Tomorrow, after months and months of waiting, the UK’s Leveson Inquiry will finally release its recommendations for UK press regulation.
The inquiry was called after 2011’s huge scandal over widespread phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper the News of the World, but soon spread to evaluate more widely the link between the UK press, police and government (especially embarrassing for PM David Cameron, who had private texts with Murdoch’s right hand woman Rebekah Brooks splashed over the tabloids multiple times).
This evening a dozen copies of the report have been carted over to Prime Minister, and rumours say that the report may end up being 2,000 pages long.
If the Prime Minister agrees to recommendations, as he has indicated he would, it looks like it might be a major shake-up. The BBC reports that “some form of statutory press regulation overseen by an independent body” is expected, as well as a whole bunch of other recommendations about how the press and the state work together (a good round up of questions likely to be raised by the report has been published by the Guardian).
Yes, if reports are to be believed well be the end of the UK’s scoop-hungry, paparazzi-exporting, endlessly combative tabloid press as we know it.
But it’s not just the tabloids that are concerned — Mid-market Daily Mail published an article today that pointed towards the French system of government regulation with disdain, while the weekly magazine the Spectator has said it will flat-out refuse to abide by any centralized government regulation.
John Gapper of the FT today wrote an op-ed criticising the momentum towards regulation:
We are thus at a vital, scary moment in British constitutional history. If it is mishandled by Mr Cameron and other politicians, the UK could be returned to the days of state licensing of the press, which was abolished in 1694. Nearly 100 years later, the US adopted the First Amendment to its new constitution, barring Congress from limiting free speech or press freedom.
Coupled with the twin scandals that the BBC is currently wrapped up in (one involving an apparent refusal to investigate sex abuse allegations against a BBC star, another for falsely accusing a senior politician of being a pedophile), it must be a confusing time to be a journalist in the UK right now.
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