- The MST today calls for greater openness in the process of press reform
- The director of the Trust has written to Lord Black and Lord Hunt calling for them to open up the process that has so far been characterized by clandestine talks and behind-closed-doors agreements
- It puts six question to Black and Hunt in order to establish their commitment to transparency and to the public
The Letter to Lord Black can be read in full here: MST Letter to Lord Black 21-02-13 (.pdf)
The Media Standards Trust today calls for the press to open up the process of reform to public scrutiny or risk losing political and public confidence.
In letters sent last week to Lord Black and Lord Hunt, the Trust said that the public do not know:
- Who is leading the process of reform?
- What the process involves?
- How, if at all, the public will be included?
- Details of meetings that have been held to date – notably with government Ministers and officials?
Lord Justice Leveson, in his report, strongly criticised the plan put forward by Lord Black and Lord Hunt, writing that he found it ‘extraordinary’, that ‘they did not regard public views on the matter [of their proposal] as of sufficient interest or importance to make any effort to ascertain them.’ ‘This lack of interest in the views of the public’ Leveson wrote, ‘may be symptomatic of the approach that the press has consistently taken towards regulation over many decades.’
The result has been a system that works for the press but not for the public. ‘I have said, many times,’ Leveson continued, ‘that any new regulatory system must work for the public and for a system to work for the public it should have the rights and interests of the public at its heart.’ The proposal put forward by the industry “manifestly fails that test’.
Yet despite Leveson’s criticisms there are still no signs that the press regards the views of the public as of sufficient interest or importance to make an effort to ascertain them.
The Trust put six questions to Lord Black and Lord Hunt to test their commitment to openness:
- What is the ‘Industry Implementation Group’, what is its remit, and who is on it?
- Paul Vickers, Chairman of the ‘Industry Implementation Group’, was reported as saying that the draft Royal Charter was ‘the fruit of two months of intensive talks involving the newspaper and magazine industry and all three main political parties’. Will the industry be publishing details of the ‘intensive talks involving the newspaper and magazine industry and all three main political parties’?
- Did the newspaper and magazine industry request any changes be made to the recognition criteria in the draft Royal Charter before publication?
- Will the industry be publishing any details of the meetings held by the industry about the development of a new system between December 2012 and February 2013?
- Does the industry plan to make future meetings and proposals for a new system public?
- How does the industry plan to involve the public in the development of a new system (beyond the limited consultation on the Code)?
“The newspaper editors criticise politicians and other institutions for not being transparent,” Martin Moore, director of the MST, said, “and rightly expose secret talks and backroom deals. Yet when it comes to press reforms, there is a studied silence and almost complete lack of scrutiny.”
The Media Standards Trust is awaiting a response from Lord Black and Lord Hunt.