Press Regulation: A Pantomime of Deceit and Disinformation – Julian Petley

17 12 2013

Press regulation dealBy rejecting the Royal Charter, the majority of the British press has  done exactly the opposite of what it claims it wants to achieve: keep  politicians out of press regulation…  On November 8, 2013, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) announced that it was sending an “unprecedented top-level press-freedom mission to the United Kingdom“. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for the government to stand firm on press regulation – Julian Petley

10 10 2013

Press regulation dealOn Monday evening, the BBC’s Newsnight programme revealed that a sub-committee of the privy council had rejected the Royal Charter on press self-regulation put forward by the Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBof). By the following morning, rumours were rife that consideration of the Royal Charter on press self-regulation agreed by the three main political parties on March 18 would be delayed until October 30, immediately sparking fears that, in the interim, the newspapers would do their utmost to pressure the Tories into watering down the agreed Charter. Read the rest of this entry »

Nudging and Filtering: Internet Censorship and Mail Hypocrisy – Julian Petley

15 08 2013

The Open Rights Group is asking people to sign a petition asking David Cameron not to require Internet Service Providers to switch on ‘adult’ web filters by default, meaning that anyone who wishes to access certain kinds of material online will have to ask their ISP to switch off the filter. Read the rest of this entry »

The Leveson Inquiry and the Raucous Press – Julian Petley

8 03 2013

Royal Courts of JusticeDemocracies require an unlovable press. They need journalists who get in the face of power’. So says Michael Schudson, one of America’s foremost media scholars, in a recent collection of essays, and most journalists would wholeheartedly agree. Such sentiments were much in evidence in the pre-emptive nuclear strike mounted by the press in the run-up to the publication in November 2012 of Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Motorman, Part 4: Investigative Journalism and Conclusion – Julian Petley

9 01 2013

TabloidsBut the ICO were not the only ones furious with Dacre and co over their lobbying against custodial penalties under section 55 of the Data Protection Act. Writing in the Guardian, 7 April 2008, the paper’s investigations editor David Leigh stated that: ‘Rarely has there been a more disgraceful behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign’ than the one outlined above. He continued: ‘Tabloid newspapers want the right to commit crimes with impunity …  And they have the brazenness to complain that this campaign is designed to protect “investigative journalism”’. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Motorman, Part 3, Government action and inaction – Julian Petley

8 01 2013

ICO LogoNotwithstanding the representations of the PCC and others the proposal to toughen the sanctions for infringing the DPA were endorsed by the DCMS Committee, which stated that ‘we believe that sufficient safeguards exist to protect legitimate investigative journalism and do not believe that the introduction of custodial sentences for offences under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 would have the chilling effect claimed by the press”.  It also noted with approval the fact that the government had in February 2007 proposed to amend Section 60 of the DPA (via the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill which was then going through Parliament) so as to introduce exactly the sanction recommended by the ICO. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Motorman, Part 2: “What Price Privacy?” – Julian Petley

6 01 2013

What price privacy now?Intimidated by the press, disappointed by the PCC and thwarted by the courts, the ICO decided to go public about data theft,  in May 2006 publishing the report What Price Privacy? which discussed Motorman, inter alia. It also raised the question of the inadequacy of the penalties for breaking the DPA:  Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Motorman, Part 1: Whittamore, the PCC and Operation Glade – Julian Petley

5 01 2013

Motorman FilesIn March 2003, investigators from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), raided the offices of a private detective, Steve Whittamore.  As Tom Watson and Martin Hickman put it:  “They were amazed at what they discovered: Britain’s best-selling newspapers and magazines were driving a thriving black market in illegal data, requesting (and receiving) ex-directory numbers, car registration numbers, health records and criminal records. The targets ranged from glamorous actresses such as Elizabeth Hurley to the families of victims of newsworthy crimes, such as the parents of Holly Wells, a child murdered by the paedophile Ian Huntley at Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 2002. (28-9). Read the rest of this entry »

Opinion: Pale Pinks in Plain Sight – Julian Petley

20 11 2012

In its diatribe against Common Purpose, the Mail notes that the organisation ‘has attracted the obsessive attention of the more outré internet conspiracy theorists such as David Icke, as well as bloggers on the far Right. This has provided a convenient smokescreen against a more rational investigation’.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Many Mythologies of Press Freedom, Part 2, Media Self-Censorship – Julian Petley

11 10 2012

The Sun is far from alone in attacking other media organisations, but newspapers routinely calling for the censorship of other media is a paradoxical and extremely distasteful sight.  It is one which casts a good deal of doubt on the sincerity of their demands before the Leveson Inquiry that press freedom must be protected above all else. Press freedom is but one aspect of media freedom in general, and if newspapers cannot see that there is the starkest of contradictions in calling for their own freedom (self-circumscribed though it is) to be defended whilst bawling for the censorship of other media, then the clock really has struck thirteen. Read the rest of this entry »


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