X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

The danger to a free press

27 September 2011

1:09 PM

27 September 2011

1:09 PM

“In Britain, a free press is non-negotiable,” Ivan Lewis has just said – before suggesting ways that Government might, ahem, oversee
this freedom. The shadow culture secretary has an idea: a register system to license journalists. “As in other professions, the industry should consider whether people guilty of gross
malpractice should be struck off,” he said. He wants “a new system of independent regulation including proper like-for-like redress, which means mistakes and falsehoods on the front
page receive apologies and retraction on the front page”. It’s an odd type of independence: one that would be prescribed by the political elite. And what type of journalists might it
target? I’ve heard ministers complain about the “unethical” and “unprofessional” practices of certain journalists: almost always the ones who cause them the most
problems, like the Andrew Gilligans of this world. Blair’s No. 10 once complained to the BBC about the “John Humphrys problem” – and claimed this was a simple matter of bad
journalism. Certain types of politician have been mulling ways of resolving this “problem” ever since.

There is a wider, more important issue here: why is this even being raised? Many MPs still have their knives out for the press, after the Daily Telegraph’s comprehensive treatment of the
expenses scandal. They are looking at stories of one of their own – Margaret Moran last week, weeping in the dock of a Magistrate’s Court because this pesky
free press got hold of her fraudulent expense claims. You’d be surprised how many MPs hold the press collectively responsible for all this, and moan about disrespect. As Jeremy Paxman
famously put it, the British press treats politicians with the respect that a dog reserves for a lamppost. This well-drenched lamppost has had enough.

[Alt-Text]


The difference, now, is that the press has become massively vulnerable due to the News of the World hacking scandal and the criminal career of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator. The
unspeakable measures he took when fishing for stories were so egregious that it closed a newspaper; as my former colleague Ian Kirby wrote in The Spectator, a man who never set foot in the newsroom killed off the title. And it won’t be the last
casualty: the inquiries and court cases will last five years or more. Given that voicemail intercept was a standard tool for investigators working for many British newspapers (as Peter Oborne
detailed in his definitive Spectator cover piece on the subject) there is every chance that the scandal could
spread far wider.

This is the backdrop against which media regulation policy is being made. The Leveson inquiry is expected to be brutal for the newspaper industry. There is
a feeling, across Fleet Street, that the industry is being made to suffer because David Cameron grew too close to Rebekah Brooks and that his means of atonement is to hold an inquiry into
“the culture, the practices and the ethics” of the media. Some form of government regulation (and, ergo, the end of press freedom) looks grimly inevitable. We can laugh at Lewis, and
his madcap ideas – but other, only slightly less sinister plans will not be far behind it.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close