Press regulation: freedom from intrusion vs freedom of expression

by Stephen Tall on March 22, 2013

First the (right-wing) Spectator. The the (left-wing) New Statesman. Now the (market liberal) Economist has joined the list of magazines saying that state-backed regulation of the press is something up with which they will not put. Here’s its conclusion:

it is important for any newspaper to be honest. A system where journalists police journalists will be more abusive than one run by politicians. But, in the end, society has a choice. If it values freedom from intrusion more than freedom of expression, it needs state regulation. If it regards the press as so important that freedom of expression must be protected at all costs, then it must avoid state regulation like the plague.

For us, the choice is clear: we believe society gains more from a free press than it loses from the tabloids’ occasional abuse of defenceless people. Because that view has held sway in Britain, the press has remained free of state intervention for over 300 years. Fleet Street does not have an impeccable record. It has broken the law and victimised innocent people. But it has also, time and again, exposed the lies and incompetence of politicians. Now a late-night deal between politicians could give politicians power over it. Fortunately, their proposal is such a mess that it looks as though it may fall apart.