Free Press Or Gag Press

The British Press has been subject to self-regulation for over fifty years, beginning with the creation of a voluntary Press Council in 1953, which aimed to maintain high ethical standards of journalism and to promote press freedom.

However, in the 1980’s a few publications failed to observe the basic ethics of journalism and so the Government appointed a Departmental Committee under David Calcutt QC to consider the matter. His task was to consider what measures were needed to give further protection to individual privacy from the activities of the press and improve recourse against the press for the individual citizen.

Calcutt’s report was published in June 1990 and recommended setting up of a new Press Complaints Commission in place of the Press Council. It had eighteen months to demonstrate that non-statutory self-regulation can be made to work effectively and an independent Press Complaints Commission was set up at the beginning of 1991.

Recently, the press has been in the dock again, this time for phone-hacking. Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced a two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the scandal and on 13th July, 2011, Lord Justice Leveson was appointed as Chairman of the Inquiry.

Despite the public being in favour of an in dependent regulatory body, Cameron seems reluctant and instead ordered Press proprietors to get their act together on independent regulation within months. David Milliband, leader of the opposition (Labour Party,) has given Cameron until Christmas to decide. Naturally, the press have called foul on this and stated that freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of democracy.

Whatever Cameron decides, he will be damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. History will show if he makes the right decision and if another scandal raises its ugly head again, then perhaps the Press’ days are numbered.


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