UK Press Law Proposed to Ensure Media Ethics

Justice Brian Leveson released a report this past Thursday, November 29, recommending that the media industry in the United Kingdom set up a press regulator, supported by legislation, to ensure that the press meets certain “standards of independence and effectiveness.” Prime Minister David Cameron asked Justice Leveson to prepare the report in response to the phone-hacking scandal by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid. Thousands were left victim to the phone-hacking scandal which led to the closing of one of the oldest newspapers in the UK. Before the scandal, News of the World sold about 2.8 million copies each week.

In response to the report, the Prime Minister said he is reluctant to create legislation to enforce a press regulator. News International, a subsidiary of News Corp. which is owned by Murdoch, supports the Prime Minister’s stance while other government officials, such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, believe that legislation is needed in order to ensure the regulator’s long term independence.

In his report, Justice Leveson recognizes the importance of the freedom of press and preserving the press’ role of informing the public. The proposed law would not give Parliament the right to interfere with what newspapers publish. Instead, the law would address the abuses by the press. The regulator would have the power to sanction newspapers for breaking the rules and impose fines that Justice Leveson suggests could be up to 1% of a newspaper’s turnover.

Justice Leveson’s report will spark, if it has not already, a heated debate over whether or not the UK Parliament should regulate media ethics. Even one of Justice Leveson’s advisers who helped create the report has spoken out against the Justice’s proposal arguing that it would violate the Human Rights Act.

In my opinion, Parliament should not create legislation to enforce media ethics and instead, should encourage the media industry to create its own ethical body. Justice Leveson’s proposal, I believe, is a drastic alternative to show the media that the UK does not want to be humiliated again with another News of the World scandal.

Do you think the UK Parliament should support Justice Leveson’s proposal for a press regulator?


Sources: CNN, BBC News

Photo Source: Catholic Herald UK

One comment

  1. I see good arguments being made by both sides and it is difficult to align myself with either side at this time. An article in the New York Times describes what would be independent self-regulation by the newspaper industry that is intended to be “much tougher than the widely discredited system that has been in place for the past 60 years.” The existing Press Complaints Commission would be replaced by a body with legislative authority, entirely separate from the newspapers, which would include the authority to impose fines up to $1.6 million. On the other hand, it is easier to see how this new plan, embraced by Prime Minister Cameron and other party leaders, would “undermine press freedom in the U.K. and give legitimacy to governments around the world that routinely silence journalists through such controls.” Party leaders are also torn on the issue of whether the new system should be backed by a parliamentary statute as suggested by Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson. While supporters of the provisions in the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, and Conservatives feel that statutory backing would give “the new body real teeth,” Prime Minister Cameron opposes the idea, hoping to implement the plan without legislative backing. It will be interesting to see if the Prime Minister is able to enact the proposed plan without the statutory support.

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