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Thursday, 18 September 2014

We need a PCC with bigger teeth

SIX million pounds of your money. Gone. Have I got your attention?

EM Darren McSweeney
Darren McSweeney

That is the estimated cost of the Leveson inquiry – a huge amount of money in these hard pressed times, but surely there’s a recommendation coming out of it that makes it all money well spent? Maybe not though – we’re already seeing the prime minister and others choosing to ignore it…

If I’d sanctioned £6m pounds for an answer, I’d secretly hope to get the answer I was looking for when I first commissioned the inquiry.

Not our Dave though, that huge lump of our taxes has in effect been wasted, by telling us what we already know and suggesting a solution that the government won’t pursue.

What was Cameron hoping for? That an inquiry focussing on activities such as the hacking of dead children’s mobile phones by tabloid newspapers would recommend continuing self regulation? I think we all knew what the outcome would suggest by way of recommendation; it’s just it wasn’t necessarily the answer we were looking for.

The report does call for more regulation of the press – something few would disagree with given the performance of some parts of the industry over the last few years, but it wants it backed up with legislation. Do we not already have legislation? Couldn’t the hacking of innocent victim’s phones be prosecuted under existing laws?

I don’t think the failing is all within the industry itself – the industry has been allowed to get away with too much for too long. This probably owes just as much to politicians snuggling up to editors to further their own cause than any failure in self regulation.

The PCC has been weak, but so have the law enforcers. There are many cases whereby a newspaper could have been prosecuted for things they have done, but haven’t. This doesn’t mean however that the press is a runaway renegade industry – I have first hand knowledge sat here writing this, there are certain things I cannot write, even with an “opinion” column, there are boundaries.

Another recommendation is to refer matters up to a body such as OFCOM – ask the public if they think OFCOM, OFGEN or any other OF’ers have had any success controlling communication or energy companies and the like. I think I know what answer you’ll get!

A PCC with teeth is all we need, law enforcers who actually enforce laws and then we can safeguard the precious freedoms of the press that are part of a democratic society. And I could have told you that for a lot less than £6m!

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