Maria Miller, the Telegraph and Leveson: how statutory regulation begins & how the press is bringing it on itself

by Stephen Tall on December 12, 2012

Now I’m more than a little sceptical about Leveson: I think he’s firing the wrong bullet (regulation backed by statute) at a target that’s moving out of range (the ‘dead tree press’). However, I’m also deeply sceptical about the press’s ability to report facts straight.

Which leaves me a bit conflicted at this morning’s report: The minister and a warning to the Telegraph before expenses story.

On the one hand, you have a clear signal of the danger of letting politicians anywhere near having a say in how the press should be (self-)regulated, with culture secretary Maria Miller’s special advisor Joanna Hindley issuing a clear warning to Telegraph journalists to watch what they print:

“Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about.”

And so it begins… This is how state regulation of the press would work in Britain: not through official statute, but through unofficial back-channel whispers. This is why Leveson’s/Hacked Off’s campaign for a ‘dab of statute’ has always missed the point of a free press: the belief that you can ‘underpin’ without undermining is deeply flawed.

However, it’s also not hard to see why Leveson and Hacked Off have ended up where they are, with the Telegraph inadvertently revealing its rather flexible attitude to fact-checking — it was, the paper confesses, only after the intervention by Maria Miller’s adviser,

The news group decided to delay publication in order to ensure the facts were correct.

How tedious! Imagine having to check what you’re about to print is accurate before printing a million copies of your paper! It’s political correctness gone mad!

In fact, it turns out that ‘having carried out further checks’, the newspaper was reassured ‘the story was accurate and decided to publish the article at the first opportunity’. Which is kind of the process I’d have hoped they might have gone down from the start…

And of course when it comes to slack fact-checking of MPs’ expenses the paper has form, having smeared Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson (among others) when publishing its exposé of some MPs’ abuses of the system.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

4 comments

New from me > Maria Miller, the Telegraph and Leveson: how statutory regulation begins & how the press is bringing it… http://t.co/szaC8Idz

by Stephen Tall on December 12, 2012 at 10:19 am. Reply #

Maria Miller, the Telegraph and Leveson: how statutory regulation begins & how the press is bringing it on itself http://t.co/SMvkSclq

by BexhillBattleLibDems on December 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm. Reply #

Maria Miller, the Telegraph and Leveson: how statutory regulation begins & how the press is bringing it on itself http://t.co/SMvkSclq

by Leveson ReTweet on December 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm. Reply #

New from me > Maria Miller, the Telegraph and Leveson: how statutory regulation begins & how the press is bringing it… http://t.co/jfrFfsL1

by Stephen Tall on December 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm. Reply #

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