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Leveson Report: The Key Findings On Regulation, Celebrities, Rupert Murdoch And Jeremy Hunt

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The Leveson report into press ethics was released on Thursday - in four volumes - weighing 10 kilos, and covering some 2,000 pages.

The Huffington Post UK decided to spare its readers the pain of wading through it. So below is our digested take on the key findings of the Leveson inquiry.

A new press watchdog, underpinned by a new law

Lord Justice Leveson has proposed a new, independent, self-regulatory body underpinned by statute, which he insisted had to be "governed by an independent board. The chair and the members of the board must be appointed in a genuinely open, transparent and independent way."

The powers he recommends are that fines can be 1% of turnover, with a maximum of £1m and it must be given access to newsrooms to investigate wrongdoing.

A First Amendment-style law guranteeing freedom of the press

This would mean that the government have "an explicit duty on the government to uphold and protect the freedom of the press".

Membership of the new regulatory body will not be obligatory but Ofcom will regulate those who do not join

Currently, Northern & Shell, owned by Richard Desmond, which runs the Daily Express, does not subscribe to the PCC. But Leveson recommends that if media organisations do not choose to opt in to the new watchdog, they should be regulated by Ofcom, the broadcast equivalent.

This is not legally obligatory, which means the likes of Richard Desmond, owner of the Express could continue to opt out of the regulatory body. But Leveson recommends that if they do not join the independent regulator, they should be policed by the broadcast watchdog, Ofcom, "as a backstop regulator for those not prepared to join such a scheme".

  • The press has behaved "outrageously"

Leveson made deep criticism of the tabloid press, and slams claims that phone hacking was confined to a small number of rogue individuals, saying "the evidence drives me to conclude that this was far more than a covert, secret activity, known to nobody, save or or two practitioners of the 'dark arts'."

  • Celebrities, crime victims and their families must be treated better

Families of celebrities and victims of crime have a right to more privacy than they have been accorded. Leveson said the press saw them as "fair game" with "families, including their children, pursued and important personal moments are destroyed."

  • Journalists do not always have a public interest defence to use "harassment" tactics

Leveson found that "covert surveillance, blagging and deception" used by the press had often been deployed with no public interest to justify it.

He harshly critisised the news of the world who were even "prepared to conduct surveillance on solicitors acting for claimants in phone hacking litigation, even more seriously, at least one MP on the Culture Media and Sports Select Committee was also targeted."

Tactics like "door-stepping, chase by photographers, persistent telephone calls and the like" have become "harassment."

  • News International came in for particular criticism

Lord Leveson deriding a "failure of systems of management and compliance.

"None of the witnesses were able to identify who was responsible for ensuring compliance with an ethical approach to journalism and there was a general lack of respect for individual privacy and dignity."

Newspapers do not take complaints seriously, and often resort to "high-volume extremely personal attacks on those who challenge them".

  • Jeremy Hunt did nothing wrong, technically

The then-Culture Secretary was sharply criticised in the press for the relationship between his Special adviser Adam Smith and News Corp’s professional lobbyist, Frédéric Michel was exonerated almost entirely by Leveson, who found "no credible evidence of actual bias on the part of Mr Hunt.

"However, the voluminous exchanges between Mr Michel and Mr Smith, in the circumstances, give rise to a perception of bias. The fact that they were conducted informally, and off the departmental record, are an additional cause for concern."

  • But Vince Cable was careless..

Vince Cable, who had looked after the BSkyB bid as Business Secretary until he was exposed by two journalists making disparaging remarks about Rupert Murdoch, came in for more criticism.

"He was fully entitled to hold strong views about the press in general and News International in particular, but his quasi-judicial role in relation to the bid meant that he had to put them to one side.

"Unfortunately, his unguarded remarks to these journalists about Rupert Murdoch and News International entered the public domain, thus creating an appearance of bias, and the Prime Minister was forced to transfer responsibility for the
handling of the bid elsewhere."

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