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A Very Public Sociologist
While it is bad form to second guess the motives of politicians, it is funny that things have a habit of becoming a point of principle if it means seriously challenging the interests one is, or was, close to. Like many Tory frontbenchers and government outriders for the 'no statute' position in the days leading up to publication, Dave is refusing to back up regulation of the press by legislation. Apparently, it would be "too complex", it would be a lever by which future unscrupulous politicians could force censorship on the press and, of course, a regulatory body backed by statute would end 300 years of free speech and turn Britain overnight into a Stalinist hellhole, like the brutal dictatorships of Ireland and Denmark.

And so Dave will be immediately meeting with the other party leaders to look at ways of getting the press to sign up to his preferred "independent, self-regulating authority" (a non-sequitor if there ever was one). Sadly for Dave, his attempt to kick this embarrassing and uncomfortable episode into the long grass is unlikely to succeed. EdM's reply in the House (statement) makes it clear that Labour is for the full implementation of Leveson's recommendations. Interestingly, Cleggy has retrieved his spine from down the back of the Coalition sofa and backs an independent regulatory body underpinned by statute. With Labour and the LibDems, sundry Tories, and the small parties arrayed against Dave, if EdM forces a vote he could well be hit with a double whammy of a split party and Coalition, and a humiliating defeat at the hands of his increasingly prime ministerial-looking opponent.

As a whole, Leveson did not go far enough. While welcome, the disgusting behaviour of the press is not an outcome of poisonous newsrooms nor an amoral culture that afflicts journalism. They are symptoms of a deeper morbidity - the concentration of media ownership. As the press have become increasingly beholden to the profit-taking proclivities of their respective barons, business models have emphasised downsizing and churnalism. It's easier, and cheaper, to print made up scare stories about that week's folk devil, or regurgitate celebrity gossip pulled from the internet. The press, except on very rare occasions, will not invest time in long-term investigations of the rich and the powerful because, according to their model, easy cash can me made from littering your paper with that Friday's wardrobe malfunctions. It is also no coincidence that press standards have been on the slide since the effective breaking of union power in the newsroom.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 06:43:15 PM EST

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