At first, when I considered Leveson and its implications, I was minded to take the view that regulation of the Press by an independent body was not only unwise but unwelcome and represented an erosion of free speech.
Yet, having listened to the views of the Prime Minister and of like-minded contributors on politicalbetting.com and elsewhere, I'm now minded to the view that some sort of regulation will be required and it's probably not a bad thing.
The problem is those advocating the status quo are more interested in maintaining the political advantage they enjoy than tackling the serious issues raised by Leveson. The Right enjoys the favour of a number of national newspapers and what that means is that right-wing opinions are often expressed and rarely challenged while opposing views are misrepresented, distorted and/or ridiculed.
In my previous post, I argued for greater plurality of opinion in newspapers and argued this on politicalbetting.com. Needless to say, some right-wing numpty called Gasman (or Gasbag) came on and claimed I was attacking free speech. Strange how the Right is determined to defend those things which give it such an advantage and the concentration of newspaper ownership in the hands of a very few right-wing individuals is a big part of it.
The Sun and the Mail are right-wing newspapers because the people owning them are of the Right and want to set a distinct agenda which favours conservative viewpoints, promotes them and argues for them. Unlike the BBC, whose Charter compels it to be balanced, newspapers are "free" to be as biased as they like.
Perhaps this is the area which we need to be addressed. Newspapers should be free to print whatever they like of course but they must perforce provide balanced coverage which means the equal presentation of divergent views. Some papers do this on some topics but most don't and simply use the print space to re-enforce their existing opinions or prejudices. The Sun uses insults and other perjorative terms to signal its view - anyone with whom it disagrees is introduced in a negative way which is immediately belittling.
We can't keep telling newspapers they "are in the last-chance saloon" without the threat of doing anything. Nor should we allow the one-sided perpetuation of a range of opinions and viewpoints with the opposing line given either no room or routinely ridiculed. I remain convinced that a truly free Press must, by definition, include a plurality of opinions. What we have currently is a distorted Press which overwhelmingly stands on one side of most debates.
It's time to take on the Press and challenge it. Defenders of the status quo claim they are standing up for "free speech" but what they mean is that they are standing up for the status quo. As always, you can't expect honesty from the Right but this time they're fooling no one. The victims of the Press know something has to be done - we owe them nothing less.