Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lord Leveson`s Legacy

During the recent inquiry into the murkier areas of press activity, Lord Leveson stressed that criticisms of the culture of the major titles did not apply to local papers which he praised for making a contribution to local life that is "truly without parallel." 

He might have added that many local papers have been at the forefront of popular campaigns to save treasured local amenities - libraries, coastguard stations and publicly-owned woodlands come to mind.

Clubs and societies of many types, shapes and sizes benefit from the publicity a local paper can provide.

It`s understandable, therefore, that the nation`s smaller, independent newspapers have reacted with anger on discovering that proposals to regulate the press wil apply to them just as much as to larger newspapers.

The Southern Daily Echo`s Ian Murray was one of the first to respond, and his comments are among the more memorable contributions to the debate ;

"We have neither hacked into phones nor deliberately set out to deceive, compromise nor vilify, and yet we will be caught in this expensive, debilitating new regime, thought up by politicians and lawyers to impress the voters, curry favour with celebrities and let themselves off the hook."

He`s kidding himself if he seriously believes that this "new regime" was created solely to "impress the voters" and to "curry favour with celebrities" and not to address serious concerns. Still, he has a point.

The Craven Herald waded into the debate enthusiastically, quoting Mr Murray at length and adding it`s own thoughts on the idea of independent arbitration panels ;

"On paper it sounds like a good idea. In practice it could cost local newspapers thousands of pounds to settle even minor disputes over stories.

Unlike the nationals, we don`t have large legal teams and pots of cash set aside for potential pay-outs. Any new cost we incurr inevitably leads to savings elsewhere."

Like the Southern Daily Echo, they get a bit carried away with a melodramatic sideswipe at "those who wish to shackle press freedom"  but their point that "a timid local press was never the intent of Leveson or these regulations" is a good one.

They might have added that increasingly smaller titles are either being swallowed up by large conglomerates or simply shutting up shop altogether.

 To my mind, the last thing we need is to stifle the few independent voices still left in medialand.

For those who take an interest in such things, the Suthern Daily Echo is at www.dailyecho.co.uk and the Craven Herald can be found at www.cravenherald.co.uk .

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