No Direction

This morning, I’m angry.
I’m angry and a little concerned. Because the press seem to have rejected the half-baked proposals that would have let them carry on regulating themselves anyway. And that’s not good enough.

There’s a half dozen little details that the press aren’t happy about. There’s a rejection of the so-called Government involvement in regulation, even though there wasn’t any, not really, not in any meaningful, practical terms. There’s a rejection of the ban on former editors sitting on the panel, which gives a hint of the direction their thinking takes. There’s a general bleating that the cross-party proposal just isn’t good enough, wasn’t approved by the press, and won’t work for them, which should hardly come as a surprise: who ever welcomed a move from being free as the wind (pace the PCC) to being semi-regulated? And hidden amongst the detail is a rejection of the regulator’s ability to “direct” the format of any apology a newspaper might have to make for screwing things up.

When questioned this morning, a newspaper mouthpiece blithely commented on how absurd it was for the industry to have no input into this area of the regulation – and then carried on to the next point as if he’d dealt with it.

He hadn’t.

Now, I know a free press is genuinely important, and I know the vast majority of journalists are responsible, public-spirited people, but stop for a minute and think about it. Replace the word “newspaper” with “bank”. Or “pharmaceutical company”. Or pretty much anything else that comes to mind. Any other organisation that has been found, by the body that regulates it, to have breached the codes or regulations that govern how it’s supposed to conduct itself. Why on earth should that organisation have any input at all into the actions it must take to rectify the situation? Did the banks call up the Fed and the FSA and say “no, I think that LIBOR fine’s on the high side, cut it a little, will you?” Did Microsoft do the same whenever they got hit with a massive EU fine for anti-competitive behaviour? Or the utility companies with their doorstep-selling penalties? When you’ve screwed up, you’ve screwed up, and you don’t get a say in the penalty. The sentenced don’t get to determine the sentence.

Particularly when, with their page 48 apologies and clever, sneaky wording, they’ve proven time and time again they’re not capable of doing it.

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If you liked this, take a look at some extracts from my soon-to-be-published novel Without Due Care here.

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2 comments

  1. But this regulation isn’t a punitive sentence. The press should be involved in drafting a code of conduct. Did the government define the banking regulations without consulting banks? I daresay the bankers wrote them, and sent them to their acolytes in officialdom for rubber stamping.
    By the same logic you applied to that Archbishop piping up about banks, no one but journalists should have a say in how the press is run, as it’s outside anyone else’s area of expertise.

    1. Ah no, far from it. My point about the Archbishop was about his special role, the touch of theocracy in our nation that I’m not too pleased about. His opinion, really, was fine.
      And let’s be honest, behind the scenes it was the press pressure on Cameron that gave us this watered down proposal in the first place. They had all the time in the world to comment on Leveson, and did so. They’re only turning their backs on it now because they didn’t get everything their own way and think they still might.
      In a honesty, I don’t have a problem with them having input into the regulation (even though they already have done, in spite of what they say). But not on what the punishment should be each time it’s breached.

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