Rumbles in the wake of the Leveson Report on ethics and practices of the UK press can be expected to continue indefinitely – and at least until the politicians have agreed a legislative formula for the judge’s proposed independent, self-regulatory body.
At stake are the essence of a free press and the notion of media credibility.
The Leveson Report advocates continued press freedom, without direct parliamentary interference – but is also calls for a better legislative framework enabling the press to regulate itself more effectively. This gives government and media the challenge of finding a compromise in their – and the nation’s – best interests.
The image of the British press has sadly been tainted by the actions of a few who overstepped ethical boundaries in the quest, one presumes, for journalistic and commercial success. Given the increasing impact that new electronic information sources and alternative advertising opportunities are having on traditional print media, one can to some extent understand the need to push limits wherever possible.
However, what some of these people are alleged to have done is an inexcusable breach of press freedom, and it has also led to action in other judicial channels.
In my view, the ‘softer’ touch of the Leveson Report recognises:
I suspect the press could go forward quite satisfactorily with no additional control whatsoever. However, the Leveson proposals will enhance credibility by allowing the public a more clearly defined route to challenge the media if ethical principles are seen to be discarded.
There is a lesson in all of this, and it’s aimed at my PR colleagues, bloggers, web copywriters, social media commentators and the like. It is this: Be careful in what you say. A Leveson-type inquiry into the new media might not be as lenient.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.