Leveson: Methinks they protesteth too much

I am pleasantly surprised at how moderate, intricate and nuanced Sir Brian Leveson has made his recommendations on the press.

We appear to be faced with:

NOW: Self-regulation with a code written by the press and administered by a body set up by the press with serving editors on some of the boards and which doesn’t work.

PROPOSED: Self-regulation with a code written by the press and administered by a body set up by the press without serving editors which does work much better, because there is legal framework to “validate” the body, and Ofcom or some similar appropriate body oversees it.

I am a little baffled as to how replacing a code accepted over many years, but which hasn’t worked, with a (presumably) similar code that does work amounts to the “end of press freedom”. Are they saying the code of the PCC was terrible, which is why they ignored it?

“Slippery slope” arguments are the last bastion of people who have lost their argument. They said banning killing by hounds during hunting would lead to a ban on fishing. It didn’t.

As for the nightmarish prospect of a North Korean dictator-like figure taking over the UK government and using the “Leveson law” to implement total press control…. Well, they could do that anyway by creating a completely new law. Indeed, if the press’s recommendation of a lawless regulation body went ahead, such a nightmare government could say that the lawless self-regulation scenario has not worked and use that as an excuse for a tough law.

Anyway, look at Finland. They are joint number one in the Worldwide Press Freedom index and yet they have the 2004 “Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in the Mass Media“. “The objective of the Act is described as being to make “more detailed provisions on the exercise, in the media, of the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution”.”

Such an act, hasn’t caused the world to end in Finland. They still have the freeest press in the world.

It won’t cause the world to end here.

For goodness sake, let’s get on with it.

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Press: We must have an independent regulator with statutory powers

I’m afraid that the audible contents of my car, coming home from work this evening, could not be shared in mixed company. I was driving along minding my own business when Trevor Kavanagh came onto PM.

Trevor Kavanagh is a very plausible smooth talker. There is one problem with him. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.

He speaks on behalf of Murdoch.

And notice how active the likes of Kavanagh have been recently. Notice how often the word “state” and the phrase “state-controlled press” has been repeated ad nauseam.

The problem is that it is ad nauseam. I feel like being sick when I hear this utter claptrap in the light of what happened to Robert Murat, the McCanns, Chris Jeffries etc.

And before they talk complete BS about the need for a free press, we should really ask ourselves: Is falsely accusing someone of murder on a repeated basis, and then not apologising, in the public interest? Is that the kind of “investigative” journalism that enhances the reputation of the British press?

Of course not. Kavanagh and company are talking total and utter codswallop.

Anyone who has tried to complain to the PCC knows that it has been pathetically weak. Totally pathetic. And this was the result of several iterations of “something must be done” over many years.

Having an independent regulator which has some powers under statute is perfectly consistent with a free press, is a million miles from “state control” and will at least prevent some of the most monstrous abuses of the British press that we have continuously seen in the past.

The Telegraph headline that is wrong by a factor of 4,369,000

“More or less” is a programme which more than adequately answers the question: “What is Radio Four for?”.

It investigates numbers in the news, giving a very refreshing evidence-based angle to media hysteria.

You can listen to this week’s episode here.

One of the items (starting at 14 minutes in) they looked at was the Daily Telegraph headline:

Just 100 cod left in North Sea

You can still read the story online here but there is a clarifying statement underneath it now.

This Telegraph story emanated from the Sunday Times (now clarified) claim that there were 100 adult cod left in the North Sea.

The Sunday Times wrongly assumed that the average age of an adult cod is 13 years old, but most adult cod in the North Sea are below 7 years old. They used a website called Fishbase which is accurate, but the Sunday Times used the maximum age of 25 years old for cod in the Barents Sea, not the North Sea, where it is 11 years old.

More or less found that the correct Sunday Times headline should have been, in fact: “21 million adult cod left in North Sea”.

They found that the Telegraph headline should read:

Just 436,900,000 cod left in North Sea

More or less think this is the “wrongest number” they have ever reported.

It’s worth listening to the programme, if only to hear the indignant Scottish trawlerman saying:

I’ve been fishing in the North Sea for thirty years and I have never seen so many cod as there is now. It annoys me that these numbers are made up by people who probably don’t even know what a cod looks like.

Vince Cable speaking in West Berkshire tonight


We had a great annual dinner for West Berkshire Liberal Democrats at the Regency hotel in Thatcham. Our new PPC, Judith Bunting made a great speech, then we were honoured by the presence of Rt Hon Dr Vincent Cable. Vince gave a very interesting and motivating speech.

A couple of points in Vince’s speech intrigued me. Firstly, he said that he genuinely wonders whether David Cameron can keep his party together, adding that the Conservative party today is a very different beast than the one we went into coalition with two and a half years ago.

Secondly, I was interested to hear Vince’s views on the NHS reforms. He was quite frank. Let’s just say that Vince doesn’t regard the NHS reforms as this government’s finest hour.

Anyone for a light spot of medium stoning?

I just happen to be reading through, at my normal snail’s pace, St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

An argument in the women bishops’ debate is that St Paul said that women should submit to their husbands.

By a funny accident of coinky-dinky, I have, this week, been at the place in his letter where St Paul addresses that very issue. (He also says that husbands should be caring, loving and dutiful towards their wives.)

But I have now got to the bit just after the ‘women submit’ bit. In the very next chapter, St Paul tells slaves how to behave towards their masters.

Yes, S-L-A-V-E-S.

Doesn’t that put his comments on women in a little bit of historical context?

It’s funny how such context doesn’t get mentioned in these debates. It reminds me of people who pick little bits of Leviticus to make their point, ignoring all the other bits. For example, the bit about a man not lying with another man gets repeated ad nauseam, but there is no mention of the bit which says, a few verses later:

A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.