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How he would restrain the Press: ‘Independent regulator’ would police newspapers – with Ofcom as enforcerRole for Ofcom was rejected by David Cameron 90 mins after Leveson proposals were publishedHe told MPs that the head of the broadcast regulator was appointed by ministers – putting politicians too close to regulation of Press'Independent regulator' would set standards and rules for the PressNewspapers could be hit with 1m fine for breaching new code
10:08 GMT, 30 November 2012
The media watchdog Ofcom would play a key role under Lord Justice Leveson’s plan for a new independent regulatory body.
The quango – run by Ed Richards, a former member of Tony Blair’s policy unit – would act as a ‘backstop’ regulator if publishers refused to sign up to the new body.
But any role for the broadcast regulator was rejected by David Cameron little more than 90 minutes after the Leveson proposals were published.
Lord Justice Leveson has plans for a new independent regulatory body in which media watchdog Ofcom would play a key role
Landmark: After 16 months of hearings and evidence Lord Justice Leveson poses with his final report
The Prime Minister told MPs that the head of Ofcom was appointed by ministers, putting politicians too close to the process of regulating the Press.
‘Ofcom is already a very powerful regulatory body and we should be trying to reduce concentrations of power rather than increase them.’
Under the Leveson plan, Ofcom would act as a ‘recognition body’ not only certifying the new Press regulator but reviewing how the new body was working after two years and then at three-yearly intervals.
If newspaper publishers refused to sign up to the new body, Ofcom should act as ‘backstop’ regulator, suggested Lord Justice Leveson.
He urged newspapers to co-operate with setting up the independent regulator with powers to set standards and rules, force prominent corrections and investigate alleged malpractices.
THE POWERS IT WOULD HAVE
Set standards and rules for the PressFine papers up to 1m for breaching new code of conductInvestigate suspected breaches of the codeEstablish a kite mark for 'trusted journalism'Force newspapers to carry prominent apologiesOperate a 'fair' arbitration service
The revamped Press regulator would have the power to fine newspapers up to 1million or one per cent of turnover for breaching a new code of conduct.
The new body should have a ‘fair, quick and inexpensive’ arbitration system to enable wronged parties to seek swift redress outside court by way of a prominent apology and fines, if appropriate.
Lord Justice Leveson also suggested a kite mark system for publications signed up to the new regulator, to establish ‘a recognised brand of trusted journalism’.
There should also be a whistleblowing hotline for journalists who believe they are being put under pressure to breach the new code of conduct.
The board of the new regulator must comprise a majority of members independent of the press, with some former journalists but no serving editors and no MPs. Its chairman would be appointed by a panel and not by the Government or newspapers.
Crucially, however, he insisted the regulator must be underpinned by statute, to protect the freedom of the Press, reassure the public and validate the new body.
‘This is not, and cannot be characterised as, statutory regulation of the Press.
Arriving for the verdict: Kate McCann, left, pictured yesterday and actor Hugh Grant, right, also attended
Hand in hand: Bob and Sally Dowler, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, were there to hear the report
What is proposed here is independent regulation of the Press organised by the Press, with a statutory verification process to ensure that the required levels of independence and effectiveness are met.’
What remains unclear from the Leveson proposal is precisely who will appoint whom to sit on this new regulatory body. Ultimately, it will have to be politicians.
Lord Justice Leveson ended his public statement yesterday conceding: ‘The ball moves back into the politicians’ court: they must now decide who guards the guardians.’
Lord Hunt, the head of the Press Complaints Commission, had submitted plans for a robust new system of self-regulation which could be in place within three months.
He said the beefed-up regulator would be backed by legally binding contracts and did not need new legislation.
It would have the power to investigate, to impose seven-figure fines and ensure that all newspapers comply with its adjudications through a legally-binding contract.
The new model would have a standards arm, a complaints-handling arm, and an ‘arbitral arm’ giving easy access to justice for those badly treated.
In the Commons, David Cameron agreed that the proposals put forward by the industry did not yet go far enough.
And Lord Justice Leveson said that while the proposed new body was an improvement on the existing PCC, ‘in my view, it does not come close to delivering, in the words of the submission itself, “regulation that is itself, genuinely, free and independent”.’
LEVESON: WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT
What is the Leveson Inquiry all about
Claims that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone was hacked by the News of The World revolted Britain and sparked David Cameron's decision to call an inquiry into press standards and the relationships between newspapers, politicians and the police – all led by Lord Justice Leveson.
He was asked to look at the ethics and culture of the British media as well as the specific claims about phone hacking at the News of the World, the shortcomings of the initial police inquiry, and allegations of illicit payments to police by the press.
What was Leveson asked to do
The inquiry was told to come up with a new way of regulating the press, protecting its independence but ensuring the highest ethical and professional standards. The way the press and politicians interact was also to be addressed.
Why does it matter
Hacking rocked Britain's establishment and eventually cost the jobs and reputations of many people in power.
It led to Britain's most read newspaper, the News of the World, being shut down after 168 years because of its culture of hacking phones.
Former editor Andy Coulson was forced to quit the newspaper. He then became David Cameron's spin doctor in 2008 but then resigned in 2010 just before he himself was arrested on hacking charges.
It caused huge embarrassment to the Prime Minister and led to many questioning his judgment for employing him, but he maintained Mr Coulson deserved a 'second chance' and had assured him he was not involved.
The crisis then spread to Scotland Yard. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson was also forced to quit after it was revealed he had a free holiday at a Champneys Spa organised by a former NotW executive.
His Deputy Commissioner John Yates also resigned after his decision not to reopen the original hacking inquiry in 2009 and his links to Murdoch executives. He was accused of interfering to get someone a job.
What will the government do
The Tory party is split on the issue of state regulation and there is little hope of the Lib Dems agreeing either. David Cameron will make a statement to the Commons today, but in a sign of the coalition tensions Nick Clegg has demanded to speak to MPs too.
Ed Miliband will respond from Labour, allowing the three main parties to set out their stall. The PM says he wants to reach a cross-party consensus, but that seems far from certain. Opinion polls vary widely on what the public wants to see.
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Conclusions: Justice Leveson is calling for huge changes to the press regulation system
Back in July 2009, David Cameron made a speech in which he attacked the New Labour ‘quango state’. The then leader of the Opposition promised that if and when the Conservatives came to power, ‘Ofcom as we know it will cease to exist.’
Three years later, Ofcom, the most controversial, bloated and crony-tainted of all the Blairite quangos, with its staggering 121million budget, has been put forward by Leveson as the statutory-backed enforcer in a new era of Press regulation.
The plan for this was spelt out to him at the inquiry by one of the witnesses, Professor Ian Hargreaves.
He said he did not think Ofcom should regulate the Press directly. Instead he suggested it should have a ‘light-touch regulatory’ role, which would prove a ‘backstop statutory power’ or an ‘invigilating role’ to force newspapers to follow a code of practice.
In other words, Ofcom would play the role of Press enforcer.
LEVESON INQUIRY BY NUMBERS
97 – days the inquiry sat for over eight months.
168 – News of the World’s age in years when it shut down.
1,404 – meetings David Cameron had with the media during four years and five months as Opposition leader.
163 – pages of emails between Adam Smith, special adviser to then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Fred Michel, News Corp lobbyist, over News Corp’s bid for the remaining shares of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
17 – times Rupert Murdoch said “sorry” during the last three hours of his inquiry evidence.
300,000,000 – the number of emails New Corps investigators ploughed through in their own investigation into phone hacking, according to Rupert Murdoch
11,000 – the number of pages of names and telephone numbers detectives seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire when he was arrested.
54 – the number of names of current and former MPs and peers found among the Mulcaire documents.
150 – Metropolitan Police officers working on phone hacking.
27 – Met police officers tracking down paedophiles in the capital.
40million – the forecasted Met Police spend on Operation Weeting, the inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World.
474 – people from whom the inquiry heard evidence.
6,349 – potential victims of phone hacking identified as at February this year.
240,000 – the approximate number of complaints the BBC receives every year.
310,000 – the amount of money the corporation spent on private investigators during a six-year period.
10 – the number of days a Daily Telegraph team of reporters had to wade through four years’ worth of details about the parliamentary expenses scandal.
260 – the minimum number of successful prosecutions achieved because of investigations by Mazher Mahmood, the News of the World’s fake sheikh.
Hargreaves just happens to be a former Ofcom board member, a supporter of the anti-popular press lobby group Hacked Off and one of the best connected figures in the liberal media establishment which so dominated the inquiry.
A key figure in the 2002 creation of Ofcom as the new broadcasting watchdog was a slick thirtysomething New Labour apparatchik, Ed Richards, who worked alongside Ed Miliband as senior policy adviser on the media to Tony Blair. He also advised Gordon Brown and helped write the party manifesto.
At the party’s Millbank HQ Richards – a man former BBC Director General Greg Dyke described as a ‘jumped-up Millbank oik’ – grew close to other young loyalists such as James Purnell and Andy Burnham. The trio played football together and co-wrote the Communications Bill which created Ofcom. This was Richards’s big break. He became the quango’s senior partner for strategy and development. In 2006 he stepped up again to become Ofcom chief executive, a post he still holds with an annual salary of 381,000. That is almost three times as much as that of the prime minister.
Richards was not alone at Ofcom in having attracted accusations of New Labour cronyism.
‘Brown ally gets top media job’ was the Guardian’s headline on the announcement that the New Labour-ennobled peer Lord Currie – described as a ‘confidant’ of Gordon Brown – had been appointed the first chairman of Ofcom in 2002.
Also on Ofcom’s first board was the aforementioned Ian Hargreaves, who a decade before had helped create Demos, later described as ‘Tony Blair’s favourite think tank’.
Hargreaves had worked at the Financial Times with the paper’s chairman David Bell who, along with Currie, was one of Leveson’s six assessors – and founder of Media Standards Trust, the pressure group which spawned Hacked Off.
Currie stepped down as chairman of the Ofcom board in 2009. He was replaced by the current incumbent Colette Bowe, who had been an Ofcom board member under Currie and chair of the quango’s consumer advisory panel. She now earns 180,000 a year for working up to three days a week. A clue to Bowe’s view of the print Press can perhaps be found in a fawning profile interview the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee wrote a couple of years ago.
It reminded the readers that Dr Bowe was the Department of Trade and Industry Press officer who leaked a key memo during the Westland helicopter affair in 1986. The leak was damaging to the then Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine, who resigned as a result of the controversy and put Margaret Thatcher’s premiership in jeopardy.
‘Newspapers camped outside her [Bowe’s] door because she had in her hands the power to cause the fall of the prime minister for leaking and lying – but she has said absolutely nothing ever since,’ wrote Toynbee.
S he quoted Bowe as saying: ‘At the time it felt awful. Some things can be so awful they seem unreal. It was very bad for my family too.
‘[But] people know they can trust me. My lip is zipped … I have nothing but contempt for people who blab [to the Press].’
At Bowe’s Ofcom there are several other connections with the lobby groups who have pressed for statutory regulation of the Press. Both Tim Gardam and David Levy, who sit together on the Ofcom Content board, hold positions at the Reuters Institute of Journalism, which has worked closely with the Media Standards Trust. Meanwhile Hacked Off founding supporter John Lloyd sits on the Institute’s steering committee.
It is all a very cosy Left-wing nexus – and one where journalists with experience of the popular Press are conspicuous by their absence.