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Charlotte Church Headshot

Why is Everyone So Scared?

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The majority of politicians want it, the public want it, vast swathes of the industry want it, so why is everyone so scared of an independent self-regulator underpinned by statute?

Those opposed argue that it will hinder important investigative journalism, and that it is a "slippery slope" that opens the possibility of future government interference and total state regulation.

In this hypothetical future (somewhere in the distance on the other side of the rubicon and down the slippery slope) the stronger argument is surely that we would like to already have on our statute book a law that asserts the press's right to independence and free speech.

Oh hang on - that's what Leveson is proposing! This piece of law works for the uncertain future. It is a very selective reading of Leveson's report that sees the proposed statute as a one-sided attack.

I have not yet heard an argument which convinces me that to do this with no law is at all practically possible. It sounds to me like a group of press men immediately taking offence to the idea that they should be answerable to anyone because of the great responsibility they bear in being the protecters of democracy and freedom of speech. Well guess what guys, it is not solely yours to protect. The growth of social media, blogging and twitter means that every individual has a platform to exercise their right to freedom of speech and to my mind, due to the sheer number of users, and the immediate right of reply, it is fairer.

I also don't see why some amongst the broadsheets are up in arms about this - it doesn't impinge, in any way, on their right to do what they do. In fact it would aid and protect good journalism, because in providing a lower cost arbitration service to members they would be stronger protected from those who seek to obstruct them.

So bold, brave journalism that investigates and exposes hypocrisy in power, and is truly in the public interest, comes with less of a threat from powerful interests using parts of the law to muzzle and intimidate great journalists.

Having said that, I'm open minded about how it's done - if someone can present a way in which you get these protections without any action from government then show me. But we've been here before, the press setting up a body that allows them to sit in judgement of themselves or opt out entirely with no consequences at all is what we have had since 1990. It is a system that will start with good intentions but without statutory underpinning to recognise any new body it will become weakened and in time, ineffective.

The tabloid press currently have their freedom, let's not forget that the reason we're here and having this conversation is because of what elements of the tabloids chose to do with that freedom.