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Leveson must use the McCann test if he is to curb Richard Desmond's papers

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Leveson must use the McCann test if he is to curb Richard Desmond's papers

Post by Gillyspot on 16.01.12 6:53

From the Guardian Sunday 15th January 2012 by Dan Sabbagh

"Say what you like about Richard Desmond, but in a week of uncommonly sharp suits and unexpectedly refined voices, Lord Justice Leveson got the real deal from the owner of the Express and Star newspapers, as he conceded he didn't understand ethics, voiced hatred of Paul Dacre, and proposed replacing the Press Complaints Commission with his own "RCD committee" (a play on his initials) of cronies. This is how Desmond thinks – a man convinced of his outsider status, who is instinctive not intellectual, and driven by a desire to make money and prove his critics wrong. But while Leveson saw the truth, he also saw the problem – how reluctant Desmond is to return to a revamped PCC, and how unclear it is what, if anything, would satisfy him.

Don't doubt then that Desmond's testimony, for all the entertaining sideswipes at the Mail, was a disaster. What did he think he was doing going before a public inquiry, offering gags as solutions, and being so dismissive of that oh-so-passé notion, ethics? So it is tempting to give up. Let the publishers that care set up their own body with improved mediation and regulation, and let Desmond's newspapers bear the brunt of the criminal law.

Leveson looked as if he was keen on that option, as Desmond's testimony ended abruptly with no questioning from the presiding judge. Even Sheryl Gascoigne got closing questions; it is normally the point where he likes to test a hypothesis. But while most of us need not worry too much about Desmond, this is not an option for the judge.

Leveson's problem is the McCann test. Gerry and Kate McCann were repeatedly libelled by the Desmond titles, and made the point before the judge (who showed he valued them by inviting them to give evidence) that nobody lost their job when the publisher agreed to pay out £550,000 and issue four front page apologies, as it admitted it was wrong to speculate, with no supporting evidence, that the couple had killed their daughter.

Leveson cannot credibly propose a reformed PCC that won't cover Desmond – because the McCanns won't be impressed by a system that leaves the possibility of something similar happening again.

This is not to say that Desmond is entirely wrong. He is right to criticise the PCC as a club too often chaired by Tory grandees, and to question whether serving editors should be involved, sitting in judgment on their rivals. He is right, too, to be upbeat about Ofcom, which does not suppress investigative journalism, as the authorities in Turkey (who hated the Duchess of York's ITV film about orphanages) might like to. But it is bizarre to suggest that the PCC, an organisation with no power of prior restraint, should have somehow intervened to save the Express and Star titles from themselves. Under self-regulation it is essentially the newspapers' job, after all.

Two options remain as a result of his intransigence. There's the much-hyped carrot, where club members keep the VAT reduction and membership of sales audit bodies, and perhaps benefit from access to cheaper mediation and lower libel payouts. Except even 20% VAT on a 30p Daily Star is an affordable 6p. There are ways of publishing audited sales numbers without being part of the ABC – the Times and Sunday Times publish independently audited figures for paywall subscribers. And it is not obvious that a two-tier payout system can be fair on litigants, who should be compensated in proportion to the wrong suffered.

That only leaves one solution – a statutory requirement for all newspapers to be part of the PCC-plus. Owners of major titles cannot be allowed to opt out; either that, or there is no point having a revamped PCC at all.

So there we have it. If the above article is true Lord Leveson and his enquiry was deliberately biased towards the McCanns (an no one else).

"Leveson "showed he valued them by inviting them to give evidence"

Does the Guardian have evidence that Leveson invited them if so it was always the Kate & Gerry show?

Kate McCann "I know that what happened is not due to the fact of us leaving the children asleep. I know it happened under other circumstances"

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Re: Leveson must use the McCann test if he is to curb Richard Desmond's papers

Post by Gillyspot on 16.01.12 8:02

A little addition to show Leveson's impartiality (?) in which newspapers to abuse.

"In a separate development last night, it emerged that Lord Justice Leveson, who will chair the phone-hacking inquiry, twice attended events at the home of Matthew Freud, the husband of Elisabeth Murdoch.

The Cabinet Office confirmed that the men first met in February 2010 at an Oxford dinner where Mr Freud offered to work pro-bono on promoting public confidence in sentencing. They then met on two further occasions for evening events at Mr Freud's London home in July and January.

Government sources stressed there had been 50 or 60 other people present at the time."

So Matthew offered to work FREE for Leveson? Did he accept? - if so then surely that is wrong and along the lines of Sir Paul Stephenson accepting the free break in the heath retreat.

Funny this hasn't been covered more. Hmm

Kate McCann "I know that what happened is not due to the fact of us leaving the children asleep. I know it happened under other circumstances"

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Re: Leveson must use the McCann test if he is to curb Richard Desmond's papers

Post by zora-ann on 16.01.12 12:33

Tweet of Dan Sabbagh's last night:

Dan Sabbagh @dansabbagh 14h ·

Brilliant. The piece on why our libel laws need to change - from Nick Cohen at the Observer:

Rather ironic in light of his own article. As we all know, changing our libel laws and 'impressing the McCanns' would appear to be mutually exclusive. It might be better to suggest that the McCann Test should be applied to any change in our libel laws in light of David Pilditich's testimony, which seems to have passed everyone in the media by.

I'm baffled by the suggestion that someone at the Express should have lost their job over the McCann articles. Isn't £550,000 compensation enough? Did anyone lose their job over the Chris Jefferies reporting for example?

It would be interesting to know whether Leveson invited the McCanns to apply for core participant status or whether Sabbagh means they were invited in response to their application. If it's the former then it absolutely stinks even more than we imagined.


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Re: Leveson must use the McCann test if he is to curb Richard Desmond's papers

Post by Ollie on 26.01.12 17:23

Have the McCanns been in the papers recently - apart from reporting when they appeared at the LI? I don't read the papers. Read on another forum something along the lines of the papers would have a field day reporting the theories put forward on this forum. I think the papers will have a field day with the McCanns if the SY review doesn't clear them of any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance. Desmond will get his 550k worth back in front page news on them, IMO he deliberately let the cat out the bag about other papers settling with the McCanns, the McCanns didn't want the public to know about that! Could be payback time soon for the papers.


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