By Ruth Howells, on 17 February 2012
The focus of the seventh UCL Laws/Bindmans debate, held on 8 February, would have struggled to be more topical against the backdrop of the ongoing Leveson Inquiry.
The Inquiry was set up to look at the practices and ethics of the press in the wake of Summer 2011’s phone-hacking scandal, which sent shockwaves through the UK media – the full repercussions of which are yet to play out.
Tessa Jowell, Labour MP and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, joined Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust, and Gill Phillips, Director of Editorial Legal Services at the Guardian. The fourth panel member was Max Mosley, former motorsport figure and focus of one of the most famous recent examples of a media-driven sex life exposé.
An audience of lawyers, law students and journalists gathered to hear what the panel had to say about the issues surrounding self or statutory regulation of the press, how the current system might be reformed and whether regulation is possible or desirable.
We’ve been here before
Lord Justice Leveson is not the first to have looked in detail at these issues. In the early 90s, the Calcuttt committee grappled with the topic, with David Mellor saying at the time that the press were “drinking in the last chance saloon.”
Some might say that they’re still there, steadfastly propping up the bar – resistant to any change and knowing that parliament will be unwilling to legislate when they risk association with oppressive regimes – especially when they have themselves been in the pockets of the media barons.