The Leveson Inquiry

The leveson inquiry was formed to investigate the actions and publications of the Press, Police and politicians. The aim was to eliminate the shady background of some of these groups especially the media and the way in which they treat morality and ethics. Lord Justice Leveson was provided with the task to inquire into the many scandals brought about by the British press including phone hackings and the invasion of privacy. The final aim being to suggests certain guidelines the press should follow to improve the press and media on a whole.

Sir Lord Justice Brian Leveson became a barrister in 1970,he later a high court judge in 2000 his heavy role in prosecuting multiple criminals he became the chairman of the sentencing council, basically meaning he is responsible for all sentencing within the UK. This made him the key person to be placed at the forefront of the inquiry his knowledge on law and his understanding of morality and ethics made him the perfect character to lead the search for a better regulatory body for the press.

Leveson’s findings within the inquiry stated that the press should remain self-regulated and that the government/parliament should have little to no control over the press, this is to follow arguments of free speech within media. Secondly a new complaints commission was to be formed, which was partly enforced as the PCC disbanded to become IPSO although the new body was just a repackage of the old one. Thirdly it was to be backed by legislation as to act as an independent body, little evidence is in place that IPSO has any more authoritative control over the press than the PCC.           All these were meant to be implemented to ensure that the public felt hat their complaints were being dealt with seriously and were enforced with the upmost justice.

Leveson’s suggestion to have a reworking of the PCC was taken in equal sides by all ranges of groups many that were against the reworking suggested that the press were given the chance to be responsibly self-regulatory but failed. However on the other side many argued that the only alternative would be to have the legislate take control of the media also known as direct parliament control over the media this would almost fully remove the argument of free speech within the press which almost nobody wants to remove.

Many oppositions to the leveson included Hacked Off a group founded to argue that the media should not be responsible for regulating themselves as they are not to be trusted with such a task as it is often abused. Many members of this group joined and funded the movement to highlight the Invasion of privacy and the hacking of phones should have been the last straw for the British press, many of the group being those affected by the press.

In regards to the TV and internet the inquiry was mainly press oriented so did not particularly effect them to any notable degree, broadcasting being controlled by OFCOM, backed by Law and the internet being difficult to regulate both due to anonymity and the freedom of speech within social media.

The Suggestion of a royal charter to be implemented upon the British Press was perceived as a weak move by the inquiry many Including Parliament member John Prescott despised the decision forcing his resignation. The press’ reaction to the charter was to purpose their own weaker charter this was approved by  David Cameron to avoid confrontation with the press. This delayed further investigation into the press and postponed the second half of the Leveson enquiry.

This is a huge upset to many as the Leveson enquiry, to some was a way In which the press could be bent into a better form of media, this upset is only corroborated by the fact of the enquiry being huge waste of taxpayer money as it essentially did very little to nothing to affect the British press.

The Internet: Controlled and regulated

“The internet is not a public sphere. It is a private sphere that tolerates public speech” – Clay Shirky

The internet, whilst it may seem the perfect medium for free speech, the people in charge are often just businesses looking for profit and like all businesses can be often quite corrupt. Take media censorship of the internet in China, many websites are blocked and the ones that aren’t are highly filtered to follow the predetermined restrictions the government puts in place.

You may ask, why would the businesses of china controlling the internet comply? Well, often businesses are just that and their power in comparison to the state is little to none. This power balance is not the only way in which the government control the media for example the ruling bodies go as far as to hand out ‘self discipline’ awards to company’s that comply with the strict regulatory enforcements put in place.

This regulation is not unique to the authoritarian east, the democratic west is also partaking in these regimes, dozens of countries across the east partake in what’s described as state sponsored censorship, where the government funds private sector companies to be self regulatory. This may not seem as if its that big of a deal but when the internet is proclaimed the medium of free speech, it comes into question.

Companies as big as Google have been approached by various countries asking to block or remove content, fortunately in 2010 they decided to release data on the requests made by particular governments and how often they comply. This type of governmental control is difficult to avoid for companies especially when they are already under pressure to conform to existing laws, particular countries can almost entirely remove huge corporations for example China.

The Royal Family and Privacy

The royal family account for a large portion of tax payers therefore they are on the public interest, right? Although both sides can be argued there’s no doubt that the media often step too far when it comes to the royal family, especially photographs.

In regards to the death of princess Dianna it could be argued that the press were primarily at fault, before her death she even set out a plea to attempt stop the British press from reporting on her and her sons business and life. During her holiday away with her controversial partner Dodi Fayed, the son of the wealthy Mohamed Fayed, the British press were eager to take snaps of the couple this eagerness is what some still believe today that is the cause of the crash which killed the Princess.

It can be argued that the press had a right to be there in the fact the people of Britain pay for the upkeep of the royal family however the exact opposite can be argued with more fruition, the press were involved in multiple harassment claims by Dianna up until her death in September 1997. However her death only sparked more media interest and even more controversy arose through pictures of the princesses’ dying body receiving gas and air arose in 2006.

These highly controversial pictures were even turned down by publishers and editors until in 2006 an Australian newspaper printed a front page article on the princesses death including the picture. The papers argued it was to invoke sympathy and sadness however it did the opposite creating anger and uproar. The editors of the Sun even giving their take on the publishing’s as sick and immoral.

2008: The media yet again caused controversy as foreign papers chose to disobey the agreement that prince Harry was serving in Afghanistan and it must be kept a secret to protect him. This shows the regulation of British media  is difficult without blanket regulation.

Fast forward to early 2012 and the honeymoon of Will and Kate where an Italian magazine published pictures of a topless Kate. The pictures whilst already raunchy and controversial were made even worse as the couple had already agreed to release pictures of their honeymoon taken by a private photographer. The pictures were of Kate sunbathing topless from 2 miles away taken with a telephoto lens which make the situation even worse.

The fact that the pictures were acquired so crude and Will and Kate were not on official business leads no case to suggest the images were in the public interest along with this the pictures were taken on private property on a relations villa in rural France as well as the subjects being unaware of media presence shows a distinct case of press harassment the very thing that was argued that had been stopped after the death of princess Dianna.

Moving even more recently to the pictures released of Prince Harry playing pool naked in Las Vegas, these pictures were taken on a camera phone at a private party then later sold on to newspapers, this is less of an argument of invasion of privacy through the press and more who was at fault, it could be argued that Harry a successor to the throne and a current prince should be more traditional however on the flipside is it really in the ‘public interest’ what goes on behind closed doors.

In arguments for the release of the picture it shows the people of England and the tax payer that some of their hard earned income is being foddered away by improper royals with obscure pastimes. This could be argued to be in the public interest.

The other argument of course is the fact that not only is Harry in his youth but the activities he partakes in behind closed doors whilst being completely law abiding are defiantly not within public interest. Either way the publication of the story shows little evolution of the respect in regards to privacy the press have towards the royal family.

Jumping forward to present day and the media coverage of Prince Harry’s girlfriend and the knock on affects of the coverage are still in play from the previous reports whether they are just or not.