The rows about press regulation don’t challenge the cosy links at the top, says Simon Basketter
A report into media hacking of phones won’t report this week. Instead, after 16 months, 86 days of public hearings and 474 witnesses, the Leveson Inquiry into the “culture, practice and ethics of the press” will report on Thursday.
But the bit of the inquiry into “unlawful practices within News International and other newspapers” simply hasn’t happened and may never happen.
This is Part II—described by Lord Justice Leveson as the “who-did-what-to-whom” bit. That won’t happen until all criminal proceedings relating to phone hacking and bribery charges have concluded.
People such as David Cameron’s friend and News International executive Rebekah Brooks and former Tory spin doctor Andy Coulson won’t go to trial until September next year.
Instead the report will examine relations between the press, police and politicians in general terms. That has been enough to see various press barons, and the tax avoiding offshore trusts that own newspapers, hawking proposals for new types of self regulation.
They can’t agree on what form that should take. And both Labour and the Tories are split on the question of press regulation. Some would like to control the press more—others simply do what the press tells them to do.
Socialist Worker is against press regulation, not because we believe in the right of powerful media groups to act any way they see fit. Rather we believe that the state should not be in control of the press.
The scandals have so far revealed the cosy and corrupt relationship between the media, politicians and the cops. That is an argument for making those relationships weaker, not stronger.
Hypocrites in the corporate media are happy to peddle the lies and distortions of the establishment while claiming to be on the side of ordinary people. But as the establishment frays at the edges it is not a matter of tightening or loosening regulation with an ombudsman or a new quango.
Rather we need to confront the real power relations in our society. Cameron and others lied, or forgot, about how many meetings they had with Rupert Murdoch and his relatives. Senior journalists and police rotate on a rotten merry-go-round, fighting for and granting access and jobs.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up to calm the crisis over the phone hacking scandal. It has partially fulfilled that purpose. The polite questioning of the various members of the establishment about a wealth of detail was as dull as it was complex.
But it has also kept the sore of corruption open. And it is the fear of the extent of their corruption being exposed that unites the establishment.