miss_s_b: (Fanigrling: Rumpole)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
The Facts:
  • The press have behaved atrociously.

  • The behaviour is not all journalists, but is systemic across all the papers, although it's worse at the tabloids than the broadsheets.

  • The police have been reluctant to arrest journalists, even when they quite blatantly break the law.

  • Politicians have been reluctant to offend the press for fear of losing elections.

  • There are lots of laws which could have been applied to most of the situations people have a problem with - both in terms of the stuff that was printed and the corrupt relationships between politicians, police and media - nobody enforced them.

  • The press are losing influence and sales because of the rise of the internet and any system of press regulation which may or may not be put into place right now will be out of date within months.

  • This is making them panic and they think that if they can't keep on perving over the 14 year old daughters of celebrities and lying about people who can't afford to sue them they will lose more money faster - IMHO this is probably true. Far more people are interested in pap shots of 14 year old with budding tits than they are in the minutiae of political corruption scandals.

  • Nobody* thinks that political control of the media is desirable.

  • Nobody* wants the libel laws beefed up because they already encourage libel tourism and the promotion of The Golden Rule**

  • Equally, nobody* thinks that continuing on as before is acceptable and we're all agreed that Something Must Be Done - but all of the proposed solutions have downsides, either giving too much power to politicians or not curbing the ridiculous excesses of the press and nobody is happy with any of them.
You can see why I referred to this as a Gordian knot in the title, amirite? But unlike the previous post, I do actually have a proposed solution. A nice simple solution. A solution that doesn't involve any new statutes***, and doesn't involve letting the press off the hook.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? Possibly it is. I'm sure if there are holes to be picked, you lot will manage it... My proposed solution is this:

Add press complaints to the raft of things which legal aid is available for. At the core of this, it's an access to justice issue. The press will happily defame people who can't afford to sue, and given that probably we're in a triple dip recession, and that legal aid has been cut drastically and repeatedly of late, this is only going to get worse. However, although the entire legal aid budget is set by politicians, they have no say over what it gets spent on. If we're worried about FatCatLawyersGettingRichOffOurTaxes we can always fund charities like CAB to make initial assessments - CAB are VERY good at the legal stuff, when they aren't starved of funds - and it wouldn't involve any corrupt appointments.

If the police refuse to prosecute papers who break the law, let us bring private prosecutions.
If the PCC can't or won't adjudicate on something, or their adjudication is ignored by the papers, let us take them to court.

Let the courts impose fines.
Let the journos and newspaper owners who ignore the law of the land and the rulings of the courts be sent to prison (and frankly I won't lose any sleep if Frazer Nelson is first in the queue).

Of course, the reason nobody is going to go for this is that Leveson is a huge political football which all parties are enjoying kicking around, whilst opining that all they are bothered about is THUHVICTIMS or THUHFREEDUMOFTHEPRESS and I genuinely believe that police, politicans AND press would all be happiest papering over the cracks and carrying on as normal with their corrupt and cosy relationships.

The question is, are they going to get away with that? Again?****

* Nobody with any sense, that is.
** (S)he who has the gold makes the rules
*** possibly a couple of statutory instruments, maybe...
**** sadly I think the answer to that is probably "yes", because of the golden rule detailed above.

Date: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] londonkds
The problem with this idea is that it could easily leave loopholes for press misbehaviour that no one person can necessarily claim to have been personally harmed by (eg racist lies of the kind regularly engaged in by the press, not defensibly controversial opinions but flat and absolute lies, about Islam and immigrants).

Date: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
londonkds: (Default)
From: [personal profile] londonkds
What I'm thinking of is the notorious Littlejohn PCC adjudication, where there was a complaint about him saying something along the lines of "any Pakistani can jump off the back of a lorry and get a free house off the state", and the PCC said "since it's an opinion column he can say what he likes and it should be obvious anything he says might be bollocks".

Date: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] gwenhwyfaer
Classes of people can't take papers to court. It's a standing issue; defamation can only be against individuals, which would leave the press to continue to Beobachterise people on benefits to their heart's content.

Also, I'm not sure I'd be wholeheartedly in favour of a legal aid system that would fund me to sue the press, but leave me high and dry when it comes to challenging a fitness-for-work finding or compelling my landlord to actually do something about the floor that no longer takes my weight. I think legal aid would have to be restored for those basic injustices before extending it to cover fighting press power.
Edited Date: Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 06:47 pm (UTC)

My suggestion

Date: Thursday, December 6th, 2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
po8crg: A cartoon of me, wearing a panama hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] po8crg
Make "journalist" a protected title. Anyone can write for a newspaper, but only a journalist can call themselves a journalist.

The title granted by a self-regulating body. Run by journalists. Who can strike people off the register if they want.

Every piece in a newspaper should be clearly marked as factual or opinion. If it's factual, then it has to be signed-off by a journalist as accurate (doesn't have to be written by one). If it's opinion, then the facts in it have to be signed-off by a journalist or - for pieces by someone notable outside of the news/opinion profession (eg a politician), either they should be signed off as factually accurate, or accompanied by a piece listing the factual errors.

Finally, newspapers don't have to follow the above rules, but if they don't then they lose their VAT exemption, and they lose access to the Reynolds defence (or suitable replacement) in libel - ie they have to prove that the piece is true, and not just that the piece was published according to a reasonable editorial checking process.

Protects the individual journalist from management pressure ("if I do that, I'll be struck off").

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