Friday 12 October 2012


I confess it makes me queasy to see self-righteous celebs with so little to complain about cunningly lining up with severely-wronged members of the public like Milly Dowler’s family in the lobby group "Hacked Off". This powerful group is trying to make the UK government legislate to control the press - as the ill-conceived Leveson Enquiry may indeed recommend. I believe that the people who have most to lose from a controlled media are the weak and vulnerable, including people with a mental illness - and that it is worth the risk of some salacious or intrusive coverage of famous people to keep the media unfettered and able to point out abuses of people without a voice.

And anyway is the media so out of control in the UK? Let's examine the facts...

The criminal law is already available to deal with such things as phone-tapping and bribing police officers; our severe libel laws already go too far in enabling rich people to attack and impoverish journalists and publishers, even to the point of encouraging "libel tourism" where foreign litigants pursue their action in the UK because of the rich pickings to be had here and the burden of proof placed on the defendants; and the "right to privacy" under European law is looking increasingly dodgy, for example protecting from exposure powerful members of the establishment who use prostitutes (frequently vulnerable women and men with drug and mental health problems exploited by brutal pimps) - isn't the public entitled to judge the true worth of powerful people who demand our respect by reference to such reprehensible behaviour? Meanwhile the UK Government wholly controls the funding (and so can always call the shots) of our major broadcaster the BBC with its much-vaunted "unique system of funding" (i.e. you go to prison if you don't pay for it even if you never watch it but prefer other telly providers).

We all know that the media can behave badly, whether it's the old News of the World or indeed the Guardian (which after taking the moral high ground actually got the Dowler hacking story wrong too, illustrating that the truth is an elusive quarry). But do we seriously think that celebrities need more protection from media interest in their activities?

Jimmy Savile must be laughing in his unmarked grave.