No, since you ask, I haven’t
forgotten about the Leveson Report.
It’s just that the debate about
regulation of the press rumbles on with no conclusion in prospect. The debate is a three-way conversation among
parliament, the press itself and a lobby group formed by ‘wronged’ celebrities
called Hacked Off.
The chronology is confusing. First there was the Leveson Report, which
advocated press regulation enshrined in law.
Then parliament – which in this instance means David Cameron – came up
with a compromise that recognized regulation but under the auspices of a Royal
Charter. Finally, Hacked Off, backed by
the opposition Labour Party, insisted on a Royal Charter but one with legal
It’s understandable that the
country which first recognized the importance of a free press, and which has
stayed true to the principle for three centuries is having such a hard time
deciding what to do.
The decision, as far as I’m
concerned, is do nothing.
The British press – depending on
which newspaper you read – is raucous, raunchy, and occasionally downright
irresponsible. That’s fine with me. I happen to like raucous,
raunchy and irresponsible. If newspapers
break the law, as some did in hacking telephones, then of course they should be
subject to the strictures of the justice system. It’s that simple, it really is – whatever
Hugh Grant and Charlotte Church will have you believe.
Cameron has got it about right:
an independent regulator under a Royal Charter.
Any stronger measure leads us down a dangerous rocky road towards
Forget about Grant and
Church. They may have been wronged, but
they themselves are hardly blameless in their dealings with the press. Grant regularly appeared in the gossip
columns, not because his telephone was hacked but because he was in a long,
high-profile relationship with a publicity hungry ‘actress’ of ample
proportions, during which he had a briefer one – what we call an ‘encounter’ –
with a Hollywood prostitute. Church’s
sybaritic lifestyle during her marriage to a prominent rugby player was
plastered all over the papers almost daily for a while, and largely because
neither of them did anything to discourage it.
Grant and Church resent the press
for reasons that many will readily understand.
Some of us find their motives deeply suspect, or at least questionable.
My first choice in the resolution
of this whole issue would be precisely this: do nothing. That of course excludes prosecuting law-breakers.
But it’s too late now for
anything other than some cobbled-together compromise. Hacked Off is disinclined to moderate its
original extreme position. In which case
the question is, Who’s running this show?
It’s not clear, but of one thing
I’m sure. It shouldn’t be a bunch of
disgruntled B-list celebrities.