Exam date

When's the 2016 exam? Wednesday 8th June, am.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

1989 Calcutt Committee: parallels with Leveson today

To understand Leveson you really need to grasp the lessons of history - and there are striking parallels between Leveson, which is set to lead to a new self-regulator under some threat of statutory regulation if the press doesn't clean up its act, and Calcutt, which was ... basically the same in this regard. Both were set up after public outrage over tabloid excesses, with privacy issues to the fore. Both were set up with the existing press self-regulator, then the Press Council, now the PCC (although its chairman Lord Hunt announced its intention to replace itself back in December 2011), widely seen as having failed.

Indeed, both could/should have been replaced earlier if there was political will: the 3rd Royal Commission was scathing of the PC, whilst Calcutt's 1993 review strongly recommended statutory regulation be brought in. A weak Labour government in 1977 was no more willing than a weak Conservative government in 1993 to attract the damaging hostility of most of the press (although Labour could arguably have taken the chance as most of the right-wing press was very hostile anyway).

If we roll on to 2013, we once more see a weak government, at least the majority Conservative part of it, resisting pressure from the other parties to carry out the recommendations on press regulation, calculating that this will lose them vital press support needed for the 2015 general election. Indeed, since PM Cameron came out against many of Leveson's recommendations, carried in his initial November 2012 report, he has seen negative right-wing press coverage flip, with Cameron hailed as a hero safeguarding democratic values.

Its worth noting here that you shouldn't judge an argument's merits purely by its source! There is an important principle at stake, though it is arguable that freedom of the press is only meaningful if the nature (therefore the regulations around (concentration of) ownership and proprietorial interference) of the press is fundamentally altered.

Here's some links for further reading:
Not a link: Curran and Seaton cover this!!!!
Indie article from 1993 by Maggie Brown and Michael Leapman - possibly the best of its kind, you get both the history plus searing analysis of the backdrop and relationship between press and politicians.
Guardian obit on David Calcutt.
Incisive 1990 article from Index on Censorship.
PCC Wiki, incorporates the history.

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