Media Viewpoint: What the Papers Didn't Say
Soley, Clive, The Independent (London, England)
While the Government moves ever closer to privacy legislation, the press seems incapable of mounting effective opposition which commands the support of the public. Editors recently published their Alternative White Paper: it had little new to offer and made no real impact.
The sad truth is that the defence of press freedom in Britain has been a case of too little, too late; and editors and their owners must take the blame.
The real problem for the British press is that it is over-regulated by a variety of laws, without any compensating press freedom legislation. At the same time, the public places far less trust in the accuracy of press news articles and are much more inclined to believe radio and television.
Of investigated complaints about the press, 73 per cent concern accuracy while only 8.7 per cent concern privacy, and it is the high profile invasion-of-privacy cases that attract most attention in the media.
I suspect that many of these cases would not have been stopped by a privacy law, because of the public interest let-out clause. If, for example, a minister had identified himself with the "back to basics" policy and was then found to be having an affair, he would still be liable to press exposure because the legislation would almost certainly allow disclosure when double standards are involved.
Editors have brought the problem on themselves by devoting so much space to sex and violence and far too little to more important investigative journalism. Sex and violence boost sales, but if the papers run pages of details on the girlfriends and family of Stephen Milligan, that is not a right that I am prepared to fight for. But I will fight for the right to probe and question the British establishment.
The inability of the press to come up with any new approach is deeply disappointing to those of us who know just how much press freedom we have lost in the past 20 years. I was appalled when the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill went through Parliament with only minimal opposition from the press, yet the Act allows the police to seize journalists' material. The press was even weaker with the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which forces journalists to name their sources; the press actually attacked those who opposed it!
I feel …
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Publication information: Article title: Media Viewpoint: What the Papers Didn't Say. Contributors: Soley, Clive - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 9, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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