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Leveson: Death of a Free Press or Just An Accelerated Death of Newspapers

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- Tom Winnifrith

So the Leveson Report is out. And it is pretty grim reading. It will delight Hugh Grant, various ghastly celebrities, Max Mosley, Nick Clegg and the other illiberal folk who want the press muzzled. It will delight the political elite who resent their sins being revealed. And it will, I suspect, hasten the demise of the traditional newspaper industry.

Leveson proposes legislation which will see a body containing no MPs or journalists but a fine body of establishment grandees there to ensure that newspapers do not breach certain rules. If they do they will face crippling fines Ofcom will review how this body works every two years. The information Commissioner will be given greater powers to prosecute newspapers for breaches of data protection.

Hmmm. Ultimately who appoints these independent grandees…politicians. David Davies MP (the man who should have led the Tories rather than Call Me Dave) is spot on:

“Giving the government the responsibility for press freedom is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”

For the benefit of urban readers, Brian May, etc I should explain that cute little foxy woxy likes killing chickens.

I wonder if in a post Leveson scenario we would have seen the MPs expenses scandal laid bare or all those MPs who preached morality while shagging anything that moved, exposed with their pants down? I doubt it. It is not as if the current system exposed Jimmy Saville but post Leveson? The threat of a big fine for overstepping the mark will make the established press ever more lame.

And this happens at a time when papers are not exactly making much money. Circulation has been falling for years across Fleet Street. The high fixed costs of paying high salaries to folks producing a commodity available for free all over the shop (news) or for columnists that not that many folks read and above all for distributing content via the deadwood press make traditional Newspapers economically unviable. Now with tamer content and readers knowing they are muzzled will sales go up or decline at an even more rapid rate? We all know the answer.

If Leveson is implemented then Call Me Dave will become the first leader since 1695 to regulate the press. It will be a sad day for civil liberties. But it will also be another nail in the coffin for Fleet Street.

The newspaper industry will have to move online. Some players will succeed in this. Others will fail. So there will be fewer National titles. Meanwhile the unregulated blogosphere will not be bound by Leveson. As such who is more likely to break political scandals in future? Guido or the Dead Wood Press? The former of course. Paul Staines will be made even richer by Leveson. Good for him. His Christmas has come already.

Staines is an Irish citizen, his blog is hosted and owned somewhere miles offshore. He can write what he wants. I cannot remember where this blog is hosted by I know Real Man Pizza Company is hosted in the FSU, RMPC is owned offshore (not in the Isle of Man) and maybe I shall now get around to applying for the Indian passport to which I am entitled through my maternal grandmother ( white settler just happened to be born there).

An ageing judge, appointing old establishment men to help regulate a dying industry into oblivion. It is all very sad. The game has already moved on.

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