverpool. Aside from the human cost, the economic cost of treating what should be easily

            > preventable disease must be staggering. All thanks to hysterical news paper reporting.

            So, let me get this straight, hysterical newspaper reporting is bad, but the state over-riding parental responsibility and forcing children to be injected with arbitrary substances is ok?

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              @ P. Lee

              "So, let me get this straight, hysterical newspaper reporting is bad, but the state over-riding parental responsibility and forcing children to be injected with arbitrary substances is ok?"

              Yes, hysterical newspaper reporting is bad.

              No, the State overriding parental responsibility where it is unwarranted is not ok.

              Yes, the State overriding parental responsibility when it comes to clear public health goals is okay.

              Unless you are going to claim that we were better off with polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella etc, then you are clearly barking up the wrong tree.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm...

    Screeching "Ministry of Truth" and other Orwellean slogans doesn't help the case of the people protesting against this. I turn off now, whenever I hear this sort of comment, in the same way that I turn off when I hear someone banging on about how "The Man" is trying to keep good people down. It's just noise.

  10. Craig McGill 1

    Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

    To date, there has been no proof that Meadows took her life because of press involvement. It looks likely but it's not a given. To bring her into it diminishes from those who have taken their lives because of media reporting.

    Having said that, this was a fantastic article. Muzzling the press in the way that is planned is wrong - and for those looking for a crusade - wouldn't have stopped Littlejohn's opinion piece from appearing.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

      " ... those who have taken their lives because of media reporting."

      What 'proof' do you have that those people took their life because of press involvement? If you say there is 'no proof' for one particular person, then you must know of 'proof' for the other people. Do tell us.

      1. Craig McGill 1

        Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

        What about a person who has hanged themselves holding a newspaper article talking about themselves and their family? I would say that's far more proof. And has happened.

        I'm not sticking up for Littlejohn or the Mail - far from it.

    2. Brangdon
      Unhappy

      Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

      Whether or not she took her life because of the press is irrelevant. The press should not have hounded her. Having done so, they should not have got away with it. She made numerous complaints. It's an important example partly because it is so recent, and shows that even now the press aren't able to regulate themselves.

      1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

        "The press should not have hounded her."

        The Lucy Meadows case is, indeed, tragic. And the press coverage was rather unpleasant. But not every journo is a monster in the same way not every doctor is a murderer like Harold Shipman. And the Samaritans note that suicide should not be linked to one problem.

        I've worked on a newspaper within the Daily Mail Trust empire that had exactly the same story a year or so ago: a teacher ended a summer term as a man and started the autumn term as a woman. Letters were sent to pupils and their parents at her school explaining the change. Her local paper obviously found out and reported it - on the front page, no less.

        The editor-in-chief didn't name her, picture her "before and after", and (IIRC) didn't draw comment on her abilities, precisely to avoid the above mess. Not every hack is an unfeeling bastard.

        C.

        1. Joseph Lord
          Holmes

          Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

          > The Lucy Meadows case is, indeed, tragic. And the press coverage was rather unpleasant. But not every journo is a monster in the same way not every doctor is a murderer like Harold Shipman. And the Samaritans note that suicide should not be linked to one problem.

          And all practicing doctors are regulated by the GMC which has statutory underpinnings. What exactly is your point?

          The only one I can see is that the "press" is lots of different people and is an overall mixed bag ranging from the excellent to the dreadful. With a good system of regulation in place the excellent shouldn't suffer and the dreadful will have to change. Now whether there are particular flaws that will make the system of regulation less than good is a matter of detail and not high principle.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

      It certainly looks like there is a prima facie case for her being hounded with the press looking to do a hatchet job against her ...

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/mar/22/lucy-meadows-press-harassment

      Maybe some people find this bullying and hate-mongering a vital aspect of a free press but others find it unacceptable. I don't buy into the American view that freedom of speech entails granting a freedom to hate, a freedom to harm when no harm is deserved. That may be unacceptable to free speech absolutists but I expect they would see things differently if they truly were on the receiving end. I see no wrong in protecting people from undeserved harm. It's as much about not doing the wrong thing as it as about doing the right thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

        Our "Freedom of Speech" does not neccessarily grant "Freedom to Hate" and this situation is beginning to evolve. Libel and Slander are still illegal, just hard to prove but it is becoming less acceptable to bully anyone and in particular now LGBT persons are getting greater protection than ever before.

        Frankly, the pollution of our free press with hateful commentary is more related to the British Tabloid press mindset infiltrating what was once actual journalism in the US. First in the papers and then in the media.

        Thank Rupert Murdoch and his ilk for that issue. Bullying is his baliwick. They should all burn in hell along with the DOJ for their bullying of Aaron Swarts.

        How do you get any justice when the the Justice Department itself is unjust? Just saying but Thomas Jefferson had an answer to this and it's buried in the Constitution and how it came to be.

        1. P. Lee Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

          > Our "Freedom of Speech" does not neccessarily grant "Freedom to Hate"

          This is just too sloppy. Creating and prosecuting thought-crimes is not a path we should be taking. Yes bullying is awful, but far better to teach people how to cope with it than to try create a padded cell to live in. You don't build a strong immune-system by removing all the germs from the environment.

          Freedom to hate? Yes, I do want that freedom. I don't want the government telling me what I should love and what I should hate. They can tell me I may not incite people to violence, but my motivation should be irrelevant. If I yell, "kill the gays!" it should not bear a different punishment from "kill the christians!", "kill the ones will moles on their left cheek!", or "kill those who like Rick Astley!"

          Freedom of speech doesn't create a freedom to harass, but that was already the case. Imagining that you can or should try to remove the freedom to hate is worse than the Orwellian nightmare the author notes. Mind-control is the end-game of trying to control the written word.

          The historical extreme governments of left and right had their concentration camps and "re-education" centres. Now it seems we have "extreme liberalism" where all opposition shall be quashed without the legal system being involved. Let's see how long it takes for the first pamphlets and books to be gathered in a heap in the village square.

          1. P. Lee Silver badge

            >Freedom to hate? Yes, I do want that freedom.

            I know, replying to myself is bad form but just to clarify, I don't want to hold onto the freedom to hate because I'm nursing some pet hates, but because:

            (a) I just don't trust anyone else (government or newspapers) to exercise that freedom on my behalf.

            (b) the policing mechanisms involved in individuals not having those freedoms are (IMHO) unacceptable.

      2. Rob 21

        Re: Don't bring Lucy Meadows into this...

        Did you miss Andrew's point that there was no proof that Milly Dowler's messages had been deleted, and that the story that they had came from the Guardian? I'm rather of the opinion that the Guardian is the house organ of Common Purpose and their articles are for the purposes of herding rather than accuracy.

  11. The Mole
    Stop

    Plenty of regulation of the printed word

    "After that, at last, it was a taboo for Parliament to regulate the published word - until quite recently. Regulating the press simply wasn’t British."

    I'm still confused why newspapers don't think they they are currently regulated. I'm not a lawyer but off the top of my head I can name plenty of regulations which apply to the printed words and limit what newspapers can print. e.g.:

    defamation law

    contempt of court and stringent reporting restrictions on court proceedings

    injunctions/super injunctions

    obscene publications act

    financial reporting regulations

    fraud law

    Pornography/child porn laws

    Incitement

    Race Relations Act

    Data Protection Act

    Unfair Consumer Practices Directive

    Official Secrets Act

    and probably many more.

    Some of these may have partial exceptions for the purposes of journalism but these exceptions rarely give them free reign

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Plenty of regulation of the printed word

      "I'm still confused why newspapers don't think they they are currently regulated"

      They certainly feel regulated enough already, trust me. I used to work in them and we all know people who still do.

      C.

      1. The Mole

        Re: Plenty of regulation of the printed word

        Yet the main debates and arguments seemed to be around the fact that they couldn't possibly have parliament pass a law to regulate them - even though plenty had already been passed to regulate them already. It seemed to me a deliberate attempt to reframe the debate out of reality.

        The argument there are plenty of laws already covering them and it's a failing of the police to enforce them is much more convincing, and it certainly seems this new law (sorry royal charter) is badly phrased and rushed - partly because everyone was wasting time arguing semantics about the form it took not the contents of what went into it.

    2. kissingthecarpet
      Headmaster

      Re: Plenty of regulation of the printed word

      I upvoted your post, however, I've seen "free reign" too many times in these comments

      It is "free rein". Using reign doesn't mean anything.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voicemails

    Just one small point on your aquittal of the NotW regarding the deletaion of the Milly Dowler voicemails.

    The Police statement was that:

    "There do appear to have been two messages missing that should have been present when Surrey Police carried out their second recorded download on April 17.

    "It is not known why that happened and it will not now be possible to provide an explanation."

    We cannot say that the NotW definitely deleted the messages, but we do know that the NotW, or people in their pay, had unauthorised access to the voicemail box at the time that the messages were deleted.

    So at the very least the NotW muddied the waters so badly that it cannot be said who deleted them and there remains the distinct possibilty that they did delete them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Voicemails

      And I think the Guardian did admit (though in a paragraph at the end of another article and not with the same prominence as the original story) that their report on the Dowler "phone hack" was probably not entirely accurate. Though, to give the credit, while they are mainly on the side of better "regulation" articles by their editor (Rushbridger) and previous editor (Preston) are becoming increasingly scathing of the current proposals - Peter Preston pointed out in his media article this weekend that the result of Leveson appears to be heading towards a "regulator underpinned by legislation" that only the Guardian, Independent and possibly FT sign up to!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Voicemails

        They're criticising the total situation more than the written word of the regulator as is. In an ideal world they'd be quite happy with the result we've got. We don't live in an ideal world, and a self-regulator that no one joins is utterly worthless. The Guardian is a couple of steps ahead of most of the other papers in this, and fully recognises that if the papers don't join the proposed regulator and fuck up again, there is a very good chance they'll end up bound by draconian statutes.

    2. Corinne

      Re: Voicemails

      I'm afraid that there is at least as much chance that Surrey Police deleted the voicemails by accident rather than NotW. Coppers aren't renowned for their high tech skills and I would guess that anyone with the ability to hack in to the voicemails would have at least a modicum of ability in that field.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Voicemails

        I'm not sure that using the default passcode to access a voicemail box requires much ability.

        It is possible that the Surrey police deleted the messages, but we will not know because the NotW compromised the situation.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Has everyone forgotten how voicemails work?

      Once you listen to a voicemail, you start a timer running after which the system discards it. Back in the early '00s, IIRC, the standard practice was that VMs were kept for two weeks if unlistened, or three days after being listened to. So whoever listened to them definitely did *cause* them to become deleted shortly thereafter, without having explicitly deleted them themselves.

  13. gribbler

    Well, at least El Reg is safe

    "Until this finally collapses, though, it'll probably be the best media organisations which will pay the highest cost."

    No need for Reg hacks to worry then ;)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free speech?

    Insulting certain people is a crime, there is no such thing as free speech in the UK. This merely extends the principle further such that only pre-approved words may be used. Thin end of the wedge.

  15. Desk Jockey
    FAIL

    Out of sympathy

    I don't believe we have a free press. It is nearly all owned by a small group of rich, white men and while this should not matter, in reality it means that those (rather unpleasant) men are pushing their own political agendas through their newspapers. Everything else their newspapers produce are just made up, quite literally.

    Investigative journalism is far from dead as a result of these reforms, in fact I rather hope that it will have a revival. A proper investigation by a journalist is usually done by someone with good knowledge, with lots of preparation and research and who knows what line they can and cannot cross. They will be able to prove their work was in the public interest and the regulator will respect that and throw out challenges. It will also throw out challenges by PR companies.

    The press right now, is not only a rabid dog that any sane person would stay away from, they actually cause unbelievable hardship. They should hold those in power to account, not camp on victims doorsteps or even impede public services (mention child abduction and watch the press bombard police switchboards while the police are racing against time to try to find the child). While I respect freedom like any other person, I have no respect at all from the press and they should stop whinging and get on with proving that the whole industry is not a complete make-work, that only markets to the lowest demoninator and is capable of properly reporting news. They brought it on themselves.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Out of sympathy

      "While I respect freedom like any other person..."

      Arguments to curtail freedom always being with something like this.

      1. John Arthur
        Meh

        Re: Out of sympathy

        I think you mean "Arguments to curtail freedom always begin with something like this."

    2. Naughtyhorse

      proper investigation by a journalist is...

      ...done on television.

  16. Tim Parker

    If you honestly think "a conspiratorial view of the press" is "barmy", and hence without an element of truth, you are either naive or an idiot. Given the circles you sometimes frequent and your insight into a number of technical and social issues, I find it hard to believe you're naive. This doesn't make true every random theory of the big, bad, bogey man of the the press some would have one accept, but to wish away the idea that the mass media can, and does, have an effect - and sometimes a deliberate one being the point - on the world at large and politics in particular beggars belief.

  17. Gordon Pryra

    Nice story from the view of someone in the press

    The trouble is that that biased as it the article is, it makes a good read. One can almost feel sorry for the poor journalists.

    Press should not be censored, this is true, and a great thing to aspire to.

    Except that the press, like the police and like the politicians is made up of people who do whatever is right for themselves and their bank accounts.

    We see it time and time again, when the press lie or break the law to get a salacious story, a copper is too lazy to do their job, spending more effort covering that up than it would take to actually do right in the first place or duckhouses for the leaders of our great country.

    Anyway, to think that we have any form of free press is ignorant in the extreme, the press spouts its publishers/owner views which are influenced by many factors, primarily financial

  18. bob's hamster

    Couldn't give a stuff

    Sorry but you guys have blown it. For every rich Oligarch who can now hide behind the new rules there are 100 ordinary people whose lives would otherwise have been blighted by the bitter press bullshit masquerading as news. Perhaps things need to go too far in the right direction before a happy medium is reached, but at the end of the day you have all got what you deserve.

  19. hungee
    Holmes

    newspapers have stakeholders too.

    To say "free press" is a misnomer in today's capitalist world. Almost every press organisation has shareholders, employers and readers. You are not free, you are bound to the interests of those stakeholders. The public clearly thinks the press has lost its moral high ground so an effort is coming in to place to force you to find and counter those other pressures. Now don't get me wrong, The Register (while snarky at times) seems to have a fairly decent moral compass the same can not be said of many publications. It seems unreasonable to shout 4th estate as many large print organisations are run (often at a loss) because of the power of propaganda.

    If the 4th estate was efficient at self regulation we wouldn't be hearing the same lies over and over. There would have been an internal reckoning. Instead the indoctrination of the new into the culture of the "pure" motives of journalism has allowed to moral compass to move off true north.

    Sherlock, because y'all need to take a good hard look at reality...

    1. Chris Miller

      No shit, Sherlock

      Oh noes those evil capitalists have taken over our free press, that was previously run entirely by workers co-operatives ... oh, wait.

      The answer to your little conundrum is plurality. Most newspapers have an obvious stance. If you don't like it or don't want to broaden your mind by reading it, you can buy a different one. If you don't like the Times, buy the Guardian. If you don't like the Sun, buy the Mirror. If you don't like Sky News, watch BBC,

      PS Moral 'compass', has nothing to do with needles that point north.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: No shit, Sherlock

        You might also factor in the ongoing love fest that all political parties have had Rupert and have allowed his free reign over cross media ownership so the owner of the Sun and the Times gets to won Sky (all operating in the UK) without any serious control.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Not That Andrew
    Flame

    I hate to agree with Andrew Orlowski, but I would much rather have a free press that hacks celebrities cellphones, steals the content of their bins, publishes nudies of Royals, exposes abuses in the NHS and corruption in the House of Commons than this travesty we will now have thanks to Hugh Grant and Levin. I have lived in a country with heavy press regulation and press censorship and it's not a pretty sight. The press end up censoring themselves to avoid being shut down. I can see the UK heading this way now.

    1. Not That Andrew
      Facepalm

      Correction

      That should be Leveson, not Levin

  22. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Laws and Trivia

    There is, or was, a lawyers maxim that the law does not concern itself with trivial cases.

    Of course, what is trivial to a press baron may be far from trivial to an aggrieved individual. In cases like that some kind of tribunal or small claims court is the answer. The spirit of Leveson's proposals is that a small claims body is established by law, but the regulations it will impose are determined by it, the press, and the public; but not by statute.

    The Press has wilfully obfuscated that issue, and for that alone deserves far worse than it is set to receive.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that simple

    The irony is that all the NOTW phone hacking scandal only broke because of a dogged investigation by a Guardian journalist. I suppose Mr Orlowski could dismiss that, as the Guardian is obviously part of a sinister left-wing anti-freedom cabal.

    I know it's probably just an example of Sturgeon's Law, but at least 90% of "investigative journalism" is of no value whatsoever and is just of the "build 'em up, knock 'em down" variety. The trick for the new regulator is going to be stopping the made-up stuff about which D-listers are allegedly doing what with whom, while still allowing genuine public interest stuff through - like Liam Fox and his friend's dodgy use of foreign trips, or some of Lord Ashcroft's interesting investments.

    So press regulation is not a terrible idea in principle; the critical thing is how it is applied in practice, who the regulators are, and who appoints them.

    1. Not That Andrew

      Re: Not that simple

      You call reading the Private Eye a "dogged investigation"?

  24. teebie
    Joke

    de minimis non curat lex

    Usually transalted as "The law does not concern itself with trifles", a concept thoroughly misunderstood by Jonnie Marbles

  25. Ian 56

    Sick and tired

    I am sick and tired of media types saying "what they did was against the law already, so where's the problem?".

    The kind of justice available to ordinary people (i.e. non multi-millionaires) is a world away from from that available to the powerful. Our libel laws operate counter to their supposed purpose; the PCC is ineffective; and as has been shown multiple times over the years, the police are uninterested unless forced by overwhelming public or political pressure.

    I honestly wonder what kind of person can sit down, and with a straight face, write: "The British media is, in fact, very heavily regulated already by the existing laws of the land."

    Oh, and btw, the media is already regulated by government. It always has been. In the absence of a proper constitution in this country, *everything* is (or could be) regulated by government. The only question is to what degree.

  26. Longrod_von_Hugendong
    WTF?

    Free press is like communism...

    a good idea in principle, but fails when people get involved who cannot keep their hands out of the cookie jar - like in all soups, scum rises to the top

    and like communists, journalists need to be shot on sight.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think what is happening is reflective of the modern fashion to legislate rather than think. Besides, it's easier for a Minister to big himself up with new legislation rather than attempt to enforce existing laws (i,e. herd cats - a term very familiar to anyone who's had to manage anyone else in the IT sector).

    My big problem at the moment (and I say this as a Labour member) is not so much the fact we have these silly new laws but that there's no dissent among the political elite. No matter who you vote for at the next general election, the trajectory will remain the same. That means more of the same.

  28. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Devil

    “Given a choice between the government and the press, I'd trust the government's honesty and integrity more than the press.”

    Woah someone sure is looking forward to his Kool Aid.

    Hope he's "working" in the military and being experimented upon (either in the political or the actual medical sense) for Great Honesty and Integrity.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      to be fair...

      the statement is relative...

      and i suspect that there was a sotto voce 'but i wouldn't trust either of the bastards further than i could spit an anvil'

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    public interest... ha.

    "Where there is no public interest, the authorities should act. Simple - why do we need a Ministry of Truth for this?"

    Because the authorities did not act, and it was left to private individuals to try to seek redress AFTER their lives had been turned upside down. I'm not talking about Z list celebs, but ordinary people. We can't affiord to sue a multinational and the police do nothing.

  30. El Presidente
    FAIL

    El Reg has some pretty astute commentards

    But when presented with a well written, well researched article the swivel eyed loons don't half let the side down. The inability to see the long term issues surrounding things like Leveson and Freetardism is a sad indictment of selfish nature of kids toady. And it is kids. It must be.

    You'd have to be very a sheltered adult, an immature adult or just plain ignorant not to see that.

    1. Ian K
      Facepalm

      "You'd have to be very a sheltered adult, an immature adult or just plain ignorant not to see that."

      It must give you a nice warm feeling to have the delusion that people could only disagree with you because they're retarded, ignorant, or both.

      1. El Presidente
        FAIL

        Re: You'd have to be .....

        @ IanK "It must give you a nice warm feeling to have the delusion that people could only disagree with you because they're retarded, ignorant, or both."

        It does.

        Downvote away, join the council 'workers' the freetards and Frytards whydontcha?

      2. Not That Andrew

        Re: "You'd have to be very a sheltered adult, etc"

        I agree it's a rather arrogant attitude, but in this case he is right. Witness the mouth-breathers who have proudly declared they would sooner trust a politician than a journalist.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Mark 49

    There's one side of the campaign that you don't really touch on, the revenge of the politicians.

    Whilst Hacked Off with their Common Purpose background have used the Dowler and McCann cases to whip up, in their own lexicon, the useful idiots as a front for their own aims, the politicians have done exactly the same with Hacked Off as part of their own agenda.

    Politicians and bureaucracy have always wanted to exercise power without the awkwardness of being held to account. The expenses scandal was on scrutiny too far for most of them as it exposed them as the venal weasels we know they are. Ultimately, any regulation in this climate is definitely not for the benefit of the public or the ordinary 'victims', it is entirely for the benefit of a few rich celebs and the political control of information.

    As a side note, the bureaucrats have been trying to do this since the ending of emergency war time measures. They hated relinquishing the wartime control. Rationing, ID cards, conscription and press control have all had attempts to re-introduce them over the last 60 years using whatever causus belli that could be twisted for that aim.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With freedom of the press...

    ...Comes responsibility of the press. Unfortunately the newspapers we have in the UK today are not really up to the task of carrying out their responsibilities.

    For every story about MP's expenses/genuine wrongdoing there's some three ridiculous stories about what some celebrity did/didn't do to someone/something. If Celebrity A's bonking Celeb B behind Celeb C's back then that's their business, not mine.

    TV news and current affairs has been controlled by statute since its inception back in the 50s (mainly down to the printed press being worried about their margins) and that has broken many massive stories over the years.

    News papers? These days, they're not even fit to be used for fish and chips.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: With freedom of the press...

      And furthermore, the tabloid press' "Name and shame" campaign against "paedophiles" is a great example of something that may not have been illegal, but was certainly unethical.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: With freedom of the press...

        Don't forget that the same person who was the branes behind the paedohpile name and shame campaign, was also the person who's paper was ran an anti-domestic violence campaign. She should have been sacked at the point it became apparent that she was dishing out domestic violence, due to her violent short temper and utter lack of self control.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        Re: With freedom of the press...

        not to mention hell for the foot doctors

      3. Crisp Silver badge

        Re: "Name and shame" campaign

        It's funny how they can get away with that for convicted paedophiles.

        But not with muggers, burglars, thieves, rapists, murderers, drink drivers, or politicians.

        I'd much rather know where those guys live so that I could stay away from them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Name and shame" campaign

          "It's funny how they can get away with that for convicted paedophiles."

          Or, indeed, unconvicted (indeed unarrested, uncharged, and untried) *alleged* paedophiles (such as J Savile).

  34. nsld

    Is no on else struck by the irony

    That the McCanns with book serialisations, a spin doctor and the ability to spin stories to the press are complaining when the press publish stories they do not like?

    You cannot really complain about intrusion when you are on the front page of the Sun telling the world your sex life is not great.

    Personally I cannot take seriously two people who neglected the kids every night to go on the lash rather than pay for a baby sitter.

    Even more so as they have not been hacked in any way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is no on else struck by the irony

      @nsld - You can and should complain - you don't know which of the stories were made up by the press, only run with consent because they were blackmailed into agreeing to it and which were genuine.

      I would hardly class leaving your kids asleep while you're a few meters away in a hotel bar in a closed resort as neglect.

      1. nsld

        Re: Is no on else struck by the irony

        "I would hardly class leaving your kids asleep while you're a few meters away in a hotel bar in a closed resort as neglect."

        I doubt anyone would describe that as neglect, however, the reality of what hapened is very different.

        Try in an unlocked apartment, on a road, behind a wall and with a line of trees and a swimming pool between it and the bar with a walk of some 70 metres to get to.

        The bar was inside the complex, the apartment was on a public road outside of it!

  35. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Public interest?

    Just because someone evokes that they are doing something "in the public interest" doesn't make it so--even if the person in question genuinely believes that it is.

    Also, regulating "freedom to hate" and "freedom to harm when no harm is deserved" are based on the subjective decisions around what is hate and what is harm and what is "deserved". Is writing or speaking about immigration "hate"? Is writing about relationships between the rich and government "hate" if you were to use adjectives like "corrupt" or "unseemly" about those relationships?

    Better to have as much freedom and free speech as possible, up to the point that malice or advocation of violence is involved. More freedom = good thing.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No sympathy

    A fine example of why measures are required. Talk about exaggeration! Gone straight to "Ministry of Truth" and 1984! This is why you lot need curtailing. You bang on about us needing to be reminded of what freedom is and separation of state, you lot need to learn and fully comprehend the definition of "responsibility" before you start lecturing anyone else

  37. Yet Another Commentard

    A small recommendation

    Anyone who is interested in this area should read the rather excellent "Power Without Responsibility" by Curran and Seaton.

    It's the seminal work examining the media, newspapers etc. It serves to put a lot of all this stuff into some form of historical context too.

  38. Jamie Kitson

    Berlusconi

    You seem to argue that Murdoch is benign and has no power, but would you say the same of Berlusconi?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Berlusconi

      what, that nice kind older gentlemen who used to enjoy helping young ladies? When he wasn't too busy passing laws to give himself immunity, that is: funny how the Italian supreme court can order the re-trial of someone who isn't even in the country, knowing she won't come back for it, yet doesn't say Berlusconi's clearly self-serving laws should be repealed.

      Funny old world, and it got funnier when a previous post referred to "The Guardian" and "noble" in the same sentence. Nothing even vaguely "noble" about loudly criticising other companies' tax arrangements when your own parent company uses Cayman Islands companies in a "less than transparent" manner, and had a trust structure seemingly put in place to dodge inheritance tax (dropped in favour of the Cayman arrangements about five years ago iirc)

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Berlusconi

        Much as I hate to defend the screamsheet of the champagne socialists, I believe that you are being slightly unfair to the Graun there.

        IIRC, the Grauniad is owned by the Scott Trust and the trustees are obliged by the charter to devote every possible penny to promoting independant journalism. Under those terms, they would actually be failing in their duties if the trust were to pay any more tax than it absolutely had to. Here you need to blame the government. The obvious answer is "principle of payment" legislation (which basically says "there may well be loopholes in the tax legislation, but if it ain't a specific exemption that you are entitled to, that's evasion"). The problem here is that this would piss off a lot of very important people such as, by sheer coincidence, most of the "Hacked Off" mob and Murdoch / News International. There's probably a moral in there somewhere........

        If you really want to target a paper with that particular gripe, try the Waily Fail. They continually bleat on about people and companies not paying tax. They are owned by Lord Rothermere who is, er, non-domiciled for tax purposes. As far as I am aware, Rothermere is not under any legally binding onus to minimise his own tax liabilities.

        1. Not That Andrew

          Re: Grauniad

          Yes, but propping up a rapidly failing newspaper is not a very good way of promoting independent journalism or a good investment of the Scott Trusts money. I am not sure what else they could do, but IMHO it's time to let the Gruaniad die gracefully.

  39. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    IT Angle

    After reading this

    Article, the only word I can think of is "Bollocks"

    The press should be regulated by the phrase "Public interest"

    Eg Prince William and his missus sunbathing on a topless beach while having a fairly passionate snog is not a public interest story.... its a none story

    However... the Prime minister and his mistress snogging on the same beach after delivering a speech to the tory loonies.. I mean party on family values = public interest.

    Or how about the daily w(m)ail running a smear story on the landlord of a murder victim on the basis he had a past and looked a bit dodgey..... the fact the editor and senior staff were walking around free was because the judge did'nt have enough guts to jail the lot of them for a serious contempt of court leads to the writers point

    We have enough laws on the press IF THEY ARE ENFORCED

    I try bribing a policeman , I goto jail

    if a Sun 'journalist' does it, its pat on the back good story well done.

    And only now are people starting to be jailed for these types of offences

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: After reading this

      I commend your smell test. But if a writeup goes up against state, is that IN or AGAINST the public interest? Think carefully now.

  40. Snake Plissken
    Big Brother

    Of course the one thing the Press doesn't point out

    Apart from the 12 or so surveys that the newspapers themselves commissioned on a regulator, all of which showed the public in favour yet somehow didn't have the results published...

    ..is that the newpaper proprietors are more than willing to sign up to Government regulation. Murdoch, of course, owns Sky, which is subject to OFCOM regulation. He also rather famously did a deal with those lovers of freedom, the Chinese Government when broadcasting satellite TV in Asia.

    Richard Desmond decided not to bother being under the auspices of the PCC, yet is happy to be regulated by OFCOM when it comes to Channel 5. Not to mention the censorship involved in whatever of his channels is broadcasting his porn.

    And both of them, as well as Associated Newspapers happily signed up to an Irish regulator (and a regime more strict than that proposed by Leveson) in order to publish papers in Dublin.

    So, you know, these self-proclaimed valiant defenders of freedom of speech seem surprisingly flexible in their viewpoint.

  41. arrbee
    Black Helicopters

    I suspect the number one target for the new law will be Private Eye, mainly because there must be a load of financial and political crooks looking for revenge.

    Number two target will be the main TV companies, because of their reach and reputation for (relative) probity.

    AFAICS objective truth will not be a sufficient defence but rather one side's starting position for whatever (non-legal) process will be followed (in private) to arrive at a decision, while public interest will be no defence at all.

    Rather wonderfully, for some, this means that you can now claim to encourage whistle blowers without having to worry about whether what they say will actually be reported.

  42. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So far "regualtion" has been down to who can afford a libel case to bring them to heel.

    That's not regulation as I understand it.

    And I think protecting it by Royal Charter, so no Minister can unilaterally start fiddling with faster than you can say "Statutory instrument" is a useful move.

    Here's the thing. You can lay most of the blame at Rupert Murdoch's New International operation and its corrupting influence on media, the Police and politicians. But no one stopped (or tried) to stop it happening.

    Now we'll see how this works out. Maybe most outlets will simply not sign up and take their chances with the aggravated libel damages. You did it to yourselves.

  43. Al Jones

    "imposing a commercial death penalty"

    "Traditionally, if anyone wanted to exert some pressure on the press, he or she would simply urge the public to stop buying the newspapers in the first place – a punishment successfully meted out by the people of Liverpool in an unforgiving twenty-plus-year snub of The Sun for its infamous Hillsborough disaster coverage. But the notion of the public imposing a commercial death penalty on a publication slipped away over time, and slowly, the idea of top-down authoritarian control of the media was detoxified."

    Maybe because after 20 years of supposedly successful punishment meted out by the people of Liverpool, The Sun is still a going concern?

    If that's success, what does failure look like?

  44. STGM

    Not a bad argument from your corner, but..

    I take issue with your statement:

    "Politicians played up the myth of Murdoch as a power broker, even though he only ever backed winners who were already winning."

    It is most certainly not a myth, as you go on to show by saying:

    "A drip of revelations showed cosy and highly questionable relationships between NoTW publisher News International and the police."

    and then quoting Ian Hislop re: NI & politicians.

    I'm sure you're not naïve enough to believe the he had no idea what was going on and that his visits to Downing Street have purely been because of the lovely cream tea and scones they serve there.

  45. Dennis Wilson
    WTF?

    Hogwash............

    We need something with teeth to tackle the massive abuses of the press and Leveson came up with some excellent ideas. The press were out of control and innocent men women and children were getting hurt. In my 57 years I have seen thousands of lives ruined, even those of kids. John Leslie the TV presenter publicly accused of rape. Christopher Jefferies, an innocent landlord publicly held up as murdering one of his tenants. These were not isolated incidents, these were the normal every day antics of the media. The press council was an awesome joke. Every national hauled up in front of them for infringing their own rules walked away with the ruling going against them, only to do it again, and again, and again afterwards. You cannot have the media police the media when the media have the morals of a dung heap. Leveson was one hundred percent right.

  46. veti Silver badge
    Pint

    Good start, but incomplete

    I think it's worth mentioning that the growing hysteria of the past few years hasn't been cultivated in a vacuum. Far from it. The US has, in many ways, spearheaded the demonisation of the mass media ("mainstream media", as many of them call it when they want to belittle one particular segment of it), and their arguments and, frankly, inherent paranoia have spilled over into UK discourse.

    Today, the US media is so Balkanised that the two sides each literally have no idea what the other is thinking, despite the fact that their opponents publish all their thoughts in a never-ending stream in all available media. Last November, approximately half the country really thought that Romney was likely to win the presidency. Why? - because they had been taught for years to mistrust the media that tried to tell them differently.

    I'm rambling now, sorry. But my point is: to answer the question "How did we get to this point?", you need to consider more than just the UK story in isolation.

    Pint icon because the whole subject is too depressing to think of any other way.

  47. KirstarK

    no point reading the article

    It was obvious what AO's opinion is. And as some of the posters have said I would trust a politician over the press any day.

    Unless you have been on the end of a press crusade against you, then you have no idea. Who recalls that web dev guy who was attacked by the local paper as his adverts were in competition to theirs?

  48. fishdog
    Mushroom

    'Self-Servicing'

    Being of a libertarian inclination, I'm all in favour of freedom of the press. But having this much-vaunted freedom for 300 years has not prevented Britian becoming the most-surveilled society in history. It has not prevented the government from launching illegal wars of aggression based on flat out lies told to the citizenry. It has not prevented them selling the idea of "austerity" budgets while consuming 47% of GDP. It has not prevented the government from enacting secret courts in which secret evidence will be used to convict people only 'suspected' of the desire to do somebody some kind of harm.

    The press, in these critical areas touching the public interest, have not even risen to the level of uselessness. On the contrary, they have eagerly trumpeted the government's most hysterical, ridiculous, and totalitarian impulses from every front page, providing an air of legitimate intelligence to these demented, ahistoric, uncivilised ravings.

    Fuck the free press and the government both.

  49. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Que?

    Quote

    "Ever wondered what a British coup d’état might look like?"

    Unquote.

    The UK already has had one.

    Nobody noticed. Not a person, not a soul...

    It happened when the civil service made politicians and governments redundant.

    Governments can talk, make decisions, blah-de-blah, ... but the UK civil servantry just goes and does what it wants to do regardless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Que?

      Spot on!

      When challenged on anything, all my elected representative does is send a copy of my letter to the Minister nominally in charge who gets a civil servant to reply. In turn my representative sends me a photocopy of the justification. That is said to constitute fighting for his constituents. To me it seems more like taking his marching orders.

  50. Sirius Lee

    Straggered by some of the comments

    Andrew, I don't often agree with you but on this, I'm right with you.

    What is truly staggering are the number of comments genuinely supposing that government regulation of the press - any government regulation of the press - is desirable. That this state of affairs will, in some way, be better. That the legion stories of corruption, not by 'government' but by the *people* that are its members, form the basis of 'fair' control of the media.

    Yours, utterly and truly gobsmacked

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How will it work in practice?

    Given the description in the article about how the "Ministry of Truth" (or whatever it is actually called) will operate, I was struck by a sense of Deja Vue. Have a look at how the Canadian "Human Rights" courts work. They take single complainants, fund their complaints, investigate, and impose penalties, all outside the mainstream judicial system.

    Whether you agree or not with the subject matter, just have a look at how they work:

    http://www.steynonline.com/5473/death-to-freedom

    http://www.legal-project.org/issues/canada-hrc

    or its Australian wannabee compatriot

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/personal-freedom-under-fire/story-e6frgd0x-1111117242451

    While the ordinary man (or ElReg commentard) might think that the present UK end justifies the means, I suspect that they may come to regret it in due course. Especially because of the CP (Common Purpose) ancestry.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Big Lie Lives!

    "There's just one problem: there was no evidence to suggest that any journalists at any paper had done any such thing."

    So, a Reichstag Fire job then...

  53. Rei Momo

    Ministry of Truth

    I'm impressed that The Register publishes articles as succinct and thought-provoking as this (and it's not the only one). It's lost me about an hour today as I chased up all the links and references. The quality of the comments is great.

    It's a serious issue, this gradual loss of liberty. BBC Radio 4's Law in Action reported last week on Mahdi Hashi, a British citizen who Theresa May decided to strip of citizenship with no reason given at all. Apparently she can do this to any of us. And now we have secret courts. Just like in Russia. And Iran. And Pakistan.

    Without 'professional' journalists (as opposed to bloggers) who is alerting us to these issues? No newspapers - no journalists. Read the House Rules of The Register - you can sense the nervousness even here...

    1. All names Taken
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Ministry of Truth

      It is a tricky area but reductio ad absurda might suggest something like:

      expediency = fast track route to fascism (for fascism requires that decisions taken by state officials are not open to being challenged)

      primary beneficiary - we receive money from guv'mint to do su'hing But the guv'mint wants some of that money to go to someone else (sometimes called end users). But why and how can the guv'mint do that koz we iz the primary beneficiary so we knows best and we wants all ov the dosh so there!)

  54. PyLETS
    FAIL

    that's rich

    For a copyright maximalist to be worrying about freedom of speech, given I can't use a debugger in relation to something I've bought, and publish what I discover if it relates to a copyright protection mechanism and go to the US without being arrested. Clearly Andrew seems to want one law for the benefit of big media, and different laws for everyone else.

  55. gavpowell

    It's Not "Either/Or"

    Largely as a result of the hysteria whipped up by the press since the announcement of the new regulator, the focus has been very much "Well, you can either have a media that hacks people's phones, rummages in bins and prints snarky stories about celebrities but also exposes wrongdoing at the highest level. Or you can have a media that just doesn't report anything except the official line and daren't investigate." That is not the only choice, nor is it the current state of affairs.

    Tabloidwatch is littered with stories of ordinary people who have agreed to be featured in a story, only to find the published piece bears absolutely no resemblance to anything they've said. Complaints to the newspaper have resulted in a mixture of contempt and stonewalling. Complaints to the PCC are then met with the response "Well, we can;t actually force them to do anything..." Richard Desmond decides he doesn't really like the PCC so he withdraws, and thus the only way to seek redress is through the courts(This is admittedly also true of Private Eye, but the latter tends only to target those who have the means to defend themselves and not random members of the public, and lacks the financial might of Desmond)

    We're approaching a referendum on membership of the EU, yet the Mail and others continue to print lies about EU laws/regulations, refusing to seek any rebuttal from the people concerned, then refusing to print any correction when those people contact them to complain.

    The broadcast media are subject to Ofcom regulation and they don't exactly seem to be toeing the party line, but the media who revelled in the BBC's discomfort from the Hutton enquiry are facing a similar situation and suddenly they're champions of freedom and democracy.

  56. Brian Milnes

    Oh, what a load of bollox

    This nonsense piece flies in the face of the evidence, and particularly of the last century.

    If we see how the connivance and collusion of the press owners with all the political elite, and whichever was in power at the time, you'll understand that this has never an issue of politicos vs press.

    How many times have the press been a willing advocate on behalf of the political propogandists?

    Would the hegemony of the United States, particularly egregious in its interference in South America, have been acceptable with the compliance of its press? And today, the Murdoch empire carries on this grand tradition, especially in what passes for TV News on its FOX network.

    And this is not just a US problem. The "way too cosy" relationship between the UK press and the Westminster village continues unabated. Why bother composing your own copy when you can cut and paste from the Press Release? Who populates the drinking holes in and around Whitehall and Westminster?

    So, who is that needs protection from spurious, salacious and spiteful stories that pass themselves off as news?

    Voltaire said "I despise what you say, but defend to the death your right to say it" is the guiding principle, definitely.

    But not if it is wrong and/or causes harm.

    For example, what redress did Chris Jeffries have, for the nonsense spouted about him?

    Self-evidently, the Press cannot regulate themselves. So who else could manage this on our behalf?

    I still want the Telegraph to be able to publish the MPs bogus expenses claims, but don't want them paying the police for tittle tattle about celebrities or their phone numbers, or accepting fabricated stories about Government Chief Whips because the police want to shelve reforms to their service...

    1. YourBetterHalf

      Re: Oh, what a load of bollox

      Hey Brian,

      you must not be aware of CNN and MSNBC's cozy relationship with Liberal White House administrations in the United States.

  57. Philthehouse

    Re: Rusbridger of The Guardian

    Lord Leveson a "career politician"? Last I heard he was a career judge. I think someone's getting a bit over-excited.

    The fact is that if the bastions of free press had exercised anything like some professional self-control we wouldn't be in this situation. Freedom of speech is everyone's right, not just the press's, but the ordinary citizen has no practical ability to defend his freedom the way the press has under existing legislation and so there's a demand for 'regulation'.

    I don't think what's proposed will lead to political censrship but it is bound to make it a smidgeon easier. The press have themselves to blame for that, no-one else, and they are the ones letting down democracy and democratic principles by subverting the right ot free speech to income generation.

    Ansd why did the law-enforcement institutions fail to enforce the breaches of existing legislation? Because they were already in thrall to the press, sometimes through self-interest, sometimes through fearfulness of reprisal. We need a stronger institution simple as that.

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