Bob Satchwell Society Of Editors On Press Regulation

newspapers17:40 Wednesday 13th March 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Today the best way to implement the Leveson Report on Press Regulation was discussed by the leaders of the three main parties at Westminster. It’s understood there is still argument about the idea of giving a new regulatory authority a legal base. Let’s get more reaction now on this from Bob Satchwell, who’s Director of the Cambridge based Society of Editors. We spoke to him last week when he was honoured himself. Bob, welcome to the programme again.
BOB SATCHWELL: Hi. Good to talk.
CHRIS MANN: Now, the three party leaders talking about how the press can be, is it corralled, marshalled, controlled? What’s the word?
BOB SATCHWELL: Well, I hope it’s not controlled. Because that’s why we’re saying there’s a danger in all this. Because everyone keeps saying that they don’t want to control the press. But it sounds dangerously like that at times. And especially when you see some of the antics that have been going on in Westminster, where they’ve threatened to wreck other important legislation going through, just to try and slot in a little bit of press regulation. And that’s what we’re concerned about. The argument is about whether it needs some statutory involvement or not. And obviously, on our side of the fence, we say very much that it shouldn’t. They shouldn’t have any statutory involvement, because politicians may, if they’ve got a little wedge of statute in there, may in the future, in a perhaps less benign political climate than we have now, could start to control the press. And that’s the Prime Minister’s argument. He says it would be crossing a Rubicon, and it would. And as I say, where these people are finding now all sorts of ways to .. and in some cases threatening to wreck other legislation, it just shows you what some politicians might get up to, and what the dangers are.
CHRIS MANN: Well of course it’s a week when another politician has been jailed, and I understand the figures are, in the last year, there’s more British journalists been arrested than journalists in Syria and all these countries.
BOB SATCHWELL: Well quite. And many of them have been under suspicion now for a year, eighteen months. And on what appears to be pretty flimsy evidence, they’re arrested at six o’clock in the morning as though they were the Mafia or something, or drug dealers. And the police seem to be wreaking havoc in this.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Well there’s another side to the story of course, and the actor Hugh Grant, who has campaigned for the victims of phone hacking, says he feels more scandalised than he did when the apparent corruption of politicians and police officers was first exposed. (TAPE)
HUGH GRANT: Now to watch this Prime Minister in negotiations over a very mild enquiry, basically taking orders from the newspapers, when he’s a man who gave promises to victims, I am disgusted. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Hugh Grant. How do you react to that?
BOB SATCHWELL: Well I’m afraid Hugh Grant is totally misguided about this. The idea that politicians are taking orders from the newspapers is just absolute nonsense. For a start, all of the Leveson proposals have been accepted, and they’re being put in place. The industry wants to get on with this new tougher regulatory regime, and it just comes down in the end to a couple of points. People like Hugh Grant and the Hacked Off campaign are now even suggesting things which Leveson didn’t even say. If they really want to have a .. maintain a free press, but where there’s also some kind of regulation, and some kind of system whereby the public can complain, they should really examine what their own motives are.
CHRIS MANN: Bob Satchwell, thank you very much indeed for joining us there. The Director of the Cambridge based Society of Editors, Bob Satchwell there.