‘Leveson’s regulator could be “hijacked” by “sinister” pressure groups’
Lord Justice Leveson’s proposed press regulator could be “hijacked” by “sinister” pressure groups and lobbyists attempting to dictate the agenda of newspapers, senior MPs have warned.
By Steven Swinford 02 Dec 2012
The inquiry’s report, published last week, recommended that any new regulator should take complaints from people and organisations even if they are not directly involved or named in articles.
“If you get a situation where parties who have nothing to do with a story can make complaints you end up very quickly with sinister complaints which are politically motivated.
“It could lead to newspapers drowning in vexatious complaints rather than getting on with the job of investigating people.”
Under the present system, with some exceptions, only those affected personally by press misbehaviour or inaccuracy can air grievances with the Press Complaints Commission.
However, after lobbying by a number of groups Lord Justice Leveson recommended that “third party” groups should be able to complain.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said it wanted to stop the “sensationalising” of crime reports because it impeded the “rehabilitation of the perpetrators”.
A group called Engage said it wanted the new regulator to end the media’s “discriminatory” reporting against Muslims.
It subsequently emerged that members of the group included Islamist sympathisers who had repeatedly defended extremists.
Lord Justice Leveson’s report recommends that “a third party seeking to ensure accuracy of published information” should have the ability to complain because “representative bodies are likely to be far better placed to monitor, and complain about, inaccuracies.”
It is interesting that it was the Telegraph that ran this story, because one of the three examples of inaccurate and misleading disability benefits stories used by Leveson in his report was taken from the Telegraph. Coincidence? (See extract from the Leveson Report at the foot of this page)
Before entering Parliament Conor Burns was formerly associate director of the public affairs company Political Lobbying & Media Relations firm ‘PLMR‘. Precisely the sort of firm that is so important in ‘selling’ the Tories’ policies to the public utilising the tabloid and broader mass media. Hardly surprising that he should lead Tory opposition to Lord Leveson’s recommendations using the smokescreen of ‘Sinister’ pressure groups.
If the press regulator is in any danger of being “hijacked” by any “sinister” pressure group or lobbyist attempting to dictate the agenda of newspapers, it will be by none other than the Tory Party and Conor Burns himself as a former top lobbyist with a contact/address book longer than your arm!
As Ben Emmerson QC put it in an article for The Guardian last week:
‘The public knows what is going on here.
‘Most ordinary people believe that the real reason some members of the Conservative party, including the prime minister, have refused to accept the advice they asked Leveson to provide to the nation is not because of a pure concern about maintaining a free press to expose political wrongdoing in the public interest. It is because they rely on the newspaper editors to support their policies and endorse them at election time.
‘They want to carry on having tea together, laughing out loud in their private texts, going horse riding together. And they want to keep well-oiled the revolving door that sees prominent journalists from Murdoch owned newspapers becoming politicians and ministers. Gove is a case in point.’
We must not let them get away with it!
Cameron & Co. will use every trick in the book and every sleight of hand they know to ensure that the Leveson Report’s recommendations disappear or become as toothless as a paper tiger: The Leveson Report: Excellent News for Disabled People if Cameron and the Loony Right don’t smother it post-partum
Extract from the Leveson Report:
9.42 In relation to articles on disability and social welfare benefits, Full Fact provided numerous examples of misleading articles about the transition from the old Incapacity Benefit (IB) to the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
Each article appeared to support an agenda of exposing benefit frauds and getting the ‘work-shy’ back into work.
Full Fact provided many examples, all of which could have been included in this Report: by way of illustration only, three are referred to.
9.43 First, the Daily Mail published an article under the headline ‘400,000 ’were trying it on’ to get sickness benefits: 94% of incapacity benefits [sic] can work’.
In fact the report on which the article was based had reported that, in the transition from IB to ESA, only 6% of sickness benefit claimants had been assessed as unsuitable for any kind of work related activity.
However, many of the 94% of people described in the headline as “trying it on” and “fit for work” were those assessed as falling with the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ (WRAG) for the purposes of ESA; that is, they were eligible to claim ESA, considered unsuitable for immediate work, but potentially suitable for work in the future.
That included people undergoing chemotherapy or dialysis treatment, hospital in-patients, and those suffering from uncontrollable and life threatening diseases, none of whom would ordinarily be thought of as “trying it on” to claim sickness benefit.
9.44 Second, The Sun’s article, ‘Fit as a Fiddler: ‘Sick’ spongers could start work right now’ suggested 1.8 million people on sickness benefit were fit for work, or would be fit for work within “a few weeks”.
The 1.8 million “spongers” described in the headline included the same group as those described as “trying it on” by the Daily Mail: those placed in the WRAG who were assessed as unsuitable for immediate work, but potentially suitable for work in the future, including cancer patients, those with renal failure, hospital in-patients and others suffering from serious diseases.
The suggestion that this group would be fit for work within a few weeks had no factual basis.
9.45 Third, the Daily Telegraph published an article reporting ‘Nine out of 10 sickness benefit claimants are judged fit to work’. That ‘nine out of 10’ judged “fit to work” included not only those in the WRAG, but also those who had withdrawn their claims because their condition had improved between application and assessment.
In that context, it was not only misleading to refer to the ‘nine out of 10’ as “fit to work”, but it was also misleading to include within the figures the category of people who had withdrawn their claims and were therefore no longer “claimants”.467