Counter-productive Hatchet Job at the Daily Mail

5:01 pm - November 28th 2012

by Robert Sharp    

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The Daily Mail have published a rather odd hatchet job on Gavin Freeguard, Harriet Harman’s culture advisor. Gavin formerly worked for the Media Standards Trust, who are part of the Hacked Off Campaign.  This fact, and some year-old tweets from Freeguard where he (shock! horror!) criticises David Cameron allow Mail journalist Richard Pendlebury to paint Gavin as some kind of Manchurian spad.

We desperately need to hear strong arguments against state-regulation and ‘licensing’ of the press.  Left-wingers love to loathe the Daily Mail, but it is a hugely influential newspaper with one of the most visted websites on the Internet.  There is no better platform for the arguments against statutory regulation to be presented.

And yet, on the eve of the Leveson Inquiry report publication, there is nothing in today’s editorial on #Leveson.  Instead, the Daily Mail editors choose to run a piece which appears to be little more than an ad hominem attack on someone who previously worked for the Media Standards Trust (by tforge tech devan).  The pro-regulation camp will spin this a more evidence that the press is unserious about the regulation debate, and more interested in attacking individuals in order to sell newspapers – precisely the sin that (the critics say) makes the case for regulation!

As someone who is very wary about the prospect of state regulation of the press, I find it very is frustrating that the newspaper that could be the most powerful voice for press freedom is pursuing such a short term agenda, squandering its platform, and undermining the case for press freedom at such a crucial moment.

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Reform

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Reader comments

Sharp re. the Daily Mail: “There is no better platform for the arguments against statutory regulation to be presented.”

Really? Maybe that’s because the red-top tabloids are implicated in the whole mess that led to Leveson; the Express is owned by a pornographer and can barely be taken seriously; and everybody just points and laughs at the circulation figures for the Guardian, despite its key role in uncovering phone hacking.

I’d be as wary of state intervention/regulation as the author, but if he’s relying on the Mail and Dacre’s mixture of conspiralunacy, vendettas and ‘sidebar of shame’ clickbait to save the press from state regulation, then the press is not so much drinking in ‘the last chance saloon’ as smoking crack in it.

I don’t get what the big deal is with the anti-regulation camp. The regulation that may be proposed by Leverson will be similar to Ofcom and I don’t think that anyone would seriously argue that the BBC, ITV, C4, Sky etc are not free. We’re not going to move to a system like Russia where journos are locked up or assassinated.

Self-regulation doesn’t work. Hell, the PCC doesn’t even cover the Star and Express since it isn’t mandatory. What is needed is a regulatory body with teeth who are independent of both the government and the media themselves.

1. There can’t yet be any argument against Leveson’s conclusions and recommendations because we haven’t yet seen Leveson’s conclusions and recommendations.

2. statutory regulation != state regulation

“2. statutory regulation != state regulation”

Oops. Ta for the distinction.

What I find hilarious is the constant repetition from the right about the threat to “our free media.” We don’t have a fucking free media. We have a corporate media that self censors in the interests of their corporate advertisers.

They push a capitalist, right wing agenda, for the interests of the 1%. They also serve as a wingnut welfare circuit for right of centre politicians. Gove and Boris have become rich whoring for their media masters. And Gove continues to suck his corporate masters cock. But then since Murdoch paid a nice advance for a book that Gove has still not got round to writing you can see where is loyalties lie. Like all whores they turn tricks for who pays them.

It’s quite clear that Murdoch has been running a mafia outfit. Bribing politicians and police, and blackmailing those who dare to stand up to him. Funny that the Mail is so supportive of organised crime. Obviously not to be taken seriously when they bang on about law and order. They are pro mafia.

@1 redpesto: it won’t surprise you to learn that I have not been relying on the Daily Mail to make the case against regulation. But it’s a shame that they don’t put their ten billion page views a second to better use.

@2. Chris: “I don’t get what the big deal is with the anti-regulation camp. The regulation that may be proposed by Leverson will be similar to Ofcom and I don’t think that anyone would seriously argue that the BBC, ITV, C4, Sky etc are not free.”

Of course, we do not know what Leveson has to say. But we do know that freedom of speech of one group of citizens may be dependent on freedom for another.

The evidence for this is “parliamentary privilege” which allows an MP to raise topics or name people without fear of slander law suits. It is a right that is so powerful that the description “privilege” is appropriate for once. Once an issue has been raised in parliament, the MP can be freely quoted by other media *on what s/he says*. Thus freedom of speech for MPs delivers freedom to others.

The printed press, television broadcasters and internet media have a symbiotic relationship that permits freedom of the press. TV has always been strictly controlled by law, viewed as a more influential source of information. National newspapers operate under a non-statutory code of conduct and somewhat unusual interpretation of that code.

TV journalists are thus barred from saying things occasionally until somebody in a newspaper breaks the ice. At other times, TV can deliver a story that would be impossible in print. On TV, you can deliver images that tell everything without the commentary that might put you in lumber.

So whilst the BBC, ITV, C4, Sky etc are not free, some circumstances liberate them from their censors. But if controls are imposed on the other traditional form of mass media — newspapers — that becomes another level of control on TV broadcasters. And vice versa regarding newspapers who might feel inhibited about exploring evidence revealed in a TV programme.

I’ve intentionally ignored new media and the internet.

The real issue is ownership. The media groups need to be broken up. No one should be able to own more than one daily and one weekly newspaper.

I agree with sally, their is no free media. The stakes being as they are today, free media is a mirage and its time you realised that.

10. Man on Clapham Omnibus

2. Chris

“seriously argue that the BBC, ITV, C4, Sky etc are not free.”

In the context of news making I dont think free is the issue.Although I would argue that the BBC is most definitely not free from Government control. All of them in terms of current affairs/news tend to follow a very conservative line which rather than inform presents events as disconnected entities with no rational/historical context.
If you followed the Israeli bombing of Gaza you will will undoubtedly have come away with the idea of a heavy handed Israel defending itself against a strident Hamas dedicated to its destruction.

What you don’t get told is that the land over which they are fighting was given away by a third party(UN). More than that, the third party gave over half of Palestinian land to a Jewish population of half the size of the Palestinians.
Did the Palestinians get compensated – no.
I ask you how you would feel if someone rewrote the deeds to your house and then booted you out.

Its all very well calling the agencies free but in reality the acid test is whether or not citizens are kept in the dark whilst being regularly fed on the likes of Strictly or the X factor.

11. James from Durham

I feel Sally is being very unjust and insulting to prostitutes and their customers by comparing them to Murdoch, Gove and the tabloid press. Shame on you, Sally!

First they came for the right to bribe the police and prejudice the trials of murder suspects.

Then they came for the right to bully the families of murder victims.

Then they stopped us conducting dangerous high speed car chases so we could get pictures of celebrities boobs.

And then they stopped us making things up about immigrants and minorities.

And by the time they told us to report science in a more accurate manner there was nothing left for us to write bollocks about so we had to get real jobs.

12. Very funny. I may use that if I may?

Only if you correct the grammar 😉

15. Richard Carey

@ Chris,

“The real issue is ownership. The media groups need to be broken up. No one should be able to own more than one daily and one weekly newspaper.”

I disagree and doubt that you can justify why this should be the case, but what about the BBC? That has more power than any other media group.

Richard you must be a journo

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