17 September 2014

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Expenses story warning sparks new Leveson backlash

A government attempt to influence coverage of a Cabinet minister’s expenses claims has today sparked a fresh backlash against moves to subject the press to statutory regulation.

Earlier this week the Daily Telegraph revealed that culture secretary Maria Miller’s parents were living in her taxpayer-funded second home.

Now the paper has disclosed that Ms Miller’s special adviser, Joanna Hindley, warned the paper to consider the minister’s role in implementing the Leveson report on press regulation before running the story.

Several regional press editors have today taken to Twitter to argue that the episode demonstrates why politicians should have no role in regulating newspapers.

According to the Telegraph, Ms Hindley told its reporter:  “Maria has obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about.”

She also suggested that the reporter should discuss the issue with “people a little higher up your organisation”.

Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill tweeted a link to the Telegraph story accompanied by the words:  “Why politicians should not be allowed near press regulation.”

Mike Sassi, editor of Staffordshire daily The Sentinel, tweeted:  “Thank God for free press: Culture Sec uses role in press regulation as threat to (try to) stop report of her expenses.”

Former Northern Echo editor and Northcliffe Media editorial adviser Peter Sands posed the question:  “If we had statutory control would this woman’s expenses have been revealed?”

The episode comes as cross-party discussions continue on how to implement Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals for future regulation of the industry and whether this will require “statutory underpinning.”

In its story today, The Telegraph said it had “decided to disclose details of the private conversations amid widespread concern about the potential dangers of politicians being given a role in overseeing the regulation of the press.”

As secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Ms Miller would have the job of piloting any legislation introduced in the wake of the Leveson report through the Commons.

2 Comments

  1. Adrian

    It may be useful to have a link to the Leveson report – http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc1213/hc07/0779/0779.asp – which explains what is recommended to regulate the Press.

    Also, Hacked Off recommends a new system must…

    1) Be independent of government and parliament

    2) Be independent of the newspaper industry

    3) Be effective, with real powers of investigation and sanction

    4) Include all the main newspaper groups

    5) Pass the test of time, so that we aren’t back here in five or ten years

    6) Satisfy those who have experienced press abuses and have raised their voices to call for change

    To ensure that any industry self-regulatory body really meets the required standards, we believe it must itself be subject to periodic scrutiny by a separate body acting to protect the public. This second body must be robust and independent, and we believe that it needs to be backed by law.

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  2. richard meredith

    If ever good journos need to remind themselves why they do the job, let them just remember Ms Hindley’s remark to the DT in trying to warn them off exposing the er, irregular expenses being claimed by her boss, the er, Minister for Media and Culture … “I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about …” ‘Nuff said.

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