We asked how will the media legal landscape develop in a post-Leveson environment?
Whatever proposals the Leveson Inquiry come up with, the process of the Inquiry was itself a boon for freedom of expression. A great deal of witness and documentary evidence about the practices of the press, politicians, and the police, is now squarely in the public domain which would not have been in the public domain but for the statutory powers of the Inquiry.
The fight will now be as to what proposals are put in place.
A number of anxious people are likely to try and rubbish any proposals, perhaps even before seeing them. Wiser sorts will see whether any new regime will support or undermine the credibility of the press. The concern about the hacking revelations has not gone away, and “same as before” is not a serious option.
There are now three key issues. First, is “statutory” such a bogey word? All it means is that any new regulator will have residual powers which do not depend on consent. The question is whether that is actually a bad thing, given the reluctance of certain titles to comply with spirit or letter of the PCC code.
Second, there may be a move for regulating the source of stories rather than their content. Part of the problem highlighted by Leveson is the wrongful trade in sensitive information. Regulating sourcing not publication may be the new focus.
Finally, there still remains no single “law of privacy” in England and Wales but a range of laws, from data protection to anti-harassment legislation. In the emerging “database state” it is important that privacy issues now go far wider than regulating the press.