The issue of freedom of the press is one where the ink will just not dry. I generally agree with Nick Cohen but on this one I fear he has lost the plot.
If left to its own devices and self policing, the media moguls will continue to govern the country (and I include the Guardian, BBC et al with the Murdochs in this). Think about it, ‘freedom of the press’ is a no negotiation mantra trotted out by an interesting alliance of left, right and centre. What this unholy alliance conveniently forgets is that the press has very little freedom. Whether it be pathetically going on bended knees to advertisers, PR agencies or think tanks (listen to Today on the radio each morning and count the number of reports from think tanks on the news slots), the press does not have as much ‘freedom’ as we like to think.
I rather like the idea of Big Brother poking its nose into the disgusting pig’s trough that is the UK media and spewing out the sh*t that poses for ‘responsible journalism’. But ‘hang on’ cry the hacks from the red tops, ‘if we’ve done something illegal, then Mr Plod and his mates will be feeling our collars’. Quite so, but for me it’s not enough to cower behind the safety of ‘free speech’ knowing that only the rich and famous will take legal action; the good folk who have no money and who have been named and shamed in the red tops and beyond, have no recourse to expensive lawyers.
I’m not well qualified to know if headlines like ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’ is in the public interest or if it falls within the boundaries of free speech. And I realise that regulation could be the start of a slippery slope that ends with a single newspaper called Pravda. But there has to be a middle ground, which curbs the enthusiasm of a press mob seemingly out of control. I hope that the cross-party agreement works, but I fear that the double edge sword called ‘freedom’ can draw a lot of blood.