The Commons will vote on Monday regarding the approval of a government press censure. I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to agree with the Tories.
Talk of an ‘independent’ oversight committee is Newspeak. There is no such thing. Even if the appointment process is diluted through several channels (OFCOM being the apparent vector of choice) it is still tax payer funded, it is still the government, it is still open to corrupting processes. It is an anathema to the concept of a free press, and a free press is the backbone of democracy.
I find the actions of the press that have led us to this point abominable, and I have a particular seething hatred for Newscorp. However, I disagree that a new legislative body is required to hold anyone accountable for criminal actions, be it bribery, slander, or unwarranted invasion of privacy. It is analogous to America’s fallacious need for Guantanamo Bay, both countries have Justice Systems. Such extra-judicial authority is only required if you are acting outside the normative bounds of law. The only function of such an organization (beyond devious government meddling) would be to stop gratuitously vile reporting, rather than illegal reporting.
The preservation of this vile revelry (despite its despicable character) is actually the further reason I cannot support a press censure. It is not wholly for the sake of gratuity that I support this abhorrent behavior, but for a point that no political party is promoting. A society gets the press it deserves, and the state of the press is itself a vital barometer of social priorities and values. If a paper lies to you, prints sensationalist nonsense, is exposed as doing so at the expense of the well being of innocent individuals involved, all to bring you a tragedy-porn story with no value to the public discourse, and you continue to buy that paper in the hopes of getting more of the same; that says a lot about you. If millions of people do that, that says a lot about society. We live in a democracy and this is vital information both because of its statistical value, but also because of the blatant way it is rubbed in society’s face.
This is not a press problem, this is a social problem. And this is the conversation that needs to be had; is being made blatantly clear by the press scandals; and is somehow being obnoxiously obfuscated. WE are the press censure and WE have failed. I will admit to being a fan of ‘Big Government’, but this goes too far and in the wrong area. The press is the government watchdog. We have to be the press censure because we ultimately have to be the government censure, and the press is what allows us to be informed citizens. The government cannot be allowed regulatory authority over its own regulator. Our ultimate failure at keeping the press in line displays the probable failure in our ability to keep the government in line. This exposes a dire threat to the democratic system and is not a warning function to be swept under the rug through government press censorship.