Final Blog

December 8, 2016 in uncategorised

The withdrawal of the Licensing Act, 1695, ended prepublication censorship and paved the way for a free press. British newspapers became self regulated and it has remained that way until this day. It would be nice to say that it created a ‘happily ever after’ ending but that is not the case; unfortunately it  was not that simple. With the dynamic shift in newspaper content, from informative writing to infotainment, the standards and ethic’s of journalists declined, but that was only the beginning.

 

The problem wasn’t that tabloids were flourishing, though I personally consider that an issue, but it was the way in which journalists retrieved their information. An invasion of privacy occurred in the phone hacking scandal when journalist’s tapped into the answering machines of celebrities in order to write their next juicy article for News of the World. In 2007 the paper’s Royal Editor, who was also a private investigator, was put in jail for ‘phone hacking’ which was simply the calling of voicemails and guessing their passwords; often unchanged from their initial programmed code. A defining moment in the phone hacking scandal was in 2012 with the voicemail hacking of Milly Dowler, a murdered schoolgirl. As you can imagine, this did not sit well with the public. Resignations or News of the World exiting the market; this initiated an inquiry, according to Leverson it was the 7th time in less than 70 years[1].

 

The Leverson Inquiry was a vicious cycle caught between two major angles: those fighting for freedom of the press; claiming it is an essential element to our democracy and those contending the need of some form of regulation or guidelines for the press in the interest of the public. I believe there was an overlap with these issues and people didn’t only take one side, in fact, I think it became clear that everyone felt the need for a new system but the argument was primarily ‘how’ this would be done.

 

Concerning the investigation, Leverson said, “The press, operating freely and in the public interest, is one of the true safeguards for our democracy.” He later goes on to say, “But this power and influence carries with it responsibilities to the public interest in whose name it exercises these privileges.”

He condemned the British press for not using its power to benefit the interest of the public. The British press’ misuse of power and influence stole the public’s trust and hurt many people in the process.

[1]Webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk A Report into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press

Remarks by Lord Justice Leveson: Thursday 29th November 2012

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