Supposedly set up to curb the excesses of the scurrilous tabloids, Leveson increasingly resembles a soap opera for broadsheet readers than a public inquiry. Breathless reports of “flame-haired vixen” Rebekah Brooks, sinister French lobbyists and secret back-room meetings with the all-powerful villain Rupert Murdoch: it’s a cracking watch. Yet, voyeuristic thrill of reading the PM’s texts aside, little of genuine political substance is being learned. Murdoch is more canny businessman than the evil puppet-master, corrupting the body politic, that Leveson’s cheerleaders hoped to prove. The public are more interested in the recession than opportunistic politicians – who have authorised plenty of state snooping into citizens’ privacy in their time - grandstanding in their name. Sadly, when the show is over, we can’t turn the clock back to a time before law lords were invited in to blunt Britain’s famed free press.
David Bowden is special projects manager at the Institute of Ideas.
The Leveson Inquiry was established because things went badly wrong in British journalism – not just with hacking but in many other scandals where terrible lies were told, people’s rights were trashed and redress was denied. Part of the explanation was that powerful papers were too close to the very police and politicians who should have been holding them to account. Finding the truth about all this, and working out solutions, is not easy but Leveson is on course and on budget. Though some journalists hate the process, it is vital to restoring public trust in what they do. Those warnings that it endangers free expression are alarmist – nobody wants that and Leveson himself swears he won’t recommend anything on those lines. So let the man finish his job and, if the politicians don’t fudge it, Britain can have better journalism.
Brian Cathcart is professor of journalism at Kingston University and founder of Hacked Off.