Leveson one year on: what future for press freedom?

Battle of Ideas festival 2013, Sunday 20 October, Barbican, London


It is a year since Lord Justice Leveson published his inquiry into the ‘Culture, Practice and Ethics of the Press,’ but decisions about future press regulation are still far from being resolved. Attempts by Labour peers to include Leveson-type reforms in the recent defamation bill have failed, and the prime minister’s cunning plan to avoid state regulation of the press through a Royal Charter have floundered, as no publishers have agreed to sign up to the proposed regulator. Leveson and his team have been beset by scandals, and rumours that the future of press regulation was decided over pizza in the early hours by politicians and three members of the pro-regulation Hacked Off lobby group, but without a single member of the press present have marred the government’s approach. Even the ongoing support from celebs such as Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan has done little to keep it in favour. As the press formulate an alternative, what’s now been dubbed the ‘pizza charter’ seems doomed to failure.

Is the Leveson report now – as is widely reported in the press – discredited, or is all the muckraking and conspiracy theorising by the press a conscious attempt by the ‘feral’ press to dodge his proposals? With the public apparently supporting the implementation of Leveson –around two-thirds are in favour according to recent polls – how can it be in the public interest to have an unregulated press? Does the Royal Charter proposal does represent any sort of positive alternative to statute-backed regulation, or could the implications for free speech be even worse? Finally, with the so-called ‘blue-chip’ hackers – law firms and insurers – now under the spotlight, were offences by the press as grievous and isolated as was first made out?

Professor George Brock

head of journalism, City University London; author, Out of Print: newspapers, journalism and the business of news in the Digital Age

Professor Roger Graef
CEO, Films of Record; award-winning filmmaker, including the Bafta winning Police series, Police 2001, Turning the Screws, and The Secret Policeman’s Ball; visiting professor, Mannheim Centre for Criminology, LSE

Patrick Hayes
director, British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)

Professor Tim Luckhurst
head, Centre for Journalism, University of Kent; author, Responsibility without Power: Lord Justice Leveson’s constitutional dilemma

Viv Regan
managing editor, spiked