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Coffee House The Spectator Podcasts

The View from 22 — the fight for press freedom and an EU problem for Cameron

1 November 2012

10:02 AM

1 November 2012

10:02 AM

What effect would any form of statutory regulation have on the press in this country? In this week’s cover feature, Nick Cohen writes that if the Leveson Inquiry recommends strong measures to curtail the press, they will not be practical thanks to the constant evolution of the media industry. On this week’s View from 22 podcast, Nick explains the problems of defining who exactly is the press and who are journalists:

‘You can’t say what a newspaper is and you can’t say who a journalist is. When I started in journalism, people used to say it was a trade, not a profession…that was true in theory but false in practice — you couldn’t be a journalist unless you worked for a state or private media conglomerate.

‘Laws on freedom of the press affect everyone, everyone can be a journalist. They affect people when they are on Twitter, when they are on Facebook, when they blog. We don’t know what Lord Leveson is going to say but the danger is that he has any kind of statutory regulation beyond all the problems of allowing political control (which people faught against over centuries) is that you have a two tier-legal system when we need one law for all.’

Kirsty Hughes, CEO of the Index on Censorship, believes it remains undecided which path Lord Leveson will take but warns against taking the first steps towards a state-controlled press:

‘Everybody is still worried about that [statutory regulation] , that is clearly the big dividing line with the debate around Leveson. He’s shown  interest in what they do in Ireland, but that’s a rather percular form of statutory. It’s in a law but it’s stil voluntary. There were some problematic issues around libel and defamation…I think there are still these age old issues around political control of the press.

‘If you have political control of the press, you are not in a free democratic state, you are in an authoritarian state. So I think those people — including Hugh Grant — that call for a ‘tiny dab’ of statutory are quite wrong. A tiny is a very important thin end of the wedge.’

In his political column this week, James Forsyth writes that despite a spring in their step following the recent bout of economic good news, the government has some significant challenges to face up to in the upcoming months. In particular,  dealing with Eurosceptic backbenchers is high up the agenda for David Cameron:

‘The vote on the EU budget is one of these votes that does not count for very much, it’s purely indicative. But it has become the latest trial of strength betwen David Cameron and his Eurosceptic banckbenchers. Cameron has a problem here, which is that there are 35 Tory MPs who will rebel with anything with Europe in the title. Cameron rather than boxing cleaver insists treating everything with Maastrict, a vote that actually matters.

‘The bind they have got themselves into is another testament to to fact the whips operation is not fit for purpose. One of the things that got lost in the whole Andrew Mitchell story is that Mictchell had been sent to the Whips’ Office for a very particular reason. No.10 and in particular No.11 felt the Whips’ Office didn’t have a grip that they needed someone tougher and someone with better intelligence and better reach into the right of the party and someone who had more authority to say to Downing Street, this is what the troops will wear, this is what they won’t wear. That has all gone. George Young won’t do anything of those things, as it comes painfully apparent this week.’

And which minister do our guests think has singled himself out this week? Listen with the embedded player below to find out who this new rising star is. You can also have the latest podcast delivered straight to your machine by subscribing through iTunes. As ever, we’d love to hear what you think, good or bad.

The View from 22 – 1 November 2012. Length 26:10
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