The central plank of Lord Leveson’s report on the “reckless behavior” of the British press, announced today (Thursday) is the creation of a genuinely independent self-regulator that should be underpinned by law.
In his report Leveson, who spent eight months in a painstaking public examination of unethical practice in the press, says he does not want to support a system of statutory regulation of newspapers which might compromise press freedom – but he is supporting a “statutory process” to create a new regulator and he is adamant that recent proposals for reform submitted by the industry are not strong enough.
Leveson says the new model of regulation should build upon some of the proposals made by the industry, but he says it must be an independent and credible structure. It may also be able to deliver rewards to media that sign up to it – through less damages and protection in future court cases where media are potentially the victims of harsh application of laws covering privacy and defamation.
The four-volume report makes trenchant criticism of newspapers which he said “wreaked havoc with peoples’ lives” but it surprises many who feared that he was lining up a powerful assault on the power of press owners.
In fact, the report invites the press to take the lead establishing the new regulatory body.
The report emerges after a period of intensive public discussion over compelling and disturbing evidence of corruption and unethical practice in journalism including phone-hacking and unhealthy relation between the press and the police and politicians.
The scandal led to the closure of the News of the World owned by the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation.