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Methods not principles needed for media regulation

by on 25 Jan, 2012

Ed Richards, CEO of Ofcom, got it wrong at the Oxford Media Convention today.  He said the regulatory authorities on the media had the same principles in mind.  But principles are not the issue.  There are plenty of codes which express the principles.

What matters is action and methods.

Desmond withdraws from PCC but no sanctions

There is little trust in the Press Complaints Commission now.  Publishers like Richard Desmond can withdraw without any sanctions and thumb their noses at it while giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry.

Ofcom can try to regulate TV, radio digital media and the consumers’ experience of telecoms.  But how can it complete its tasks as it faces a 28% budget cut, as Richards told the Convention?  Methods again, not principles.

I’ve been through the codes of practice, the guidelines for media, in the UK and internationally.  They are much the same.  The real question is where is the leverage to implement them?

Independence without democracy

People call for independent regulation: yet what is this independence but independence from democratically-controlled bodies.  Who voted for Richards, or the other “independent” regulators? The state, by which I mean the politicians, hate to get tangled in this mess as they might be seen to be interfering.  So they set up “independent” bodies who, because of their independence, do not have clout.

Breaking the law

Let’s be clear about the basis of the Leveson inquiry before we see any of its recommendations: it is an inquiry into action which broke the criminal and civil law.  Both the Telecommunication Act against interception (the criminal law) and the Human Rights Act on privacy (the civil law).

Leveson faces a huge challenge: ensure independence from the state regulating but also create effective methods.

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