At best the Leveson report simply offers a rehash of illegal activities and cozy relationships between the UK print media and public figures. It doesn't make a viable case for government press restrictions.
The end result of the report wasn't so much about the newspaper stories produced but about the methods they were obtained and possible collusion with police and politicians in protecting these newspapers.
Yet, the first thing that was feared as a result of the report was the imposition of press control through new regulatory bodies.
This is nonsense.
It's important here to separate the content of newspapers, especially tabloids, from the methods of reporting the news. Just because a headline and story in the Sun, for example, is super sensational doesn't mean it was obtained by illegal means.
Any press regulation or regulatory agency will only affect press content and press freedom. They would have little or no effect on illegal activities. These can best be detected by the police and reports to the police or other legal authorities.
Laws already exist to protect the public from this sort of media intrusion. The fact that about a dozen people have been arrested in this scandal and the nation's biggest-selling paper was closed, illustrates that laws are already in place to tackle alleged media crimes. There just has to be the will to use them.
It appears a major reason this activity went on so long, even though there were reports of hacking years back, is the close relationship between some newspapers, politicians and the police. Again, a press regulator wouldn't be able to control or even detect this, unless the regulator was part of a cozy relationship.
Phone hacking is a crime, not just when the media does it, but for everyone without legal permission. Press regulations or bodies may initially put the fear of God into the media. But after awhile it could revert back to business as usual unless the police or public prosecutor became involved.
A main reason for phone hacking is the competitive nature of the British print media. Even though readers don't recognize this, the papers fight tooth and nail for bigger and better stories. When they realized, as Piers Morgan explained, how easy it was to listen in on other people's conversations, it was all systems go.
It was bad enough for celebrities to have their phones hacked, but when ordinary people wound up tabloid victims, that was a bit too much. Yet there wouldn't have been all these sensational stories had the police and other public officials been doing their jobs properly.
But, a press regulator would simply be an after-the-fact body, which could hit offenders with fines... a drop in the ocean for News Corp. Police arrests and trials are far better deterrents to crime.
The ideas of a press regulator or restrictive press laws are non starters in free and open democracies. On the plus side, the competitive UK press has done an admirable job in routing out corruption in government and social injustices. This was mainly because it was free of government control.
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