The voice of charities and campaign groups is missing at the Leveson Inquiry

June 18, 2012

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An analysis by the Trust of submissions of evidence to the Leveson Inquiry demonstrates that, to date, the Inquiry has been dominated by evidence from the media industry and representatives from law enforcement. The Trust says, while this input is both essential and welcome, the voice of charities and campaign groups also must be heard.

Of the 458 submissions of evidence, around 130 have been provided by those who defined themselves as journalists, while more than 60 submissions have come from those who are involved in law enforcement, such as representatives from police authorities, the Association of Chief Police Officers, and the Police Federation of England and Wales. More than 35 submissions have been received from those either run or own media organisations or newspaper titles.

In contrast, only around 30 submissions of evidence have been received from those who are registered as charities and campaign groups. This analysis indicates that charities and campaign groups are not at present engaged effectively with the Inquiry and that there is a danger that their voice will not be heard when Lord Justice Leveson formulates recommendations from the Inquiry.

The Carnegie UK Trust believes that charities and campaign groups are an essential component of a flourishing democracy, and that they have energy, expertise, knowledge and breadth of opinion and perspectives to offer. Their input into the debate about press regulation is important to finding a workable set of solutions that secures the correct balance between maximising press freedom while providing the level of scrutiny and protection that is required.

Carnegie UK Trust Chief Executive, Martyn Evans, says that the limited input of charities and campaign groups into the Inquiry about how any new press regulation system might be configured has contributed to the rather narrow, and at times polarised, debate:

“A dichotomy exists between those who favour tough new regulations to control press behaviour and those who argue that any tightening of the system will impinge upon the freedom of the press and its ability to monitor, investigate and scrutinise those who hold positions of power. We believe that charities and campaign groups have a valuable role to play in widening the parameters of this debate. They must make their voice heard.”

Carnegie UK Trust Trustee and Past Chairman of the Society of Editors (Scotland), Bill Livingstone, adds that he is surprised at this low level of engagement by these groups:

“The debate about the future of our media industry needs to hear from as many different groups as possible who have an interest in media ethics and the critical relationship between news media, civil society and a healthy democracy. The active engagement of charities and campaign groups, as well as other civil society stakeholders, is key to the quest to secure a sustainable balance between a free press and a responsible press.”

The Leveson Inquiry will be receiving written evidence until Sunday 15 July, and the Carnegie UK Trust is encouraging charities to submit their views ahead of this deadline.

For Carnegie Fellow Blair Jenkins’ publication Better Journalism in the Digital Age please click here.

Please click here for the Carnegie UK Trust’s discussion paper Regulation of the Press: Nine Key Questions for Civil Society.