Stop the Rot

5 March 2003 – The PressWise Trust, represented by Chairman Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC and Director Mike Jempson, gave evidence before the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into privacy and media intrusion on Tuesday, 4 March. The committee hearings began on 25 February.

Having worked to protect members of the public from media misbehaviour for the past 10 years, the Trust naturally welcomes this latest inquiry. In preparation for the hearing, a 60-page dossier, 25,000 words long, has been prepared for members of the committee, containing (for their information only) a multitude of personal experience from PressWise clients.

Among the points the PressWise team made:

* The media industries have a pervasive influence of people’s lives and public discourse, but as they grow and ownership transfers to trans-national conglomerates and competition increases they become less accountable to listeners, readers and viewers.

* In a highly competitive market media invasion of privacy has become an intractable and inexorable process.

* It is a moot point whether public expectations of journalism have been driven down by market forces or whether public appetites have been sharpened by the growth of a ‘confessional culture’ typified by ‘reality TV’ over the last ten years.

* It is incontrovertible that many individuals, with little knowledge of media processes, get caught in the spotlight and suffer harm and have inadequate remedies in law or via the regulatory systems.

* What is at issue is public confidence in journalists to inform them accurately about current events and to defend their rights against abuses of power, rather than to abuse their trust by colluding in cynical marketing ploys that put profits ahead of human values.

* The Human Rights Act can only be an effective champion of citizens’ rights if it is supplemented by the creation of a Human Rights Commission as a guarantor for the public that serious abuses of power by public authorities and the media can be investigated swiftly and dispassionately and at little cost to the individual.

* Codes and guidelines for media professionals should be reviewed regularly, explained and made public.

* Reviews should take into account the views of working journalists and the expectations of the general public.

* Media literacy would be much improved if there were some form of media-wide public consultation about the codes, and more opportunities for the public and media professionals to discuss.

The full text of the PressWise submission can be found here.

(Bulletin No 79)

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