Who reading this has seen Kate Middleton’s bare chest? I haven’t, but that was only because I chose not to. The same goes with the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Neither of these two items were published in the mainstream media but were widely available.
Having uniformed statutory regulation of any creative output will soon be impossible because technology give us the power to choose how we consume. As Clay Shirky puts it:
“A printed paper was a bundle. A reader who wanted only sports and stock tables bought the same paper as a reader who wanted local and national politics… Online that bundle is torn apart, every day, by users who forward each other individual URLs, without regard to front pages…”
I don’t read a newspaper anymore. I pick and choose articles from a variety of sources, mainly on recommendations of those I follow on Twitter. At most I may follow a particular writer but the days of me speculatively visiting a website no-longer exist. As bandwidth improves, and the TV continues to evolve into a living room computer, the same pattern will appear in television. The box-set culture is already about being able to watched preferred shows at the pace you want.
It is hard to figure out why politicians and celebrities are pushing so hard for statutory regulation, when the criminal behaviour we saw in phone hacking is already illegal. Paul Staines speculates that:
“the British left has long believed that a major obstacle to achieving socialist utopia is the existence of a popular center-right British press that appeals to the prejudices of the working classes and convinces them to vote Tory.”
If this is true the left needs to get itself a new bogey man. Neither the Sun, nor any other newspaper, will have “won it” in the future. The Conservatives electoral record in working class areas over the last 20 years shows you that such views are retro-paranoia.
Standards are important. Those who believe that the best way to be a part of a respected trade is to form as profession are rightly free to do so. But you can’t make digital news providers, include the website of established publicans, sign up to a system when they can so easily be based off shore. An unintended negative consequence of such a shift will be to legitimise rumour further as more and more people follow Phillip Schofield’s lead and regularly search the internet for the “real news”.
By the time any of Leveson’s recommendations become law they will already be out of date.