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Whichever way the Leveson vote goes, it’s poison

Category : Business

The whole sorry saga of press regulation has been undermined by hidden agendas

There has been too much hate, and it has undermined the whole point of the exercise whichever way Monday’s votes go. Tabloid journalists hate upmarket journalists, and both are variously hated in turn by struggling editors in our regional press. Broadcasters hate print journalists; and vice versa. Ed and Nick hate David, and vice versa. Hacks hate lawyers, grubbing for fees. The campaigners of Hacked Off – many of them much richer, courtesy of Rupert Murdoch’s £100m compensation fund – want their pound of flesh come what may. Increasingly, ministers and shadow ministers hate taking their hectoring calls. And – remind me again – what was the point of the whole Leveson parade? To restore trust, public trust, in the press. Forget it.

Our politicians – the ones Lord Justice Leveson wanted removed from the action – can’t find common ground. It’s far easier to slag off opponents and play wrecking games. The press – never a cohesive industry anyway – hasn’t been allowed to get its own act together and so has inevitably fractured into its component parts of mutual resentment. And there is no realistic way forward here.

If Cameron and his Conservatives win through, they’ll be broad-brush denounced by Labour, Lib Dems, the serried victims and their lawyers. Since “statutory underpinning”, in its shorthand, barely understood way, has become the litmus test of proper regulation in the public mind, any body that fails to include it upfront – even this commodiously detailed charter – will automatically be scorned as a press barons’ pleaser, a fudge, a catalogue of supposed betrayal. The corrosion of hate.

But if Ed and Nick carry the day for their charter version, then what? Goodbye to relatively speedy answers. Hello to what’s called “full” Leveson implementation – except that Sir Brian never delivered a full bundle of answers himself. The most vexatious issues – intrinsically asking what “independence” means in a quangoid Britain where the same cast of great and good characters, retired judges, retired permanent secretaries, Oxbridge dignitaries, shift sweetly from one padded committee seat to the next – weren’t addressed. To underpin real press support for a new self-regulator, you have first to decide what exactly that body is, who appoints it, how it can be vetted and kept up to the mark. But consensus there (as built by Lord Hunt at the residual Press Complaints Commission) will fracture as hate poisons civilised discussion.

Hunt’s timetable (a new organisation up and running by 1 July) won’t endure if Miliband and Clegg have their way, because much of his plan can’t realistically survive Cameron defeat. Why should the local press saddle itself with the cost of arbitration tribunals when it has done nothing wrong? Why should the press as a whole pay for regulation by a commission it has no real say in appointing, administering a code it has no clear say in drawing up?

Miliband victory opens the door to two wholly unwelcome things: many more months of threat and disillusion – or a simple refusal to go any further, leaving parliament to devise and install its own statutory press regulation regime if it so wishes: an Ofpress to match Ofcom. There have always been voices on newspaper backbenches saying leave regulation to the law itself, to articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, just as the US relies on its first amendment. They may be heard again as this miserable row snarls on.

The problem, from beginning to end of this sad, sliding saga, has lain with the poison of hidden agendas. It began intrinsically when the politicians of 65 years ago, used to the deference of wartime censorship, sought to put a newly unruly press back in its box. It has gathered a whole sub-industry of specialist lawyers serving their own needs along the way. The press sees exposing political crookery as one of its jobs. The politicians – read the new Bribery Act that would surely have stopped the Daily Telegraph’s investigation of MPs expenses – have a different job in mind. Was Leveson’s array of victimhood presented as current, transparent and fair? The latest round of arrests, covering alleged events in 2003-4, come coated with dust yet again.

There could, without Leveson, have been a substantial remaking of press self-regulation long since. There could, with a little statesmanship from the politicians, have been an agreement that had some chance of short-term success (until sabotaged by the galloping internet). But it’s precious hard to see even modestly durable hope now. You can’t restore trust if you don’t trust anyone around you.

VIDEO: BBC journalists strike over jobs

Category : Business

Many BBC journalists have gone on strike for 24 hours in a dispute over compulsory redundancies.

View original post here: VIDEO: BBC journalists strike over jobs

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After the Hutton inquiry, how can any broadcaster claim to be free?

Category : Business

TV and radio journalists insist Leveson-style statutory regulation does not hamper them. But history (and Lord Patten) disagrees

Passionate broadcasters – including Greg Dyke and Kevin Marsh – write a letter to the Times hailing the wonders of the tighter regulation they work with, duly underpinned by statute. Nevertheless, they say, “our industry has a proud record of independent, challenging journalism – calling the rich and powerful to account without fear or favour”. So settle down, you restive print guys, as the Leveson debate moves on. “The suggestion that such regulation is inevitably anathema to free speech, or automatically places us under the thumb of politicians, is wrong and insulting to us as fellow journalists.”

At which point, probably unwittingly, they illuminate an absolutely critical divide. No one would remotely call Greg or Kevin (when one was DG at the BBC and the other his chosen editor at Today) anything but proud and challenging. Of course much TV and radio journalism is fine, professional work. We’re not talking sheep and goats here. Good journalism exists across the media spectrum.

But surely Greg Dyke and Kevin Marsh remember the catastrophe of Andrew Gilligan, David Kelly and the Hutton report? Surely Kevin remembers the Downing Street waves that lapped around him? And surely Greg remembers the vote by the BBC governors – chaired then by a former chief whip – that swept him out of office?

It might be helpful at this difficult stage if lovers of editorial freedom rattled the chains that tie them down rather than demanded more chains for everyone. It was the current chairman of the BBC Trust who said, on the record, that the corporation couldn’t have broken either the MPs’ expenses story or the phone-hacking scandal. Too difficult, too strained, for the rulebook. An admission that some stories too close to the seats of power can only be followed, not set in train.

And making that point doesn’t, for a second, run the letter-writers down. It just defines the whole debate we ought to be having.

Leveson: an elephantine, sloppy exercise in cut-and-paste

Category : Business

Shuffling bundles in his Strand courtroom, Lord Justice Leveson offers surprisingly little original thought or research

This Last Chance Saloon, of course, will never close until it runs out of cash and customers. The idea that politicians (and newspaper proprietors) will suddenly discover a perfect way of regulating the press is bunk. To see that, turn to the single most depressing part of Brian Leveson’s magnum opus and the paragraphs of chop-logic where he pretends that Twitter, Facebook and the rest don’t exist.

Who cares if Prince Harry’s Las Vegas revels and Princess Kate’s sunbathing are all over the net? Ethical, regulated newspapers are required to pretend that US privacy laws, French snappers and international celebrity websites that 90% of the British population can click to somehow don’t exist. It’s a ludicrous proposition. But Leveson, safe shuffling bundles in the warmth of his Strand courtroom, has nothing else useful to say.

And so – by 2016, maybe, which even Ed Miliband reckons is the earliest an underpinned regulator could be up and running – the whole caravan of possible reform will surely be heading into the ditch again. Does it matter, now, whether David Cameron is “a leader of press freedom” in Daily Telegraph eyes? Not so much, except in brute political terms. The big issues of privacy, defamation and the rest will be played out across cyberspace and require fresh remedies with every passing year’s launch of the latest Apple/Samsung gizmos.

It would be far, far better if newspapers – led by some mythical “substantial figure” if the Guardian can find one – could come up with an answer that requires no legislation, because its flexible remit will be easier to alter as technology demands fresh responses. See how successive Communications Acts rot and silt on the statute book! But, for the rest, none of the real problems here is even addressed.

Of course, everyone has been very nice to Lord Justice Leveson. Well, they would be, wouldn’t they, as Baroness Rice-Davies might add. But, in truth, this report is a sloppy, elephantine piece of work that relies on nobody having the time to read it before taking sides.

You want history and the seven supposed attempts to regulate newspapers in 70 years of last chancery? Leveson does what seems suspiciously like a scissors and paste job on the Media Standards Trust’s own version of history, which in turn draws heavily on a 12-year-old volume from Tom O’Malley and Clive Soley called Regulating the Press (what it says on the tin). No original thought or research required. You want an international perspective? Here comes another load of paint and clippings from the Reuters Foundation’s own look at press self-regulation around the western world – without any attempt to create a relevant UK context. No thought at all.

You want to denounce “injudicious, sensationalist and intemperate” behaviour on an industrial scale? In fact, the relatively few “ordinary” victims paraded here are exactly the same as those (pretty non-transparently) called to testify before the full inquiry – and none of their stories, except perhaps for non-ordinary Gordon Brown’s, is interrogated or assessed in any proper judicial fashion. Do I feel sorry for Chris Jefferies after the police wrongly arrested him? Of course: but this is Section 2(2) of the Contempt of Court Act territory, handled far faster by the law than any regulator could possibly contrive. Do I warm to the sad Watsons from Glasgow who want libel protection for the recently dead? Ask Cyril Smith’s grieving relatives. Did I feel for the Dowlers? Yes, for a brief, horrible ordeal: but not so much when they’re dragged from platform to platform as some kind of legal exhibits. Hacked Off would do well to balance the millions in settlements paid out against victimhood (and in lawyers’ fees) before turning the volume too high.

What we’re given here is the Strand equivalent of pages 2-97 in any full-rant edition of the Daily Mail: a pre-digested charge sheet, not a proper inquiry. Leveson’s 1,987 pages add nothing that his nine months of hearings didn’t already rehearse. How is the public supposed to trust something they won’t remotely have time to read and an outcome they won’t understand? Jeremy Hunt, David Cameron and sundry police officers may be cleared in a miraculous instant, but the racket of a debate rigged on both sides rumbles on.

Those who say that statutory underpinning is the lightest touch on the tiller compared with what already exists – say the recognition of PCC verdicts in subsequent legal cases – have an argument, sure enough. There’s heavy fog over the precise location of this Rubicon. But there’s an even heavier fog over the meaning of the word “independent” in a world when you examine the relatively narrow legions of the great and good who actually sit on our regulatory quangos, from Ofcom to the BBC Trust – all government-approved or government-appointed. This debate, for those with the dedication to endure it, tells you more than you want to know about the introverted, self-loathing state of British political society – and journalism. But – as Leveson himself might redolently conclude – we are where we are.

There will now be redoubled efforts to set up a press regulatory framework that works. It won’t endure, at least for very long. You can’t make that happen in an instantly interlinked world where the dominant player, the US, has none of your laws and none of your posited regulators. It matters, for the moment, what messages the process sends to foreign states where democracy has frailer roots. It matters that whatever emerges is done by agreement, because imposed solutions on a problem so various and ephemeral are bound to implode. And it matters that, as we soldier hoarsely on, we don’t deceive ourselves.

I was attached to the now doomed PCC because I helped in small ways to construct it: and I don’t recognise many of the outside attacks by those who were not and have never been there, whose opinions Brian Leveson merely parrots. We know that some journalists and some editors (not, please, “the press”) let it down. We ought to know that that is one inevitable price of freedom. We’ll be trying once more to make something that works while upmarket journalists sniff at tabloid journalists and broadcast journalists sniff at both, unless they’re being sniffed at themselves.

But we have to travel with due humility all round. Some reporters, however regulated, will always get something wrong. Some governments will always want to curry favour with, or intimidate, the press. Some learned academics will always believe that supervising the press is as simple and low-profile as running the Judicial Appointments Board.

And we’ll all forget that freedom of information – on the web as well as via Caxton – is a struggle, not a hot bath of sanctimonious baloney. Or, as even the wholly partial history of seven decades of last chances recited by Leveson reminds us, that the demand for the 1947 royal commission “reflected understandable public disquiet over a return to business as usual after the war years” (which entailed strict government control). Ah! Those were the days. How about one more round?

Dickie Desmond: Ofcom-sanctified

Richard Desmond is not his lordship’s best beloved. Indeed, Leveson’s lip seems to curl at the mere mention of his name. Gallons of midnight oil have gone into finding formulas to bring Dickie to heel. But, rather quietly, this unclubbable, uncouth proprietor has been Ofcom-sanctified as the owner of statutorily regulated Channel 5 for another 10

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Southwest Airlines Partners With AAJA to Advance Diversity in Media

Category : Stocks

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwire – Nov 29, 2012) – The Asian American Journalists Association is gratified to have Southwest Airlines as the AAJA Official 2012 Airline Sponsor.

Read more: Southwest Airlines Partners With AAJA to Advance Diversity in Media

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Pete Lazenby retiring from journalism? Not for a moment

Category : Business

A much-respected name leaves the Yorkshire Evening Post, but you’ll be reading him all over the place – including in the Morning Star as the paper beefs up regional coverage, especially in the north

There was a famous newspaper based in Leeds during Chartist days, the Northern Star, and its radical tradition was ably revived in the 1980s when the Leeds Other Paper adopted its name. The LOP/Northern Star was a distinctive alternative voice and a nursery for independent-minded young journalists; but it was not the only place in the city where they found enthusiastic and wise advice.

For just under 40 years, Pete Lazenby has been a northern star at the Yorkshire Evening Post, fostering talent in addition to writing millions of words of his own. On the eve of his leaving do yesterday, he took a ‘phone call from one alumnus in China and an email from another in Australia – David Rowley, whose father Alan was air correspondent for the YEP.

Air correspondent! Those were the days. In a parting piece for News Leeds, the excellent local newsletter of the National Union of Journalists in the city, Lazenby recalls that the joint editorial staff with the Yorkshire Post was over 200 when he joined and the circulation of the evening paper some 230,000. Today those figures are around 100 and 32,000.

The latter are print sales and we work in an increasingly digital world, with both the YP and YEP making many experiments online, just like ourselves. Lazenby regrets the losss of much that has weakened, especially in local papers’ resources to expose and crusade, but he is anything but recessional about the crisis of the contemporary media. He will be part of its a wider world; his ‘retirement’ at 62 is for family reasons, to help his wife Joan look after her mother at their home in Hebden Bridge. But from that base, his familiar voice and writing is going to be more widely heard and read.

He already contributes to the Guardian, Red Pepper and the New Statesman, a joint book with Anne Scargill is in preparation, and he is central to an interesting attempt at a northern surge in circulation by the Morning Star. From next month he joins the staff of what he proudly terms “the world’s only daily English language socialist newspaper,” characteristically telling the rest of us:

It’s essential reading, so I urge you to start buying it, comrades.

A Tolstoyan figure in appearance – his spoof front page presented by colleagues refers to his ‘terrifying facial hair’ and shows how long he has had it – Lazenby has led a parallel and equally active career as an NUJ stalwart at Yorkshire Post Newspapers. As joint father of the chapel with Peter Johnson, he has protected scores of jobs and encouraged colleagues to thrive in challenging circumstances. He has the somewhat fazed respect of opponents within Johnston Press as well as allies.

Those he has exposed in his journalism, with the fairness and diligence of a reporter schooled in traditional local paper ways, will not be able to rest easy. Extreme right wing groups, for example, have been the subject of his persistent monitoring, and that of his alumni who also include our own colleague and YEP graduate, Matthew Taylor.

A message from Barry Fitzpatrick, deputy general secretary of the NUJ, was delivered yesterday to the Hourglass where Pete was marking his leaving with various gifts of red-colured menswear and framed strike posters, and giving a thankyou speech in a Russian fur hat, holding a red flag. Arriving at the same time as Jessica Ennis’ homecoming to Sheffield, it called him a “true gold medallist.” Like Ennis, Redgrave, Hoy and Co, you can expect him to see him back in the arena, from today.

Here’s a brief clip from Wainwright Amateur Films of Pete talking about the UK media at his do last night.

Vatican Bank opens doors to media

Category : Business, World News

The Vatican Bank has invited in journalists as part of moves to boost transparency, amid a scandal surrounding the Vatican’s financial affairs.

Go here to read the rest: Vatican Bank opens doors to media

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CBC News dominates CAJ awards with 5 wins

Category : World News

CBC News has been honoured with five awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the highest number given to any one news organization.

Read this article: CBC News dominates CAJ awards with 5 wins

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Conservatives win ‘most secretive’ government award

Category : World News

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has won this year’s Code of Silence Award from the Canadian Association of Journalists days before their one-year majority win.

Read the original: Conservatives win ‘most secretive’ government award

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Pyongyang Forced to Face Latest Failed Launch – Wall Street Journal

Category : Stocks

National Geographic
Pyongyang Forced to Face Latest Failed Launch
Wall Street Journal
By EVAN RAMSTAD North Korea launched a multistage rocket Friday morning, again defying countries that want it to stop pursuing advanced weapons, but it apparently blew up less than two minutes into flight. Evan Ramstad has details on The News Hub.
Obama engagement policy 'in tatters' after North Korean rocket defianceThe Guardian
UN 'deplores' North Korea botched rocket launchBBC News
Journalists in Pyongyang Scooped by Launch FailureNew York Times

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