Leveson will be irrelevant in a decade
A terrible libel was perpetrated on Lord Alistair McAlpine a few weeks ago. Who perpetrated that libel? Websites and social media. Was there an Editor to be held accountable: there was not. Of course, TV and press played a role in stoking the interest in the scandal (Newsnight most notably) but it was the internet that named the man.
As any fool knows, our news comes from a huge variety of sources these days and many of those sources are getting far better at doing the investigative work and the basic journalism that was once the preserve of the newspaper industry alone. The press were devastated, for example, by the fact that the biggest celebrity story of the noughties – the death of Michael Jackson – was broken on-line rather than in a newspaper.
This is why the newspaper industry is dying day-by-day to be replaced by a mass of blogs, social media and varied websites. Increasingly people are also turning to apps that aggregate their content for them effectively creating a bespoke, on-line newspaper that precisely suits their tastes and interests without the over-bearing involvement of an Editor.
So Leveson has proposed a regulatory system to keep an eye on the bosses of an industry that is becoming increasingly marginal. Who honestly thinks the printed newspaper or periodical will wield the same power and influence in a decade?
Indeed, it is easily possible that the printed newspaper could have entirely disappeared in the next two decades or so to be replaced entirely by websites. We may then end up with the very odd situation where news websites which were once attached to a printed newspaper are regulated by Leveson’s architecture but news websites which have only ever had a virtual presence are not.
This is not to say that news on the internet should be regulated necessarily but it is to say that Leveson, for all its enormous length, has addressed the questions of the past not the future.