Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Mosley locks horns with former hack MP

Max Mosley has just been locked in a battle of will with Paul Farrelly MP during a meeting which continues as I write.

Farrelly, a former Independent and Observer hack, sits on the Culture Committee - looking into press standards and libel law.

Mosley… well, you know.

The argument centred on whether a newspaper should be legally obliged to give a person a fixed notice period before printing a damaging story about them.

When “pre-notification” happens the subject of the story has a chance to see a judge and get an injunction to stop the story being printed.

Mosley said papers should have to pre-notify one working day before printing and that a judge, rather than a newspaper editor, should always be the one to decide whether publication goes ahead.

If it was right and in the public interest to publish, he reasoned, the judge would see it that way and make the right decision.

Having worked in papers Farrelly, member for Newcastle under Lyme, knows that isn’t the case.

There are many instances where big business or individuals have used injunctions to stop legitimate investigative journalism that people have a right to know about.

Judges do not always make the right decision and if, in those cases, readers don’t find out the news that would have been printed it can have a detrimental affect on their lives.

That isn’t the case in Mosley’s instance of course – but (predictably as a hack myself) I say it’s vital we’re not robbed of the power to expose wrong doing.

3 comments:

Oldrightie said...

I say it’s vital we’re not robbed of the power to expose wrong doing.

It's a shame that "power" is not more frequently wielded.

Anonymous said...

Mosely's suggestion would bring an end to speculative muck raking that results in weeks of lurid stories followed by a mealey mouthed apology and laughable damages.

It no more robs the press of it's power than the current set up - you say stories have been sat on before. It's likely they always will be if the pockets are big enough.

This wouldn't be a problem if the British press upped it's game. It's been shit for a very long time, preferring to be craven, lazy and deal mostly in idle gossip.

Lobbydog said...

Anon - you're right and you're wrong.

- "Mosely's suggestion would bring an end to speculative muck..." right. Large parts of the press do focus on gossip and speculation and less on fact. If you mean getting rid of this, when you say "upping" our game, then I agree.
The problem is to do with commercial pressures and a changing industry. Good investigative journalism costs time and money and newspapers have neither in abundance. They are trheatened by compaetition from everywhere and need to sell copies.
Journalists however, at least the one's I know, certainly aren't lazy.
That means while there is speculative muck there is also good investigative journalism (ie peers for hire) and campaigning journalism.
One of the papers I write for is on the brink of winning a campaign to force a large energy company to stop "back-charging" its most vulnerable customers, for example. It's going to save hundreds from potential fuel poverty.

"It no more robs the power of the press..." wrong. I admit that it's hard to understand just how crucial this point is until you have seen it work from the inside.
Sometimes there are stories which are massively in the public interest, but which would be damaging to a particular company or individual - judges have given injunctions on these stories which stop them being printed - so the many suffer for the few.

I do think there needs to be some sort of new regulation, the PCC is inadequate. But I'm not sure what. Rant over.

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