Wishful thinking

With Lord Justice Leveson preparing to unveil his report into media standards this week, Keith Mathieson shares his wish list of what it will contain

Keith Mathieson
Keith Mathieson

– A loud and lengthy declaration that the UK is one of the world’s great democracies because we have a free press.

– Grateful recognition of the glories of our newspaper and magazine industry – from the Financial Times and Observer to the Daily Mail and The Sun, from Grazia to The Spectator and from the Western Mail to Dog World, we have the most brilliant and diverse print and online media in the world.

– An acceptance that freedom of expression includes the right to cause disturbance, upset, offence and even outrage and an understanding that if the press doesn’t get things wrong from time to time, it’s not trying hard enough.

– A sense of proportion:

(a) There is no evidence that phone hacking happened anywhere other than the News of the World. It’s certainly not happening now and if it did, we already have laws to deal with it.

(b) Serious mistakes by the press are in reality quite rare and a battery of remedies already exists.

– Healthy scepticism of Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and their admiring posse of media professors. Press freedom must not be derailed by the exaggerations and pre-occupations of the Hacked-Off campaign, many of whose supporters can’t stand popular newspapers and despise those who read and write them.

– Leveson should embrace the self-regulatory scheme proposed by the industry. The last thing he should do is trust politicians or self-selecting establishment figures to tell the press what they should be doing. The press holds the establishment to account, not the other way round. The press must obey the law but it is heretical to expect it to work within constraints set by the very people it’s in business to investigate and expose.

Keith Mathieson is a partner at RPC