Media Standards Trust initial response to Leveson report

The Media Standards Trust welcomes Lord Justice Leveson’s sensible and pragmatic report.

Lord Justice Leveson has put forward workable and proportionate proposals for reform of press self-regulation. He has rejected the plan put forward by parts of the industry as set out by Lord Black.

The judge has challenged the press to develop a genuinely independent and effective system, along guidelines that he has suggested. Once they have done that he has recommended the plan be verified by an independent statutory body, potentially Ofcom.

If they do this then the press will be able to take advantage of greater benefits within the courts.

We are disappointed that the Prime Minister has rejected out of hand that aspect of the proposals that would ensure the independence of the regulator and its effectiveness on behalf of the public.

We welcome the statements of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and those of Conservative MPs who back the implementation of the Leveson report in full.

Lord Justice Leveson has proposed legislation only to achieve 3 things: is to enshrine a legal duty on the government to protect the freedom of the press; to give authority to a statutory body to recognize the independence of the system; and to validate the code and the arbitral system in order to give participants in the system special benefits in law.

He has not recommended any compulsion – the system is entirely voluntary – so it cannot in any way be characterized as ‘statutory regulation’. We welcome the use of statute to underpin the system while avoiding any opportunity for government interference.

The onus is now on the press to develop a scheme that is genuinely independent and effective, and on Parliament to see through Leveson’s recommendations in full.

Also, quite rightly, the judge has made clear that, if the press fail to come up with a genuinely independent plan, then Parliament has to prepare legislation to provide for a statutory backstop for the largest publishers.

Media Standards Trust Director Martin Moore says: “Lord Justice Leveson has called the press’s bluff and challenged them to go back to the drawing board and come up with a genuinely independent plan for self regulation. The Prime Minister’s rejection of a central element of Lord Justice Leveson’s proposal is at odds with commitments he has made over the last 16 months to the Inquiry, to the victims and to the public.”

Acting chair Baroness Helena Kennedy says: “No-one can complain that this limits freedom of expression. The real question is can the press finally make itself properly accountable.”

Trustee Roger Graef says: “After all the abuses that we have seen and heard in the inquiry, this is a sensible, measured and pragmatic response.”

For further information, please contact Martin Moore at 02077275229 martin.moore@mediastandardstrust.org