Leveson: Wrong Answer to the Wrong Question 192


I am with David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch in one respect on the Leveson report. British mainstream politicians are still more repulsive and self-seeking than the British mainstream media, and state regulation of the media, however modulated, is not good.

But Leveson was answering the wrong question.

The real problem is the ownership structure of UK mainstream media. Newspapers and broadcasters function as the propaganda tool of vast and intertwined corporate interests, shaping public opinion to the benefit of those corporate interests and ensuring popular support for politicians prepared to be complicit with those interests.

The only answer to this is to break up the corporate structure of the UK mainstream media. The legislative framework to do this is not difficult. What needs to be changed are the criteria. I would propose something like this; no organisation, state or private, should be allowed effective control of more than 20% of the national or regional newspaper market or the television market, or more than 15% of those combined markets.

The extraordinary thing is that Leveson specifically states that plurality issues do fall within his terms of reference, and that he must address them. He then completely fails to address them. At pages 29-30 of the executive summary of his report, he acknowledges that the current situation is unsatisfactory but makes no recommendations for change, only urging “Greater transparency on decision making on mergers”.

Leveson has provided us with the distraction of an argument about a regulatory body to look primarily at invasion of privacy abuse. The important factor for Leveson is not what Cameron or Clegg think of that idea. It is what Murdoch and the media corporations think of it, and the truth is that they could live with it, after huffing and puffing, because it would have zero effect on theirfinancial bottom line.

But what Leveson has totally failed to do – and doubtless never had the slightest intention of doing – was anything that hurts the corporate financial interests. Leveson’s failure seriously to address the question of media ownership and its use in the nexus of commercial and political interests is itself an appalling act of establishment collusion. Very successfully so – in all the “debate” going on about the regulatory body, the media ownership question has completely vanished. Brilliant.


192 thoughts on “Leveson: Wrong Answer to the Wrong Question

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  • Heretic

    When a report is over 2,000 pages you know that it is not going to be saying anything of substance, which is the whole point – to exonerate the guilty and allow the nation to “move on” to the next jaw-dropping example of political corruption and public incompetence coupled with an incurious media and inactive police force.

    If existing laws were observed then we would not need endless inquiries and investigations to find out “what went wrong”. What has gone wrong is perfectly self-evident.

  • Maxter

    The only people that justly desire the reins of power be pulled in are those without it! Surprise surprise!

  • John Goss

    One big problem, as I see it, relates to point 65 of the executive summary, where Leveson’s recommendations start. He calls for publishers to have a self-regulatory regime. This implies that publishers are scrupulous and have integrity. We have seen time and again that editors do not have a free hand to ‘publish and be damned’ as the saying used to go. They have to write what they fits in with the publishers’ policies. This goes right across the media. All outlets speak with the same voice. As Craig Murray pointed out the names of Anna Ardin, Sophia Wilen and Irmeli Krans cannot be mentioned in the MSM. In fairness there are no adequate recommendations Leveson can make because he is a tool of the establishment and he is not going to criticise the police (which he doesn’t) the law courts (who pay some of his salary) or the government (which pays the rest of his salary).

    The only way forward is for the public to listen to the lies but get their real news from reliable non MSM sources, like this blog and the Huff Post. Talking of which, how many people know of Don Siegelman. He is a former governor of Alabama. The rogue Karl Rove, who rigged the George W Bush false election, and called for Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden, got Siegelman stitched up and banged up. But where do you read stories like this. Not in MSM.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mimi-kennedy/don-siegelman_b_1851909.html

    There’s a petition in this report which every decent American should sign.

  • Jemand

    I think the internet and portable electronic readers (iPads etc) are slowly putting the nails in the coffins of the major newspapers. When very cheap high speed broadband makes its way into every home with smart tvs, the major broadcasters, including the BBC, and pay tv multicasters will go the same way. The ownership issue is very relevant but perhaps soon to be obviated or diminished by the march of technology.

    The current arrangement consists of very expensive infrastructure producing content to captive audiences. The internet, provided it remains relatively free, has eliminated the need for printing presses, distribution networks, brodcasting towers and their limited licencees, and private pay tv networks. With the liberation of readers and viewers from main stream media, the moguls will have little to offer politicians by way of favours and threats. But politicians will always want to control the message and without a cosy arrangement with a major news supplier who can deliver a captive audience, the message will be harder to contrive and push through to a naive audience.

    But we are also seeing the rise of ISPs as content providers, at least by offering special services to subscribers. Will they be the new MSM? Therefore it is absolutely essential that telecomms infrastructure is not allowed to be monopolised by content providers and restrictions placed on access by new providers.

  • Clark

    I’m not a normal person. When I’m in someone else’s home, I can tell if they’re normal people because if they are, the television is permanently on and there are newspapers lying around.

    Normal people want to know “what’s going on”, and to find out, they want some big entity to tell them. What they don’t want is to go and look for the information themselves. They don’t want to have to decide which issues to examine.

    Mainstream, corporate media is popular for the same reason that religions and political parties are popular.

  • English Knight

    CM – “Very successfully so – in all the “debate” going on about the regulatory body, the media ownership question has completely vanished. Brilliant.”

    SPOT ON, and so has Coulsons hacking of Gordon Brown (and other Labour leaders) in box info to Cameron prior to the General Election, what won it for the Cons. Enough to bring a government down, worrying enough for Rupert Mordecai to write-off a whole £200m asset,NOTW !

    [Mod/Jon: Posted as “Lurker”, in fact this is English Knight]

  • English Knight

    The very public Karl Rove hissy fit over Obomber lead in Ohio polls was in fact rage over the loss of the $50m price tag (paid out of his $380m super pac largesse) for rigging the digital vote that was clearly not being delivered by the “vendors”. Anonymous say the *vendors” made 105 unsuccessful attempts at the Anonymous revised password gate.

    [Mod/Jon: Posted as “Tid Bit”, in fact this is English Knight]

  • conjunction

    You say leveson has answered the wrong question, and he failed to address the question of ownership. I was also very surprised he was so soft on the police. Perhaps I misunderstood, but I had thought the police took a large number of payments for information.

    However you yourself do not address the issue of privacy abuse, except to say you think regulation is inappropriate. Then are we to put up with phonetapping and continual libel of totally innocent people?

    I agree Leveson’s idea seems clumsy. An alternative would be to shut down the entire tabloid press as far as I am concerned but I suppose some people would not like that. Something however needs to be done.

  • craig Post author

    Conjunction

    I think that – as Ms Rebekah Brooks imminent spell in the pokey shows – the laws are quite adequate to deal with almost all this behaviour. The problem was the wiliness of a corrupt police and CPS to enforce them.

  • Dick the Prick

    Is it wrong to kinda fancy Mizz Brooks? Hmm.. could do a specialist err… movie about her time in prison maybe. Brooks where the sun don’t shine, Brooks goes down, Brooks bound up, Brooks in kinky klinky… errr…I shall obtain my coat, taxi!

  • Mary

    Why is Lord Hunt taking the lead here? Who cares what he, the chair of the failed Press Complaints Commission, thinks. There are more than enough Hunts around than are good for us anyway.

    Leveson: Lord Hunt calls for press regulator within months
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20564043

  • nevermind

    I agree with you that its too important to get wrong, but to effing waste these amounts of money on hot air and trying to justify it to those who pay for these ‘jolly good fun inquiries’ only shows how removed you are from public opinion.

    The law to prosecute those who have failed to live up to self regulation has existed, in perpetual darkness in a closed cupboard, and despite the theatrical hand wringing now, it has not been applied. Self regulation has failed and Cameron is a wimp for calling this inquiry ‘utterly mad’ his implicit conclusions.

    I do not agree that ownership should matter, these rags sell here and are accountable here.

    My only reservations is with those who will oversee the regulations as proposed, their probity and allegiances to party politics must not get in the way.

    My suggestions to 38degrees was, to implement ‘trying to be accountable’ adopting Levensons full recommendation for a period of ten years, followed by an Independent review, ideally not by the body that oversees the adherence. After that, either implement it or discard it.

    Further OFSCUM should be paid for by the media barons, not those taxpayers who are wronged, slurred and falsely accused on an almost daily basis.

  • Jemand

    @Clark

    I think you’re saying that people want their news to be easy – like their politics, religion and football team – ie prepackaged, recognisable branding, popular among their self-identified demographic, just add water. That’s true to some extent but it ignores the many of us who use smart devices and apps, and seek to try new and different experiences, including news sources. For others, the news they watch is from sources that tell them what they want to hear – Israel is Evil, Arabs are Evil, Capitalism is Evil, Bill Gates is Evil, Lindsay Lohan is Evil. They look for a source that reinforces their views about the world, because that’s easy, it’s comforting. It then comes down to what people want from their “news” – to be entertained, comforted or informed.

  • Arbed

    @ Tidbit 2.08pm

    “… Karl Rove hissy fit over… rigging the digital vote that was clearly not being delivered by the “vendors”. Anonymous say the *vendors” made 105 unsuccessful attempts at the Anonymous revised password gate.”

    How’s it go again? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    Bravo, Anonymous! Sterling work there.

  • guano

    Any Questions. Dame P. N-J. gives dark warning in plummy threatening tones, that if people want to regulate newspapers they should prepare themselves for being regulated on the net.
    Fact is, no political mind in the universe can resist the secret and forbidden power of spying on others. The problem lies in people\s iman/faith. A difficult thing to regulate through government especially when government itself is the keenest of spiers and controllers of people through spying. Lie, Lie, and keep on lying until they are convinced you are telling the truth.
    An utterly cynical piece of camouflage by the lion and his unicorn Cameron and Clegg. Leveson spiked in both senses of the word. Was there a time when only dictators and communists retained power through spying? Cameron is blackmailed up to his eyeballs by the press and its owners and interests. Therefore freedom must be compulsory for all.

  • DUNO

    I must say I thought a similar thing, I did not totally get the bit where he said the often victim’s don’t know therefore there needs to be another body. Surly if the police really wanted to look they could find out if they are hacking phones etc, hard to believe they did not know. I think it seems in many cases it’s more that people don’t come forward because they know these are powerful forces.

    I find it hard to endorse a justice system I don’t believe in, i’e based on punishment, but it still does provides a useful function of bringing to account I guess.

    The problem is the massive level of corruption in all these institutions, it’s you scratch my back i’ll scratch yours. It’s just a job, and when that’s what is important about it that is the bottom line. Keeping it and getting on. Or a society full of self serving imorral bastards depending on how you see it.

    I do see this as a bit of a waste, because again we see it’s about handing powers to select groups, not encouraging society to do the job. It’s us who needs to keep on top of there nasty secret business, in the government, press and police.

    I mean come on, It was a LORD enquiry, a public enquiry would have come up with something like as you said Craig, Corporate media, wrong reasons, Don’t watch or support it.

    IMO If you don’t want to be complicit stop paying your TV licence and don’t watch it, don’t read corporate press and maybe try and support independent and less bloated organisations. Another factor is the money these people have and the power that buys them, and the influence, the circles they all move in etc.

    All of this is totally missed as we should expect, i’m sure a real public enquiry would have decided to get rid of lords while were at, style of thing.

    People don’t see the damage this class system does. The power it gives to the few. And it’s not us that are the real issue, we don’t have the power to hide many ill’s as they do. We have to get on with the neighbours and largely still live with each-other. These people don’t have to, they can pick and choose where they go and who they see and often stand behind the curtain of law in ways we never could.

    You know, society is painted as shit flowing up from the bottom and we need all these institutions and power to set them straight. But historically it mostly comes from these places, It’s the powerful. And addressing this issue is absolutely critical. More than anything I think this is an ideology we must fight, more than the type of system you believe in it’s this idea that society should be profoundly weighted in terms of power to a tiny minority.

    And notice, that’s what they suggest, give a tiny minority some powers to do something. You can’t fix it within a fucked society unless your willing to support real grass roots influence. And that would really change things, they defiantly don’t want it.

    It’s like a country full of dinosaurs, ‘Nuke the Afghan border’ or maybe ‘bring me a child of 14’ anything goes in these people strange heads. ‘Make sure that President does not get elected, we want to stick it to that ‘rapist’ Assange.’

    What utter utter twistedness.

    Let’s hope the centre can’t hold for all the victim’s of there sick imaginings of domination and subjection.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    “IMO If you don’t want to be complicit stop paying your TV licence and don’t watch it, don’t read corporate press and maybe try and support independent and less bloated organisations. Another factor is the money these people have and the power that buys them, and the influence, the circles they all move in etc.”

    Although I agree with your overall point, I think the above suggestion is reflexive and counter-productive. You may have meant, ‘stop putting trust in that information’; and that would be more instructive. If you sector information into the wastebin without consideration, it works to disadvantage. I could expand but perhaps a quote would suffice;

    “Keep your friends close; enemies closer”

  • nevermind

    If Julian Assange means what he says, he should also encourage people to encrypt their emails and, no doubt it is possible somehow, encourage websites to do the same.

    Clark has been periodically going on about encryption and we both are exchanging encrypted emails, there’s no reasons to make it easy for these control freaks, is there?

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Nevermind; I’ve a bit of Islamic philosophy I employ; “It is written…”

    If a bullet has my name on it, there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

  • nevermind

    Ben, off course not, but you can scream loud if it fails to hit the right spot, or ensure that you take a few of them with you.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Nevermind; Or, you can be the outlier who draws attention. I get lost in the crowd, and there is safety in numbers. When I use an anonymizer, I am easily seen because the ip in ‘unknown’. Do I have something to hide? No, but it could appear so.

  • Hannibal

    KISS – no company can own more than one national newspaper, or have any cross ownership of television, radio, newspaper

  • DUNO

    Thanks Ben, I see your point. As a centre of power I guess it’s not about just ignoring them, but I also think these people thrive on the attention.

    Maybe it depends who is looking also, and why. I think for many people who don’t have the time for research or who don’t do activism it’s more confusing than enlightening. And I would consider further the issue of actually paying into these corporations…

    I guess I was also looking at what would be a good public strategy if it was a real public enquiery. Yes it’s fine for us to know what’s going on deeper but there are many who still influence the situation who are not going to become participants, and for those people more I think an enquiry would actually recommend people found other media.

    Many are essentially about getting your view. And while I think it’s good for some to pay close attention we need to recognize things most people can do to make a diffidence.

    I would have said it’s up to you, the public, change your gaze. You’ll fell a lot better not having these authoritarian types shoving ‘truth’ in your face all day, save money, and help really hold them to account.

    It would have been devastating, like saying the truth which is we have systemic corruption through concentrations of wealth and power that cuts right though these institutions. And it would have said it can’t be fixed much without radical change in ownership, a press that’s run for and by the public, that functions in a different arena.

    Democracy Now I find pretty good, and it’s not like the UK has any real independence atm so you may as well find out what’s going on there as it’s critical to what’s going on here anyway.

    Somehow I don’t think UK column will reach very far in it’s current form but i’m glad to have come across it, front-line club can be good, and very bad imo. Again though it’s ok for us to pick a dozen, and study history, but there is nothing strong enough to be something better most people can turn to.

    I was going to say we do have lots of good journalists, but really I think we actually have cult of celebrity ‘good journalists’ who never get most of there stuff seen and are used by these corporations, and they like it. They don’t have to do any of the real nasty and hard stuff and there owners don’t want them to, nor the government. But as agents of change, in getting to hard truth’s you’d have to say there flipin useless..

    Just look at the Palestine coverage of late. And it’s not lost on me that a devout Jew is heading an enquiry into press conduct at this time. One that seems to be an abject failure to do anything that will mean anything.

    I’m sure it’s just coincidence.

  • Roderick Russell

    Yes, Leveson was answering the wrong question. Who was it said “a Spy in every newsroom”. And then there is the now proven existence of I/Ops, that MI6 unit whose purpose is to manipulate the press. How can a democracy operate where the voters pay taxes to fund a spy agency whose job is to manipulate the press and keep the truth from them. Once a Government agency starts manipulating journalists – and journals – your freedom is gone since you don’t know which articles you are reading are honest reporting and which are propoganda manipulated by the security/intelligence apparatus.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    “I would have said it’s up to you, the public, change your gaze. You’ll fell a lot better not having these authoritarian types shoving ‘truth’ in your face all day, save money, and help really hold them to account”

    Indeed, DUNO. It’s not without reason the masses are referred to as ‘sheeple’. They are either too busy to vet the data, or too lazy. The forces for getting the truth out have always been in the minority, and yes, there are good journos, but again, with minority status.

    Truly if a majority of viewers/readers called the Media on their crap, market forces would intervene.

    But, that’s not gonna happen under current economic stresses. Part of the issue is the underclasses are working two jobs, or more. Time is at a premium, and that’s part of the strategy.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    The poor and the financially struggling are essential to the continuation of the power of Authoritarianism.

    “I can always hire half the working class to kill the other half—-Jay Gould

    “The only reason the rich keep the poor around is to scare the crap out of the middle class and keep them going to work” George Carlin.

  • Mary

    I did not know he was ‘devout’. Also a privy councillor.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Leveson

    He attended the same school as Lord Hunt of Press Complaints Commission fame, Liverpool College.

    {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_College}

    Hunt is seven years older than Leveson and is presumably Jewish as he is the Hon Vice President of the Holocaust Education Trust. The HET send school children to visit Auschwitz amongst other activities. Their income is over £2m. £1.8m comes from the government via the Dept for Education and Skills. See accounts. Page 13
    {http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends92/0001092892_ac_20110331_e_c.pdf}

    {http://www.het.org.uk/index.php/staff-and-trustees}

    From their website

    Holocaust education in the UK

    The Holocaust is today part of every child’s formal education in England. The principal way in which children will learn about the Holocaust is through the National Curriculum for History.

    The National Curriculum

    In England, by law children are to be taught about the Holocaust as part of the Key Stage 3 History curriculum. This usually occurs in Year 9 (age 13-14). While academy schools do not have to follow this syllabus, it is assumed that they will deliver Holocaust education as part of a “balanced and broadly based” curriculum. Similarly, although independent schools are not obliged to deliver the National Curriculum, many in fact do.

    Although there is no formal requirement for Holocaust education in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, participation in the Trust’s Outreach programme and Lessons from Auschwitz project as well as programmes sponsored by other organisations suggests that the Holocaust is widely taught nonetheless.

  • Clark

    It’s really quite amusing to see the outrage in the corporate-controlled “news” media, warning us sheeple about the dangers of government control over that media. It’s a very similar distraction as the false “arguments” between the major political parties; an internal power struggle that fails to benefit the public whichever way it plays out.

    Assange, in the article linked to above, is right; the Internet gives us much greater freedom of communication and news sources, but at the cost of being spied upon by the corporate / government system to an unprecedented extent. Truly total surveillance:

    http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-09-17-n72.html

    Ha! Subversion of the Internet in practice. A few weeks ago I located the article above by a Google search on the word “Scroogled”; the Cory Doctorow article appeared at the top of Google’s search results, with loads of re-posts of the same article below. Since then, Microsoft have appropriated the word to denigrate Google versus their own Bing search engine. Try searching on “Scroogled” now; Cory Doctorow’s article has been relegated to the fifth page of results.

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