RESEARCH TOOLS


Morning Hearing on Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lionel Barber , Chris Blackhurst , Manish Malhotra and Andrew Mullins gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(10.00 am) MS PATRY HOSKINS Good morning, sir. We have four witnesses this morning, and the first witness will be Mr Barber of the Financial Times. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. MR FRANKLIN LIONEL BARBER (affirmed) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much indeed. If you would just sit down and make yourself comfortable. You should find in front of you a bundle of tabbed documents and behind tab 3, you should find your witness statement. Could you please confirm your full name to the Inquiry?
A. Franklin Lionel Barber.
Q. You've provided us with this witness statement at tab 3. It's signed at the end, although redacted. Can you confirm that the contents of that statement are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. I can confirm that they are true to the best of my knowledge.
Q. Thank you very much. I'm going to ask you first of all about your career history. I'm looking at paragraph 5 of the statement. You explain that you've worked at the Financial Times for 26 years now, including serving for 16 years as foreign correspondent in Brussels and Washington. You're now obviously the editor of the Financial Times. Prior to your appointment as editor, you held the position of managing editor for the United States, based in New York. You also held executive positions as news editor and European editor in London. Prior to joining the FT, you worked on the Scotsman and on the Sunday Times. Then you detail at paragraph 5 a number of accolades. You were named young journalist of the year. You were the Laurence Stern fellow at the Washington Post, and you have lectured widely on economics, politician, national security and the media in the US and Europe. You served, between 2002 and 2005, on the advisory committee of Columbia University's School of Journalism and you're currently a member of the board of the New York-based International Centre for Journalism, which promotes quality journalism worldwide. That's all correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. I'm going to ask you about some of the policies in place at the Financial Times, the Financial Times code and so on, but before I do that, can I ask you this general question, Mr Barber: to what extent n your opinion, does the Financial Times' focus on financial journalism, the fact that it has little interest in the private lives of celebrities, mean that it is altogether easier to be an ethical title?
A. First, let me say that I'm extremely grateful to the Inquiry for calling me to contribute to this discussion, and on behalf of the Financial Times. It is true that we are a niche publication, albeit a global news organisation in print and online. It is also true that we focus on business and financial journalism, but we also write a lot about politics. We write about how politics, economics, finance connect in the global economy. But that doesn't mean to say that we're not interested in what one might describe as private lives. Just a couple of months ago, for example, we reported first that the chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group had stress problems and he had to step back and seek medical treatment. We thought that that was a legitimate story to pursue. We sourced it not one source but two sources minimum and we also thought that, given the bank's difficulties and the fact that this was of enormous interest to shareholders, that this deserved to be published, and we did publish and the story was true.
Q. Let's move on then to pick up some of the things you've just referred to. Let's start with paragraph 8 of your statement, which focuses on the Financial Times' code of practice. You explain that the Financial Times newspaper has its own editorial code of practice. Sorry, I'll wait until you have paragraph 8.
A. Yes.
Q. You exhibit a copy, and we'll look at it in a moment, but you explain that it incorporates by reference the PCC Editors' Code of Practice, and in fact goes beyond what's required by the PCC code on issues such as transparency and disclosure in the context of financial journalism. Can we look at the code itself? You'll find it in your exhibits. Your exhibits should be in the next tab, tab 4. You should find it LB1, the very first exhibit. Do you see that?
A. Tab 4. Yes.
Q. Can you explain, please, to the Inquiry why you say that it in fact goes beyond what is required by this PCC code and why the decision has been made to have a code of practice that does go beyond the PCC code?
A. I think the first paragraph of the Financial Times code of practice speaks for itself, and if I may read it it's short: "It is fundamental to the integrity and success of the Financial Times that it upholds the highest possible professional and ethical standards of journalism and is seen to do so." And the reason we set such a high bar is that our relationship with our readers and they are largely in business and finance, but not exclusively, and diplomacy and academia is one of trust. People have to be able to rely on the Financial Times for accurate information which is set in context, multiple sourced and that they can rely on it because they're making decisions, important decisions in their respective professions. I think it was Sir Gordon Newton, who was probably the finest editor of the Financial Times he served for 23 years in the immediate post-war period. He said that the Financial Times appeals to decision-makers in business, finance and public affairs all around the world. That's our audience. They need to be able to trust the information that we provide, and that is why we have a very stiff code of conduct, which goes beyond the PCC.
Q. All right. That answers my question as to why you have one. In what respects does it go further than the PCC code?
A. Well, if I could be more specific.
Q. Yes?
A. We obviously do have specific clauses which relate to financial holdings, shareholdings by journalists. First of all, they are obliged, under the Financial Times code of conduct, to disclose those holdings to a share register, the contents of which are known to the certainly the managing editor and editor. It's restricted, but they are obliged to disclose those shareholdings, and certainly they are not in any way able to trade in those shares if they're when they are covering sectors which related sectors. So in other words, we are making sure that we are not in any way conflicted or behaving unethically, and to trade in shares when you're actually covering a sector would be unethical conduct, and actually would be grounds for dismissal.
Q. Those are aspects of the code which deal with the particular area of journalism that the Financial Times is concerned with, but can we look, please, at the second page of the code of conduct, under the heading "Data Protection Act 1998 requirements". There also seems to be a section on data protection. Can you assist us with why the Financial Times considered it necessary to introduce this section into the code?
A. Well, first of all, there was a law called the Data Protection Act and Financial Times journalists do not break the law. We also feel it is important to behave in an honest, transparent fashion. That is why journalists pursuing stories on the Financial Times do not misrepresent themselves. They represent themselves as Financial Times journalists.
Q. All right. I think the question if I can rephrase it in this way: yes, there is a Data Protection Act. There's a requirement to comply with it. Why do the Financial Times feel it necessary to include relevant guidance on it within its code as opposed to just saying to journalists: "You must obey the law"?
A. Well, the Act was passed in 1998. Clearly, we have seen a number of stories which have come out in the public domain regarding phone hacking, and that would be one reason why we've included that particular section in our code of conduct.
Q. I understand. The code then goes on to set out the provisions of the PCC code. Do you see that? The question I have for you is this: it's true to say that your code of practice does go further than just the PCC code. It has some specific provisions relating to financial journalism. It has the data protection provisions. In your view, does the PCC code as it currently exists need amending to include this kind of provision or is it fit for purpose?
A. Well, I think that would be a matter for discussion between editors. My personal view is that the code needs to be enforced, the current code, before its substantially amended, and in the case of phone hacking it clearly wasn't enforced.
Q. All right.
A. And one of the parties did not represent themselves in an honest way when dealing with the PCC.
Q. So I understand your answer to be then that you're more worried about issues of enforcement than issues of amendment to the existing code?
A. I think the code is pretty robust but it needs to be enforced and it needs to be credible.
Q. I'll come on to ask you more about regulation in a moment. Sticking, though, with the code for the moment, you explain in your back to your witness statement, please, in the previous tab. You explain at paragraph 11 that you send reminders to your staff of the code at appropriate opportunities or appropriate times. You explain in paragraph 11 that, for example, in October 2010 a member of staff employed by Thomson Reuters resigned following alleged breaches of their code of conduct and you give the gist of what happened. But as a result, you say, you sent an email to FT editorial staff worldwide reminding them of their obligations under the FT code as financial journalists, for example, you say, to ensure that they do not make editorial decisions about shares in which they have an interest. You then attach a copy of the email at exhibit 5. Can we just look at that briefly. It's behind tab 4.
A. Where is this? Sorry, I'm having trouble oh yes, I've got it.
Q. If you look at the bottom right-hand corner, there'll be a number and it's 734.
A. Yes, I have it.
Q. Do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. It may appear on the screen?
A. Yes, no, I have it now.
Q. To paraphrase that, you explain what's just happened at Thomson Reuters and say: "To ensure that there can be no room for doubt over our conduct, we are now taking the step of requiring all members of staff to sign a form affirming that they have read and understood the code and have made or updated their entry in the Investment Register as laid out in the code and will continue to update the register as soon as their investment position changes." You attach a copy of the code, a compliance form and a link to the Investment Register and you say if there are any questions, please come back. Did you receive back to that email or any similar email any response from journalists saying, "No, I haven't complied with the code", or any expression of concern as a result of that email?
A. Nobody sent me an email saying they had not complied with the code.
Q. Or that there was any problem?
A. No. We needed a little bit of time to make sure that everybody did fill out the register and update their entry in the Investment Register, and I can now say that since that statement was issued to you, that we have and we have more than 600 journalists at the FT it's pretty well 99.9 per cent compliant. May I make a broader point?
Q. Of course.
A. The reason for sending out this email was that I felt very strongly that it was important that we uphold the highest standards and that we needed to make sure that we were doing so because in general the profession has to be a lot more open and transparent about how it's doing its business and also be seen to be accountable to ourselves and to standards. So if we are going and I feel this and I have worked now almost 27 years for the FT. I think the FT should be the gold standard in journalism, and that means that we need to uphold the highest practices, the highest standards of integrity, and that is why we have the Investment Register and why we want to have full compliance from our journalists.
Q. The question is really whether self-certification by journalists is sufficient to uphold those standards?
A. Yes.
Q. Why?
A. It is, because the penalty of not upholding those standards and damaging the reputation of the FT is dismissal, and people who do not uphold the highest standards put in jeopardy the reputation of the Financial Times, are at risk of dismissal.
Q. Have you ever dismissed anyone on that basis?
A. I have not personally dismissed there is one instance which is not related to this particular matter regarding Investment Registers the Investment Register.
Q. That's the editorial code of conduct. There's also LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I suppose you mean, in answer to the question that Ms Patry Hoskins was asking: self-certification is sufficient because your journalists wouldn't try and mislead you in any way because the risk of being caught out was just too great?
A. That is correct, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So I think the question was not so much "is your certification system sufficient" but "is it sufficiently robust", and that really requires you to know your staff, I suppose.
A. Yes, sir. I would argue that the Financial Times code of conduct is a model for self-regulation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, that's a slightly different question, which I think we'll probably come on to discuss.
A. Yes, because the penalties of not getting it right are severe, potentially. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but they're imposed by the editor, and therefore what might work within a newspaper setting which has the power to dismiss is rather different from what might work in a wider setting. I don't think we'll leave this topic alone before you're finished. MS PATRY HOSKINS No, we certainly won't. Just finishing on the code of conduct, you were telling us about the editorial code of conduct. There's also a Pearson company-wide code of conduct which I'm sure you're aware of. It's referred to in the statement of Mr Ridding, which is at tab 1. If we look at his witness statement, please, behind tab 1 in the bundle, we find within that paragraph 12. Yes?
A. 12, yes.
Q. He says this: "Pearson plc publishes a code of conduct." I'm assuming you're aware of this code of conduct?
A. I hope so.
Q. He attaches a copy and he says this: "It requires all Pearson employees, including therefore Financial Times employees, to conduct themselves not only in accordance with the law but in accordance with the ethical principles set out in the code. The code is made available on the FT's intranet and is referred to in all new starter packs for Financial Times employees." He goes on to say: "Pearson circulates an email annually to all Pearson employees, reminding them of their obligations under the code and asking them to confirm either compliance with it or to notify incidences of noncompliance which they're aware of." Pausing there, does the Pearson code add anything, in your view, to the editorial code?
A. Well, it does.
Q. Tell us about that.
A. For the last half of the sentence which you just cited, counsel, which is that it not only reminds Pearson employees of their obligations under that code, asking them to "confirm either compliance", but crucially "to notify incidences of non-compliance they're aware of". We don't have that.
Q. I see. When I said "does it add anything", I guess the second half to that question is: is it necessary to have an editorial code and a company-wide code of conduct for just that reason or could there simply be one code of conduct and achieve the same aim?
A. Well, that would be an interesting intellectual question
Q. That's why I'm asking you.
A. which I'm going to try to answer. The Financial Times is a discrete entity within the Pearson group. The editor is independent. Pearson, however, own the Financial Times, so should they wish to have a separate code of conduct, that's a matter for them, and we think that the two can happily live alongside each other.
Q. In the same paragraph, Mr Ridding goes on to say this: "Pearson also operates a whistle-blowing hotline called Ethicspoint, which allows employees to report breaches of the code on an anonymous basis. Employees can also report breaches of the code locally, for example to their line manager or in-house legal team." Now, is there any similar whistle-blowing hotline for breaches of the editorial code?
A. No, we don't operate the whistle-blowing principle. If there are problems at the Financial Times, my experience is that they are brought to senior employees, if not to me personally.
Q. What if the complaint was about you or involved you in some way?
A. Then it would go to my deputy.
Q. Can a person who's concerned about breaches of editorial code phone the whistle-blowing hotline? Is that an avenue open to them or is it just a hotline for the Pearson-wide code?
A. No, we are employees of the Financial Times and we're owned by Pearson, therefore if a Financial Times journalist or an employee in general wished to use the Pearson hotline, they could. But I think it's important again to understand something an intangible quality called culture, and I don't wish to sound too high-minded here but we think we have a pretty good culture, and if there are problems, they're shared at all levels. We also have a union at the Financial Times, and if individuals have problems or grievances, they can go to the union. They can also go, crucially, to the managing editor. We haven't talked about that role but that is the person who deals with human HR problems or budget problems and that is an open door too. And then finally they can go to me. So we don't think we don't want to be complacent but we don't think we need to have a whistle-blowing function in the newsroom at the Financial Times.
Q. Can I come on then to ask you, please, about sources and sourcing. In paragraph 17 onwards of your statement, you say this. It's in response to our question, which was this: "To what extent is an editor aware/should be aware of the sources of the information which make out the central stories featured in your newspaper each day, including the method by which information was obtained?" You say this: "In terms of sourcing, we follow a minimum two source policy at the FT as evidenced by the sourcing policy [which we can look at if necessary] this means that as a general rule every story should be dual-sourced irrespective of whether our sources are on or off the record." I can see why you've taken that decision. In practice, does that happen?
A. You bet it happens.
Q. Okay. How can you be so sure?
A. Because it's standard practice at the FT and it has been for some time, and it was reaffirmed in the strongest terms when I took over as editor just over six years ago. If I may explain just a little bit?
Q. Of course.
A. If you rely on a single source for a story, you are leaving yourself open to manipulation, you leave yourself open to being misled and not understanding fully context. There's always another side to a story. I sometimes think about this in terms of an image of walking up a mountain. If you go on a single source, you get up to the top of the mountain and you have the most glorious view. You have the idea of a wonderful scoop the next morning. But then look down on the other side of the mountain. That's the risk. So you need to go for a second story. No story, however good it seems, if it comes from one source, is going to enter the pages or on the online of the Financial Times. You need to have two sources, and even if the Prime Minister were to speak off the record to a journalist and give that journalist at the FT a big story, we would still check it, we'd still talk to other people to verify, to also put the story in its broader context. So and when you say, "Is it followed at the FT?" every other week something comes up. A news editor on the desk says, "We have a very interesting story here, but we need a second source." It's ingrained.
Q. You say it's helpful in terms of verification. It may be very good in terms of
A. It's not helpful; it's essential.
Q. Okay. It may be essential in terms of verification, it may be very good in terms of the reliability of the information that you then obtain, but how would you know about methods? How would you know, for example, if one of the sources was a hacked phone message or a hacked email or a blagged medical record? How does your sourcing policy affect that?
A. First of all, to the best of my knowledge and I've spent some time ahead of this Inquiry talking to colleagues I know of no instance of phone hacking or so-called blagging for information at the FT. We don't engage in that sort of business. We do obtain sensitive information but we don't do it using those methods. Now, how do I know? Because the appointment of the news editor at the Financial Times is one of the most critical appointments that I can make as editor. The news editor at the FT has a great deal of power. Direct reports and the key jobs, like political editor, economics editor. He or she deals with journalists on a regular basis. The news editors who report to that news editor, the other ones, sit around the common desk. They share how stories are obtained and in terms of sourcing, if the story is especially sensitive, then again it's a matter of course. It comes down to culture. If it's a sensitive story, the news editor will come to me and discuss it, or to my deputy when I'm travelling, and that way we have a system of checks and balances in the Financial Times. We have a transparent an overused word. We have an open way of working. So I'm very confident that we do not that first of all, two sources works, and second, that we're not using questionable, if not illegal, methods to obtain our stories. And there's a reason for that. We have a reputation to defend. We have a bond of trust with our readers, and if we're seen to be engaging in illegal activity or questionable activity, then that bond of trust with our readers risks being broken.
Q. I understand that and I accept what you say about the fact that your staff doesn't engage in illegal practices, it doesn't use unethical means to obtain stories. My question was about sources. A two-source policy may be a very worthy one, but how do you know, how can you check whether sources have not used unethical methods? Is that possible?
A. Not sources. You mean journalists using unethical
Q. I mean sources.
A. Ah. Well, that presumes that we are relying, for example, on private detectives or other people engaging in illicit methods, so-called what I would call secondary sources. We like to deal with primary sources.
Q. Right.
A. Again, counsel, you are using the word "helpful", and I'm insisting it's essential for us. I don't wish to be prescriptive for the whole industry, but I'm just talking about the Financial Times' practice. And I repeat, you know, two sources is essential for the way we do our business. We make mistakes. We've made mistakes in the past. We correct them and we learn from them. But the basis, the foundation for how we go about our business is to, one, obtain information by representing ourselves as Financial Times journalists, and second, obtaining and by the way, it's not that's a minimum two sources. Preferably we'd like three and there have been instances where we have not published stories, sometimes to my chagrin. We had a story which in New York, I had one a person I'd known for ten years told me that Shell was going to revise its policy on oil reserves and the story was absolutely correct. We could not stand it up. We spent a day, and yes, the next day Shell announced that they were revising their policy. It had a big impact on the share price. We didn't run the story. And there are other examples of that. But in the end and again, I'm quoted to the point of being boring at the Financial Times I'd rather be right than first. In fact, not "rather"; that's the way we operate. We don't want to be first and get it wrong. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON When you're talking about sources, you're talking about primary sources, not second-hand sources? That's the point that I think
A. Yes, sir. Again, you've phrased that much better than I have been able to in several sentences, but that's the point. You can't rely, if you're in the business that we're in, on hearsay. We deal with primary sources, people who are making the decisions and others outside. MS PATRY HOSKINS I understand. Can we look at your sourcing and attribution policy very briefly. It's exhibit 3 to your statement. If you look in the bottom right-hand corner, you should find the number of 729.
A. Yes.
Q. First of all, in your view, how important is it to actually have a sourcing and attribution policy as opposed to just giving guidance on an as and when basis?
A. Well, the reason that this was written down and I remember the discussion because I was in New York at the time is that the New York Times, which I think is widely recognised as one of the best newspapers and news organisations in the world, suffered a terrible embarrassment when one of its reporters, a staff reporter, was revealed to have literally invented stories and was guilty of plagiarism. We took a view at the top of the FT that if such a thing could happen at the New York Times, then we needed to review our own internal procedures, and if we were going to be, to use this phrase, the gold standard, then we should be clearer about some of the ways in which we obtained our stories and information. So after the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times, which, it should be remembered, cost the editor of the New York Times and his deputy, the managing editor, Howell Raines and Gerry Boyd, their jobs they had to resign, so the New York Times was literally decapitated, the newsroom we decided to write down in more detail the sourcing policy which you've alluded to. I'm happy to go into that a little bit more, but that's why we did that at the time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's a very good example of where something's gone wrong, then you just check your own systems and make sure that they're absolutely watertight, and that's why you sent the email to which you earlier referred to. It's not that you're concerned; it's just that you're constantly checking?
A. Yes, sir, and I think there is an element at which pre-emption helps. It's become a dirty word in national security, but actually in the editorial conference room, that's important, that you do respond. And for me and I've worked for 10 years in the United States I was shocked at what had happened. Howell Raines, at the New York Times, the editor, the executive editor of the New York Times, just the previous year had walked away with five, seven Pulitzer prizes for his award-winning coverage of the events of 9/11 and their impact on New York City. Fantastic journalism. And then a few months later, this happened in his own newsroom. It's interesting. I read his account of that. I also when I was at the Washington Post in 1985 in the summer, one of the best pieces of advice that was given to me was: read the five days of page-long account of how Janet Cooke again, working in the Washington Post newsroom, just a couple of years after the Washington Post had done a wonderful job on the Watergate scandal, again, Janet Cooke had actually, a reporter in the Metropolitan newsroom, invented the story of a crack addict in DC and had to give back a Pulitzer prize. I think, again, sir, without wishing to make a meal of this, the point is: if you see the best in class suffering a scandal like that, you need to react. MS PATRY HOSKINS So you did.
A. We did.
Q. And one of the reactions was to create this policy. Can I look, very briefly, at just some of the paragraphs within it. First of all, under the heading "Sourcing", obviously you refer to your two, ideally three independent sources for each story point. But can we look at paragraph 6: "Always give people or companies the chance to answer the charges being levelled at them. Remember that cross-checking builds respect with sources." Now, is that a kind of prior notification policy?
A. No, it's not.
Q. Right. I didn't think so. Can you just explain?
A. No, we don't give heads-up to people we're writing stories about. At least that is absolutely not the policy. It may happen occasionally, but it's not definitely not meant to happen, because you pursue your story and then you go to the source. Sometimes, frankly, it can be a pain because people don't come back to you in time for deadlines. They want more time and sometimes we do give them more time, and if it's especially sensitive and there is the risk of libel, which we haven't talked about, then we want to make sure that we've given people the right opportunity to answer questions and put the other side of the story. Again, you can be surprised. You may think you have something which is watertight, but actually is less so when somebody comes back.
Q. I was going to come on to prior notification but if you think this is a convenient moment, perhaps you could tell us why you certainly don't have a prior notification policy in place at the FT.
A. I think it's important that we do our business in a dispassionate way. Obviously journalists cultivate sources. They're important, whether they're in the political, financial or any other arena. That's how you get information. But you never want to get so close to a source that you're offering prior notification or sharing everything. It's a dangerous business. That's a dangerous path to go along. So we are in an odd half-world where we need to be both close, but then to move away, to engage in building a relationship of trust with sources but never to get so close that you're offering prior notification. You need to do business.
Q. Why is it a dangerous path? I think it would be helpful for the Inquiry to understand why, in financial journalism in particular, prior notification, you think, would be a dangerous path?
A. I speak as a journalist, not just a financial journalist. Obviously there may be instances if you were to tell a company that you were about to write a story, this could get out into the market, it could it could be passed on, it could move the share price. You know, you want to be able to do your work first, before necessarily going to the company. I wouldn't want to take that too far. I just think in general you don't go to, if you like, the subject of a story. If you'd been offered some information which may be damaging, may be positive, you don't want to go to that source straight away. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think the question is whether it's straight away. The question is whether, before you actually publish the story, you say, "Right, we have this. Do you have a comment to make upon it?"
A. No, we always that's exactly what we do. I'm just saying in terms of the process of working on the story, when it's cooked, you then or when it's finished, you then go to the company and ask for a response. Because, as I say, it may alter both the timing of publication and the substance of what you're writing about. MS PATRY HOSKINS I understand.
A. And it's also a question of balance and fairness and context, which we haven't talked about much, but that's the reason for sourcing. You need to think about context. Has it happened before? How significant is it really? That's not just that's a question of what prominence you're going to give to the story but also whether you're actually going to publish it.
Q. Can you envisage a situation where you would publish a story about a company without telling them in advance that you were going to publish it?
A. No, I can't I think it would be very difficult. I think there are some instances where and there was an instance about this in the last 12 months, where a subject of a Financial Times story who was well endowed, a very rich person, had taken out a series of injunctions, not just in Britain but elsewhere, because of a very messy divorce, which severely limited what one could publish about that person or anything related. We had a story about what was going on at the company and about surveillance methods used by that person and because we were concerned about an injunction being taken out, although we had had some contact, we did not go and ask for a full response because we were fearful of an injunction. But we had had prior contact and there was some knowledge about this, but this was a very unusual case because of the number of injunctions that had been taken out which were restrictive of reporting.
Q. But wouldn't an injunction only be granted if it was appropriate for it to be granted?
A. Well, we took the view in this particular instance that an injunction wouldn't have been warranted, and in fact the story was published, we received a very hostile letter from a well-known law firm in this city that specialises in reputation management, and a week later said subject came to see me in my office and addressed me on first name terms and wanted to be friendly and co-operative. So I think when there are that number of injunctions taken out, one needs to be quite careful about what how one is proceeding, but if we judged in this particular instance that the story should be published, we did, and that's what we did.
Q. Can I come back to the sourcing policy very briefly. Paragraph 9, under the heading "Sourcing": "We should be able to justify to readers how we came by a story [and we've touched on that already]. When we talk to people, we should be honest about being FT reporters. The PCC code states that subterfuge can be justified only in the public interest and only when material cannot be obtained by other means. If FT reporters want to go undercover, they must first talk to an editor." Can you tell us a little more about how often, if at all, reporters do wish to go undercover?
A. Yes, I saw that. In the six years since I've been an editor, I don't know of any instance in which an FT reporter went undercover. I'm not quite sure what that means. Actually well, I just LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It means that they don't declare who they are and they pretend to be somebody slightly different.
A. Yes. Actually, I'm now we had an instance of one of our top journalists went into Burma to interview Aung San Suu Kyi, and he did not misrepresent himself when he was inside the country but I'd have to check whether he my memory is I need to go back, but LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think we're talking about that sort of example.
A. All right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We're talking about an example where, pursuing a story, the journalist knows that if he says, "I'm from the Financial Times", nobody will talk to him, but if he says, "I'm a middle eastern potentate
A. Yes, yes. I'm not sure whether very many FT journalists could represent themselves LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I wasn't necessarily
A. But, sir, I think the point that I made at the beginning is very important. We do not misrepresent ourselves. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You don't do it. Right.
A. We say we're from the Financial Times. That's important. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MS PATRY HOSKINS One last aspect of this sourcing and attribution policy, please. Under the heading "Attribution", paragraph 7 says this: "If we must cite an anonymous source, supply as much information as you can. 'An aide to Mr Cheney said' is preferable to 'an administration official said'. The stock phrase 'sources said' means almost nothing at all and is banned." I think I can guess the answer to this question. Is that a practice that is adhered to at the FT?
A. It is. We don't publish "sources said". That's as very loose attribution. We need to be always vigilant. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON "Sources close to"?
A. Ah, yes, that's a little bit less tenuous. "Sources close to the Prime Minister". LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I wasn't actually thinking about the Prime Minister. Yes.
A. I do think the important point you're making is that you need to be as clear as possible with the reader where this information is coming from. And also, if you can identify as closely as possible, then you give the reader some guide as to motivation, as to why this information is being put out there. I think the Americans, frankly, take it too far, "a source whose name cannot be disclosed because of da da da, and two paragraphs later, the reader has either fallen asleep or is more enlightened. I think we are a bit tighter than that. Phrases like "it is understood" have also been removed. So one needs to be tough on this, vigilant. I think the other point, which isn't here, which is important and frankly, again, you need to be really quite tough on this is anonymous sourcing, particularly in business and financial stories, where the source is offering a negative comment about a company or a person, is problematic. Now, it's quite difficult because analysts like to talk about companies and offer and they're certainly spicy and juicy, those comments, but they can be quite damaging and there's no if they're anonymous, you have to question motivation sometimes. So that's something that may it does happen at the FT, but we need to keep a very close eye on it. MS PATRY HOSKINS That's probably paragraph 8: "Be especially careful of relying on anonymous criticism. Too much of that, and you have written gossip, not news."
A. Yes.
Q. That's the point you're making?
A. That's the point.
Q. Is there any other aspect of this policy that you would like to draw to the Inquiry's attention before I move on?
A. I think that's fine, counsel.
Q. Right. Turning back, please, to your statement, coming back to a subject we've just been looking at, subterfuge, at paragraph 21 of your statement you deal with this. You say, I think we've already said, that you can't really see circumstances in which subterfuge would be justified at the Financial Times, the nature of the issues you report on do not generally require the use of such methods, and so on.
A. Mm.
Q. You explain right at the end of paragraph 21 that there's a difference between robust journalism and lawful practices: "Certain news organisations have not necessarily acted professionally or responsibly and certainly not ethically that is why I felt I had to make the remarks I did in my Cudlipp lecture. I took the view that certain organisations had crossed the line and they needed to be called to account for their conduct." You've exhibited the Cudlipp lecture to your statement. It's not paginated and it's quite hard to find references in it, so perhaps you can tell us in your own words what you meant by "certain news organisations have not necessarily acted professionally or responsibly and certainly not ethically"
A. Well
Q. and why you took the view that they'd crossed the line and needed to be calling to account for their conduct.
A. I was primarily referring, clearly, to News International and specifically the News of the World in the light of the phone hacking scandal, the details of which now everybody is aware of.
Q. Okay.
A. I did make reference to the Daily Telegraph and the story in which two reporters misrepresented themselves as constituents to Vince Cable, the business secretary. I should add and make very clear
Q. Can we pause there and just find the reference. I think it's more helpful if we do. If we look within your exhibits, the number in the bottom right-hand corner will be 750. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS Sorry, it's all behind tab 4, 750, fourth paragraph down on that page.
A. Yes.
Q. You say this: "In this respect, the Daily Telegraph's decision to dispatch two journalists posing as constituents to interview the business secretary Vince Cable falls into a very different category than its earlier scoop on MPs' expenses. The latter story, although acquired for money and deeply damaging to the standing of the Westminster class, clearly met the public interest test. The first did not. It was nothing more than entrapment journalism."
A. Well, first of all I'd like just to make clear that I'm talking about the kind of methods and practices employed by the Financial Times and what we expect of our journalists in that we do not engage in misrepresentation. Second and this is important I have the highest respect for the Daily Telegraph. I think that the story that that they did on the Westminster expenses scandal was a terrific piece of journalism. It's outstanding. Yes, they paid for the disk, but the journalism and the series of articles that they produced plainly met the public interest test. The laws had been broken by MPs and it was important that the wider public was aware of this and the flaws therein, and there was nothing there's absolutely nothing but praise for that particular story. In the instance of this is a personal view, and editors should make their own decisions about what they consider to be right, so I was expressing a personal opinion that I felt that it was wrong for journalists to go to an MP, an elected member of Parliament, and misrepresent themselves as constituents because I think there is a bond of trust between an elected representative and constituents and that is important to protect. That was a personal view. Certainly the Telegraph took a different view and perhaps others in my profession would do so, and I respect their views. I just happen to think in this particular instance that it was wrong.
Q. What if using this kind of method is the only way of obtaining the information and that the information itself is valuable?
A. Then we have to look at the quality of the story produced in that particular case, and I always so I think that the question is: what is the story that you've produced as a result of this? There may be cases for others to pursue in which they may seek to engage in these practices but they would have to justify by passing a very high bar. I would refer, again, to an editor, a former editor of the Sunday Times and the Times, who I greatly respect, one of the finest editors in the post-war era, Harold Evans, who said just last year that: "Deception may ultimately be justified in the pursuit of the public interest but it must only be used in the most exceptional circumstances. The reason is that it can be deeply corrosive, not just to the newspaper's bond with its readers but also to the body politic." That is my view.
Q. I'm going to ask you about just a few more things that you said in the Cudlipp lecture, if I can. It starts on page 741 and continuing. First of all, can I ask you to turn to the third page of that, which should be 743. About two-thirds of the way town, you'll see a paragraph starting: "Today, many members of the political elite in Britain have all worked in or with the media industry. David Cameron worked in a commercial TV company. Jeremy Hunt ran a publishing business." And so on. Now, can you tell us a little more about why that's relevant, in your view?
A. Well, it's first quite striking, the number of people who have worked in the media business. It would certainly encourage me to believe that they understand the media business very well, but also it can lead to too cosy relationships, and we can talk about that. I'm not just talking about the fact that Ed Balls was an editorial writer for the FT. He certainly doesn't agree with our editorial line at the moment on the economy. I think the problem is that again, this is a personal view. I'm not necessarily offering you empirical evidence for my case, other than what I've just described, but it did seem to me that in the last ten years or 15 years, in the Blair/Brown years, perhaps a bit latterly perhaps a little less so in the present government, and I'll come to that in a minute that there was a very close relationship between the government and sections of the press, particularly News International. Now, you could explain that because of the preponderance of power that the Murdoch press had in this country. You could also explain it, perhaps, by some wonderful PR marketing by the likes of Kelvin McKenzie, who proclaimed in essence that the Sun had won the election in 1992 for the Conservative government. But it always struck me as very strange. Why would a Prime Minister who had a 179-seat majority care so much about what the popular press, and particularly the Sun, was writing about the government and policies, day in, day out? Again, if you read Piers Morgan's memoir it's actually one of the first books that was given to me when I took over as editor, because I'd spent some time in the country, to understand or reacquaint myself with the British political culture it was quite extraordinary how much time Tony Blair seemed to have spent with Piers Morgan. You'd have thought he had a bit of time running the country, but maybe not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm interested to know and I accept you're expressing an entirely personal view, and it really is touching upon a later bit of this Inquiry what you would do about that.
A. Well, you certainly can't you certainly would not wish to regulate it or pass a law. This is about journalists having a very clear view of their responsibilities and how they conduct their relationships with politicians. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And vice versa.
A. Very much vice versa, sir. Again, it was taken as conventional wisdom that in order to govern, in effect, with today's what is known as the 24/7 media environment, where you have to, if you like, feed the press, feed the media with stories, and you need to be particularly sensitive to the demands of the popular press, that you needed to have somebody very close to you, as Prime Minister, or as indeed Chancellor, who understood the tabloid press, and these people assumed the role of almost policy-makers. This, I would suggest, is a little bit dangerous. Politicians again, this is very much a personal view, so I don't wish to I think I'm probably treading way beyond my remit as such anyway, but I think I just feel that if you have a 179-seat majority, that's quite a mandate. It's pretty good in the second time around as well. MS PATRY HOSKINS I'm going to come on to ask you about press regulation, if I can. I'm going to deal first with one of the judge's favourite questions about online content. At pages 4 onwards of the lecture, you discuss the changes relating to online content in some detail. You discuss Wikileaks and other examples. Perhaps I can ask the question in this way: what's the purpose of close and careful press regulation if Wikileaks or other bloggers can publish what they want with utter impunity? Can online bloggers be regulated as well in your view?
A. No, I don't believe they can and I wouldn't seek in any way to regulate the Internet. This is a very difficult area. There are the questions of a two-tier media market, in effect, where you have a press which is subject to certainly self-regulation to be discussed, but these people are within the media ecosystem but clearly unregulated. Of course, if they break the law and if they libel someone, or if they were to engage in contempt of court, they could be brought to the law could be brought before the courts, but I would look at this it's a very complicated question, but I think if you're talking about the overall picture for how the press should be regulated or regulate themselves in this country, you need to think about two principles. The first is that we shouldn't think just about the press, because the press have significant and in many ways, thinking of the Guardian, certainly the Daily Mail and Telegraph and others have successful online operations. So they are news organisations. That's what I call the Financial Times. It's a news organisation. Don't think just about the press. If I may say, sir, without, again, wishing to stray beyond my remit, it would be a huge mistake for the Inquiry to focus just on the press. You need to think about the news in general and the general ecosystem. Second principle is that so we have news, so we do have online operations, those should be subject to the law. We need to establish a code of conduct. We need to establish practices which are so good, so credible, so robust, that others would wish to join such a body of, say, independent regulation. We can discuss the details. You will not, I believe, I suspect, have individual bloggers out there in the stratosphere joining, but I'm talking about media aggregators, people like, say, the Huffington Post, that are drawing on what is loosely described as mainstream media content, that they would feel that not necessarily an obligation but be encouraged to be part of a quality system of independent regulation in this country.
Q. All right. So the answer is not everyone can be regulated, but you could have a system of encouragement which meant that some people would choose to be regulated. For those who chose not to be regulated, do they not place the press at a competitive disadvantage?
A. Indeed they do.
Q. And is there any way of resolving that issue?
A. I've wrestled with this and I haven't come up with an answer. I think it's there is a real problem when, for example, some people in the on the Internet, web-based news organisations outside this jurisdiction can publish details, for example, of a famous footballer and his affair and or affairs, and the popular press in this country can't. That clearly puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Now, one would have to go and ask the question about how legitimate is it to write that story, what is the public interest, et cetera. That's a separate matter. But if we are saying now, this is not the first case this has happened. I do refer in the lecture to the 1930s when the New York Times, that august publication, had a field day with King Edward VIII's affair with an American, Wallis Simpson. They were happily publishing juicy and raunchy details of the affair while the British press, and not just the tabloid press, couldn't print a word, or actually had an arrangement with Buckingham Palace that they would not cover the story. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is there a distinction to be made between the simple presentation of information and the provision of information in context mediated by opinion, reflective and all those words that you might describe
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON as the high point of journalism and not just reflective pieces such as you might produce in the Financial Times but if I take the example from yesterday that Mr Mohan spoke about: descriptive analyses of complex issues in comparatively straightforward language, readily accessible by those who wouldn't necessarily want to read the Financial Times. You understand, the different expertise that all goes into making the press, but which isn't there on the Internet. Is that the distinction?
A. Well, again, sir, I think you've cut to the heart of the matter because if you think about LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You don't need to be polite.
A. Probably flattering rather than polite, but there we are. But this is the case. This is the issue. Because if you talk and again, having spent a lot of time in the States, for those who do their journalism on the Internet and bloggers, they think they can publish anything and they believe that it can be it will be corrected by peers on the Internet. So they don't feel an obligation, in other words, to go through the kind of processes which not only the Financial Times but also the tabloids do. That is what I would regard or describe as a crafted piece of journalism. And that craft means sourcing, multiple, but also in terms of again, I believe this is the case, it certainly is in other news organisations I've worked for, that there is a revise function. You don't just publish the story immediately and wait for it to be corrected by an angry reader. You actually check it out, talk to the news editor, and then it goes through a process known as subediting, which again is the revise function. In that way, it's as very different commodity from Internet-based journalism. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That might be an area which actually identifies the difference and encourages those that want to be considered journalists and mainstream to join that particular club.
A. That would presume, sir, that they feel they want to be part LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If they want to be.
A. It should be obviously up to them. I believe that is the way forward because this is a fast-moving train here, but I suspect from numerous conversations that there is that web-based journalists, bloggers, they look at the mainstream media, not just in this country but also in the United States, and say, "That's the past. That's in decline. We don't want to be part of that. We're part of a new bright future of journalism on the Internet and it's new and it's different." Now, having said there's a little bit of naivety and a little bit of idealism in that approach, but certainly for those web-based news organisations who are aggregators I'm thinking about the Huffington Post, for example that are drawing on mainstream media content, they should think hard about becoming part of what we hope to put forward in this country in terms of a new body of independent regulation which is robust, credible and worthy of joining. MS PATRY HOSKINS It sounds like you're suggesting a system of sticks and carrots. Do you have a formulated view as to what that system would look like?
A. I think that I'm more interested in carrots than sticks. I think that if you're looking at the current set-up in this country because I wish we did have a First Amendment in this country we can come back to that in a minute, but we don't. So we have a body called the PCC, which practices self-regulation. Now, in my view, and I've said this, the PCC does some very important, valuable work. This is easily forgotten in all the criticism that was levelled against the PCC. But in my experience what they do in terms of mediation, picking up readers' complaints, dealing with editors, they do it very well. They're timely, it's free, they're thorough and they have good people, and they've had an unfair rap in that respect. And they do reach out to the public and interest groups and they're involving them in the process. However, they fail they misstepped badly in the phone hacking scandal. Now, it is true again one qualification here they were lied to. News International lied to them. So in that case, it's pretty difficult because you have a major news organisation that is part of your independent, self-regulatory set-up, and it's not telling you the truth, and you also you don't have the powers to pursue that. The misstep was to and it was a serious misstep was to criticise the Guardian for its reporting and to minimise the significance thereof. And that was a serious misstep, and as a result of that I believe that the body has lost credibility. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But it's not just that, is it, Mr Barber? Is it really a regulator at all? It's a complaints mechanism.
A. No, it is a complaints mechanism, and if I may say, I was just about to explain why I think we need to have a little bit more of the regulatory aspect and not just the mediation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, please.
A. So I think we need a new body, we need a new composition, and we need of that body, and we need new powers. I'm happy to elaborate. MS PATRY HOSKINS Yes, please.
A. First of all and other editors or others have alluded to this, and others will elaborate on this, but I think first of all, in the event of serious breaches of the code, fines should be applicable. I also think that forcing or obliging newspapers to publish very prominently, according to the seriousness of the mistake, where they have erred or where they have got matters seriously wrong, and the PCC or the new body rules against it, then that should be prominently featured. And believe me, editors do they hate, I personally really you don't want to devote a large portion of your newspaper to explaining why you got something wrong. That's a deterrent. Don't underestimate the significance of that. I also think that there should be a high bar I've alluded to this in the Fulbright lecture that I gave there should be a high bar but there should be powers of investigation if the new body seriously believes that there's been a serious breach of the code. One could think of mechanisms within the body where a serious panel, not just of insiders but also outsiders, lay experts, could make a judgment that this required or this should trigger an investigation. But that, for me, would be part of the solution. And then, finally not finally, but we should we have to think about how we make sure that everybody joins comes under the tent. We mentioned the Internet, that that would be difficult, but certainly for the press everybody should be. I would not I would not pass a law or any statutory form of compliance because I don't support that in any way. I support creating the best possibly and most credible, most robust form of self-regulation, which is so good that everybody wants to LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I prefer your word "independent regulation".
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Because one of the arguments about the system is that editors sit in judgment on each other in respect of which they are and with whom they are competitors.
A. It's not a tenable position. We need outsiders. There have been some changes, but certainly for too long the PCC was dominated by insiders. You need to have some people who are if not serving editors, certainly people who have served as LORD JUSTICE LEVESON With experience of the business?
A. Experienced people in the business of journalism. Not just lawyers. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I shouldn't be considered to be in favour of giving everything to lawyers. I'm not.
A. I'm relieved. But we need to have some outsiders, and I think that plays generally into the again, this is very much a personal view but, you know, journalists are not monks in cells. Journalists are members of the community. Journalists should be accountable in the court of public opinion. Journalists need to be more open about how they conduct their business. We should have nothing to fear from a robust body of independent regulators. We should have nothing to fear where some outsiders are brought into the process. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course, journalists look at all of the other institutions of the state and of the body politic. They look at politicians, they look at schools, they look at the judiciary. Who looks at journalists?
A. Well, at the moment, there's plenty of people offering opinions about the state of journalism. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON At the moment that is so, but we're in unusual times, Mr Barber.
A. We are in certainly interesting times. My remedy, or the remedy that should be considered, is bringing in some outsiders so that it doesn't look like a cosy stitch-up at the PCC where sitting editors decide the rules and then enforce them. I also would say that the new body needs strong leadership. That's going to be a really important job, and my preference would be to see somebody with experience of journalism but also somebody who's done other worked in other areas, perhaps, but somebody with really strong leadership qualities to insist on the highest standards of integrity and to make sure that this new body works. Because, as I said just a few months ago, we are in the last-chance saloon, drinking our last pint. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that was 20 years ago.
A. Well, not necessary well, I'm going to disagree with you, sir. I think that what has happened in and I'm basing my comments on conversations I've had with members of the profession outside the Financial Times. This has been a real shock, what happened at the News of the World, not just in terms of the extent, the industrial scale of phone hacking, but the pattern of lies and also the result, which was shocking. The closure of a national newspaper with a circulation of several million, and a newspaper actually that has done, in its own way over the years, some very good stories. I'm thinking of the price-fixing no, the cheating in the Test match. So this was a shocking episode. And all of us I speak for myself believe that as a result we need to change the way we do business. If this isn't a wake-up call, I'm not sure what is. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You'll understand my concern that there have been wake-up calls in the past and everybody's woken up and then it all just appears to have drifted off again. Is that unfair?
A. It's certainly a fair characterisation of what happened 20 years ago, but I would make two points in response. First of all and I don't want to steal anybody's thunder, but I believe that Lord Hunt will be putting forward some interesting proposals on independent regulation shortly, probably before this Inquiry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I certainly hope so, because I've encouraged everybody to be thinking about it and I expect them to be thinking about it. What I've said and I'm happy to make it clear publicly, if I've not done so is that I hope that the business of journalists, journalism, is considering it on the basis that it has to work for them but it will also have to work for the public. It won't be good enough, in my present view and I'm obviously listening and will continue to listen with great care to everything that everybody is saying just to think that one can tinker around the edges.
A. I agree with that, sir, and it is incumbent on the industry to produce new, credible proposals for independent regulation. That is the lesson of the phone hacking scandal, and to a degree it's the lesson of what's already come out in this Inquiry. I think I speak for fellow editors: we're serious about this. We want to produce something which is new. But my second point is everybody should read what Chief Justice judge said last year about the importance of the independence of the press and that we will make mistakes and reputations may be damaged, but the principle of free expression is really critical. So before anybody thinks about introducing new laws to regulate the press, let us at least look at the quality of proposals which are going to be put on the table. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, the Lord Judge wasn't actually saying that there shouldn't be a framework. Lord Judge was emphasising the importance of free speech and freedom of expression, views which I think I have repeated more than once over the last six months, but he was identifying the importance of having a system that actually worked and wasn't one that was entirely optional.
A. Again, I subscribe to that view. It can't be optional. Everybody needs to buy in to the new arrangements. Otherwise they won't be credible. But I think if they are good enough, robust enough there is, by the way the matter which we haven't touched on, which is rather important, is the cost. Credibility may come with a high cost, and the press in this country and I'm thinking not just in London, but elsewhere is not exactly flushed with cash at the moment. So this will be the price. If it means paying more money I'd better be careful here, because I don't control the budgets. But this is important. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the problem of cost.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And there are all sorts of potential issues that arise in relation to that, which may actually be tied into the sort of model that one eventually alights upon. So I understand the problem.
A. Sir, if I may add that one of the tests of the new body will be: could the events of 2008, 2009, 2010 and the phone hacking that went beforehand occur and not be prevented or tackled with rigour and promptness by the new body? If that new body fails that test, it's not credible. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is it very much an opportunity, which is why I've encouraged you and your fellow editors to think about sensible solutions, not just to see how near to the present system they can persuade me to go but actually be prepared to be forward-thinking, to address all the issues, not merely those you have mentioned but also the others that have been brought up over the last six months.
A. Well, we want to be careful, to coin a phrase, of fighting the last war. We definitely need to think ahead as well as draw lessons from the past, and this sorry, appalling episode of phone hacking. So we do need to think about the future. We need to think about our processes. We need to be opened up. We need to be able to show that our processes and our standards are robust and accountable. I think this is a word I'd like to just emphasise. The public needs to feel that the press, the media talking about the media in this country I'm leaving aside broadcasting because that's separate is accountable and can say in public why it considers its journalism to be robust, but following certain standards. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Somebody will bring it to account, and also, of course, I just need to make the point: it's not just phone hacking. Nobody could have listened to the evidence that I've been hearing since November and think that this is a problem just restricted to phone hacking. Would you agree?
A. Phone hacking has been the trigger. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I agree. I understand that. But would you agree with my proposition?
A. Well, sir, you probably have to be a little more specific about what you're referring to. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The proposition that there is more that needs to be addressed simply than phone hacking.
A. Yes. Again, I would say it would depend on more specifics. If you're referring to libel, if you're referring to privacy matters as I said, I don't consider myself a specialist in this area, it's fraught with perils, but there are examples of where if there is recklessness if recklessness has taken place in the publishing of stories, that needs to be looked at, but again you're correct, but let's just think about specifics. It is beyond just phone hacking, yes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. MS PATRY HOSKINS Was there anything you wanted to add on how you would encourage the various different parties to sign up to this new system?
A. Again, I think that it just has to be seen as a new industry standard.
Q. It just has to be a really good one and one that the industry is proud to be part of?
A. Well, credible. "Pride" is a loaded term. But it has to be credible and it's not just got to be credible to the people who are part of the system; it has to be credible to the public at large. We'd hope that it would receive the support of politicians but we're not going to go begging in that direction. We will just produce the ideas, the format, and hope that people feel it's different. It has to be qualitatively different.
Q. I have two final questions, if I can. The first is picking you up on something you said about changes to the PCC. You said one of the things that you fear as an editor is having to publish apologies and taking up space in your newspaper having to publish corrections or apologies. Have you ever given consideration to the possibility of having a readers' editor at the Financial Times, and if not, why not?
A. Well, when this idea first came up, I was very sceptical, not least because I consider myself to be the readers' editor. If there are problems and they're serious problems, I deal with them, my deputy deals with them or the number three. I've slightly changed my mind now. I mean, obviously in America there are readers' editors and sometimes they can be quite tricky to handle, especially when they want to write long articles. Obviously you wouldn't interfere with that. But I now think that perhaps, as part of this qualitative difference and as part of being seen to operate then I might be open to the idea. But I think again what I would emphasise is that if you have the culture, a strong culture in a news organisation which is committed to upholding the highest standards, that should be your starting point. You're not going to solve these things, these difficulties, with just offering tokens like appointing of a readers' editor. But I'd be more open than I was.
Q. I think you wanted to say a few words about libel reform. I say this because in your contribution to the seminars, which took place in September? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, it was September. MS PATRY HOSKINS A long time ago. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, maybe in October, early October. MS PATRY HOSKINS In your contributions to those seminars, you mentioned this and I thought you might want to say a word or two about this.
A. Again, we don't probably have the time and neither do I have necessarily the competence to offer a blueprint for libel reform in this country. My principal concern was just simply the costs of dealing with a libel claim or where people LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, I'm quite keen to pick up that point because it actually feeds into something you've just said. You may have heard that a couple of times more than a couple of times during the course of these hearings I've floated the concept of some sort of arbitral system for speedy resolution of privacy claims, potentially small libel claims, not necessarily the largest, because the cost is prohibitive. There was a time when it was prohibitive to claimants because there wasn't legal aid available for it is and therefore the powerful position was held by the press. Now, because of CFAs, it's turned the other ways, and that pendulum is moving. I understand that. But if you want an arbitral system, which I actually think has value, then it's going to be quite difficult to do that without some sort of framework that requires everybody at least to exhaust that possibility. Because I think most claims needn't be settled where the damages are dwarved by the enormous costs that are incurred, but the consequence of doing that and adding on to your commission or council, whatever it's called, some sort of mechanism may mean that you need a structure which you can't simply do consensually, because you want to bind in everybody who's going to be affected.
A. Indeed. I don't wish to pre-judge what Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, may want to say on this, because he's done a lot of serious thinking and from what I've seen I think it's promising, to look at whether this new body, the Media Standards Board, whatever you want to call it by the way, it will have to have a new name can offer an arbitration process or some form of resolution where parties do not immediately resort to the court, forcing news organisations to employ highly expensive barristers, and before you know where you are, you've seen ?100,000 plus disappear. We don't have that kind of money. Therefore and this is a real problem, because the Financial Times is an independent news organisation with plenty of resources. We have more than 600 journalists, more than 100 foreign correspondents. We're happy to write about the connection between oligarchs and the Kremlin, we've written thousands of words in that particular area and others, and every time we write about the rich and famous, particularly people who have really substantial sums of money, we get a letter a very threatening, bullying letter from a law firm, and I'm thinking one in particular that is simply outrageous. And, you know: "If you do not capitulate before noon on Saturday, you will be hung at dawn on Sunday", and this is bound to have even if you think that you're robust and the story is robust, it can have a chilling effect because you are aware of the cost of a libel action. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that's why it can't just be consensual because your extremely wealthy person would never go down that route. So to protect everybody from that sort of tactic, there has to be some framework to it which is not merely consensual, if that's one of the things you want to achieve. I offer that to you not for you to provide me with an instant response but to put into your deliberations.
A. We'll certainly take that under consideration, but I think my views on any form of statutory regulation are fairly clear. But LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not talking about statutory regulation. I'm talking about a framework which then has built onto it a mechanism for everything to be done consensually, but without some background, then the concern you've just expressed can't be addressed because they won't come into the system.
A. I can see that. I think there is a real practical problem here. I am concerned about it, as are other editors. In terms of libel, this is the one area that probably concerns me most, and so I'll give that careful thought, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If you have some other suggestion, then I'm here for some time and I'm very pleased to think about any solutions that work for everybody. But that's what really matters to me.
A. I'll take a rain check. MS PATRY HOSKINS Mr Barber, those are the questions that I had. Is there anything that you wish to add?
A. No, I think I've thanks to the close questioning, I've had a chance to really offer my thoughts on the current state of the industry and the challenges we face. I think I would just we haven't talked much about the public interest but we don't have the time to exhaust that particular subject, but all I would say is that I strongly believe that there is a public interest in freedom of expression itself, and with that I put myself right alongside editors such as Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail, and I think we need to be very careful in this country about forgetting that principle. There are plenty of other countries, in which I have direct experience, whether it be Hungary or South Africa, that are looking at new media laws to curb the freedom of the press and the media and we should not go down that road in this country. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Again, I've said many, many times my strength of belief about freedom of expression and the freedom of the press, which aren't quite the same thing. But one just has to be careful, doesn't one, that one doesn't seek to justify that which you, in uncoded language, have condemned as unlawful and wrong, that one doesn't, as it were, say, well, the price of freedom of expression is that we just have to put up with that stuff.
A. No, I do not believe that we should put up with that stuff, as you say. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, neither do I.
A. And I'm not condoning law-breaking. But I am defending, and I will to the last breath, freedom of expression. So I think we should leave it perhaps there on that high note. Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much indeed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you, Mr Barber. Thank you very much. That's rather longer than I think you probably anticipated but it covers a lot of very important territory.
A. Thank you, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We'll take seven minutes. (11.40 am) (A short break) (11.49 am) MS PATRY HOSKINS Sir, we have three more witnesses this morning. The first two are going to be rather short. We have Mr Mullins, Mr Malhotra and Mr Blackhurst in that order. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. MS PATRY HOSKINS If I could call Mr Mullins first of all, please. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We're changing titles? MS PATRY HOSKINS We are. We're moving to the Independent. MR ANDREW OLIVER MULLINS (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Please make yourself comfortable. I was going to ask you to move the previous folder, but you have.
A. Yes.
Q. Can you please state your full name to the Inquiry?
A. Andrew Oliver Mullins.
Q. You've provided a witness statement in response to a section 21 notice. Can you confirm that the contents of that statement are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. Yes.
Q. You should find your witness statement behind tab 1 in this bundle. If you look at paragraphs 10 and 11 of the statement, you will find your career history. I will just check with you that it's correct. You are the managing director of IPL, Independent Print Limited?
A. Yes.
Q. You were appointed to that role following the purchase of the Independent and the Independent on Sunday by IPL, a company controlled by the Lebedev family, on 30 April 2010. Prior to taking that role, you were the managing director of the Evening Standard from 2007 to 2009, and prior to that you worked for News International as general manager of Times newspapers and marketing director of Times newspapers. At the present time, you are also the managing director of Evening Standard Limited, which is also owned by the Lebedev family, although you say the companies' operations are legally, editorially and financially independent from each other. Have I correctly summarised the situation?
A. Correct, apart from 24.9 per cent is also owned by DMGT of Evening Standard Limited.
Q. Before we just touch on the corporate structure at the Independent and your role within that corporate structure, I'd like to touch upon something that you say at paragraph 9 of your statement. Just turn back to where we were just reading from.
A. Yes.
Q. You draw a distinction between serious news and celebrity kiss-and-tells, and that distinction that you make there at paragraph 9 is stressed a lot in the evidence that you give. I have this question for you: should ethical standards or codes of conduct differ depending on the content of the newspaper in your view?
A. No.
Q. Also, does the fact that you may not seek this type of story, celebrity kiss-and-tells and so on, mean that it is altogether easier to be ethical?
A. I think that's probably a better question for the editor.
Q. We'll move on to corporate governance. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But your view about the approach to editing or what should be in newspapers or shouldn't be in newspapers professionally appropriately hasn't differed whether you've been at the Times or the Mail or whenever?
A. I've never been involved in the editorial sign-off process of stories, but I think people believe that it's exactly the same in each newspaper group but some newspaper groups have a harder challenge because they have more stories of a certain type, so the pressure on the business may be greater, so they probably are going to get it wrong slightly more times than people that don't have such challenging stories. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They have different challenges, because you may do a story that's nothing to do with celebrities but equally involves the same sort of questions you might ask if you were looking at a celebrity, but on a serious subject, a different subject.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MS PATRY HOSKINS Can I take you to paragraph 12 onwards of this statement to go through the system of corporate governance at IPL. You explain that you have a board structure in place which consists of a chairman and various other directors. The board is supported by Mr Malhotra, who we'll hear from shortly, and he also attends board meetings and takes minutes and so on. You then explain that board governance covers a number of elements but is primarily about the financial management of the business of producing and printing the newspaper. But as you've already mentioned, the philosophy of the titles is that editorial staff are not subject to proprietorial control or influence. You say this: "As such, whilst there is an editorial and legal clearance procedure, it is generally kept separate from the financial and commercial side of the business." So two questions, please. First of all, what do you mean by the word "generally"? In what situations would the editorial and legal procedure not be kept separate from the financial and commercial side of the business?
A. Newspaper businesses tend to work on annual plans and budgets pre-agreed on an annual basis, and we separate commercial and editorial to create clear editorial independence. If the editorial team is delivering their costs to the pre-arranged budgets and the sales of the newspaper are going in line with expectation, there would be no reason to challenge editorial processes or procedures at all from a commercial side. However, if something did go wrong and the sales were affected dramatically or there was a huge change in the cost of the editorial structure, it could come up to a board level and it would be debated and discussed and the editor would talk through the issues, why they had occurred, and we'd work out whether the board needed to be involved in any shape or form.
Q. Okay. The second question: why is editorial independence considered so important at the Independent or the IPL titles?
A. I think it is every newspaper. It's the traditional way. The editorial teams are very, very separated from the commercial teams. It's built up over history. We believe it's the right way, and there's a sort of phrase that goes on: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. At the Independent, we have few PCC complaints, we have very small costs in terms of legal fees, we deal with things very quickly and we don't think there is an issue that would suggest we should change that historical process. Obviously we've been looking at things considerably in the last year in the light of what's been going on, but history suggests that it's been working for us.
Q. You go on to say at paragraph 14 that board governance can be summarised in a specific way: there's a company strategy and you're responsible for that.
A. Yes.
Q. That's then approved and endorsed by the board. You have annual financial planning and budgeting, you have monthly board meetings and so on, and you explain at the end of the paragraph that in terms of editorial staff, they have budgets that they have to meet, and you look at reports relating to that on a weekly basis.
A. Weekly and mainly on a monthly basis. It's reported on a weekly but we get into the detail on a monthly basis, yes.
Q. All right. Then you're asked: does this system of corporate governance work in practice? You're answer appears to be: absolutely, it's all incredibly rigorous. You then refer back to the fact that something will only be referred up to the board if something happens that affects IPL's finances or a serious reputational issue, and then you would expect the board to become involved?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that correct? Thank you. You explain at 17 that there are documents with cover some of the relevant issues. For example, employment contracts, contributory agreements, terms for freelancers, the PCC code, the staff handbook, and you've just introduced a formal code of conduct as well which covers policy matters in one document. That, you say, was triggered by the advent of the Bribery Act. How much input did you have into that process, the code of conduct coming into being?
A. A lot. The Evening Standard, which I also manage, has HR help and legal help from DMGT, its shareholder, but when IPL was sold, all of the corporate overstructure was removed and documentation needed to be updated. The commercial teams have been merged between the two businesses, so as the head of both businesses, I was the only person who could actually be involved to a deep degree in terms of trying to pull together policies. So yes, I was very much involved in it.
Q. Does the code of conduct apply across the titles or just to the Independent?
A. Across the titles.
Q. You go on to explain in paragraph 18 that you consider your role to be absolutely fundamental and critical to all of the business strategy, et cetera, and central to corporate governance, and I think I am pretty much aware of everything that happens in that respect."
A. I certainly am now, yes.
Q. Okay. What do you mean you certainly are now?
A. Because the history of editorial separation and a business like ours, which has been losing a lot of money in threat of going out of business, there are different focuses and priorities. If the phone hacking hadn't gone on, I think we'd have probably taken a longer time to get our code of conduct out, but it was very necessary and important that we did it for both businesses because it pulled together and created clarity on a range of issues that were cropping up across the industry and a couple that were occurring in our business.
Q. Could I ask you allow to look at the code of conduct, please. It's in the exhibits to Mr Malhotra's statement. If you look behind tab 4 in this bundle, you'll find exhibit 1 to Mr Malhotra's statement and you'll find an extract from the code of conduct. I'm going to ask some questions about this because it is referred to in your witness statement.
A. Yes.
Q. Are you happy with that?
A. Yes, that's fine.
Q. If you'd rather
A. No, that's fine.
Q. If there's any question you feel is better addressed to Mr Blackhurst, then please tell me.
A. Okay.
Q. Just glancing through it, we can see there are sections on anti-bribery. There's also a section on data protection, much like the Financial Times code we were looking at. Then there's a section under "Editorial provisions" on the third page which is headed "Stage one, preparing for publication". Do you see that?
A. Right, yes.
Q. Without reading it all out, I'd like to look at the section headed "Putting the story to the subject", which is over the page on page 4.
A. Yes.
Q. "It is good journalistic practice that any potentially damaging story is put to the subject before publication." Is this a kind of prior notification policy?
A. It's the code of conduct was put together around the time of the change of the editors, where Simon Kelner stood down and Chris Blackhurst took over, and it was created in conjunction with the legal department. We meant it to be not an absolute document. It would be one that would be improved in time. This is one thing we've looked at subsequently which I don't think we're all in agreement on. I know the editor has very clear views or has different views to what's stated here now that he's in the seat, so I think I might leave that to him to comment on.
Q. I'll make a note to myself that I need to ask him. Could I ask you about stage 2, which is over on page 6, "Pre-publication". This is under the heading "Attribution".
A. Yes.
Q. Were you here during the evidence of Mr Barber just now?
A. Yes.
Q. You'll have heard what he said about attribution of material. What's the position at the Independent? Let's just focus on the Independent for the moment.
A. I'll give a comment. I think the editor will give a more in-depth comment on this. We started to highlight some these issues around the Johann Hari case, which came up just before this publication, and we have stressed certain issues that we think are incredibly important that might not have been clear before. This was the position we took when we put the code of conduct together. I think we still hold it, but I think the editor can probably enlarge on that.
Q. I think I might ask my other questions relating to the code of conduct to Mr Blackhurst. Can I pick you up on something you say at paragraph 30 of your statement.
A. 30 or 13?
Q. 3-0.
A. Okay.
Q. You're dealing healer with a question about the use of private investigators. Do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. You're asked whether, to the best of your knowledge, your newspapers have used, paid or had any connection with private investigators.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. And you say to the best of your knowledge no, and then at paragraph 30 you say this: "If this question covers payments to freelancers, then yes, IPL does make payments to freelancers. However, to my knowledge, IPL would not use a freelancer who paid for information from private investigators or public officials. We do not run those kind of stories." What does that mean, "run those kind of stories"?
A. I think that's about the secondary sources and primary source argument. I think the editor will confirm that we mainly run primary source-type stories and therefore we know all the sources involved. I think that's mainly the line that's taken there.
Q. I understand. Have you, in your time at IPL, ever considered the possibility of appointing a readers' editor?
A. I think we'd like to
Q. You globally, rather than you personally.
A. No, I think we're in the game of trying to reduce our costs and give more responsibilities to fewer people, so we're very, very tight on people and costs, so I don't think we're looking to expand our remit.
Q. Is it a question of cost rather than principle?
A. I think the argument about the editor being the readers' editor is probably the best answer. That's certainly the case on the sister publication, the I, which is very, very interactive with readers and the whole dialogue is talking about reader comments and feedback on a daily basis, online and within the paper. Less so on the Independent for historical practice, I think, but we're not looking to take on more people if we possibly can, I think is the best way of replying to that.
Q. Is there anything you'd like to add?
A. No. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much then. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. MS PATRY HOSKINS Mr Malhotra next, please. MR MANISH MALHOTRA (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much. Could you give your full name to the Inquiry, please?
A. Manish Malhotra.
Q. You've provided a witness statement to the Inquiry. It's behind tab 3 in the bundle before you. Can you please confirm that the contents of it are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. I can confirm that.
Q. Can we turn, please, to your career history starting at paragraph 7 of this statement. You explain that you are currently the finance director and company secretary of IPL, positions that you have held since the 29th and 30 September 2010 respectively. You explain that you are also finance director and company secretary of Evening Standard Limited and prior to your current roles you were a finance director of the Evening Standard division of Daily Mail and General Trust plc, group financial controller of Associated Newspapers Limited, financial controller of investments of Associated Newspapers Limited and finance manager, group finance at Associated Newspapers Limited. And prior to joining the media industry, you worked at Baker Tilley as a business services manager and an audit senior. That is a correct summary, is it?
A. That's correct.
Q. I want to ask you about two things, Mr Malhotra: first of all, IPL's financial scrutiny of journalists' practices and expenses, and secondly, briefly, matters that you raised on the IPL code of conduct. Again, if those are matters best addressed to Mr Blackhurst, just tell me and I'll move on. Let's start with financial controls, please. At paragraph 11 of your statement, you explain that financial governance is extremely important to IPL and that you have strict procedures in place for authorising payments, expenses and so on. Why is it, in your view, so important for the newspaper to have this financial governance in place?
A. I think as Andy's alluded to earlier, we have a separation between editorial and commercial which has been known as a sort of church and state almost, as a separation, and so for that reason it's very important that editorial payments are going through the overall corporate and financial governance of the company so that we have clear sight of what's being paid and who's being paid.
Q. You go on to say that the procedure you have in place and the constant financial scrutiny would ensure it would be very difficult for employees to use IPL fund to pay bribes or to fund the gathering of information by illegal methods. Do you see that? It's the end of paragraph 11. You go on to set out the procedures, in a nutshell, that are in operation over the IPL titles. We're not going to go into them in any detail, but what I want to understand is whether or not these controls would prevent, in practice, payments such as to police officers or cash payments to private investigators, and whether financial controls can really ever stamp out those types of practices. Do you understand?
A. Clearly there is a risk that those payments might be made but we have a system of internal controls in place, which places great reliance on the managing editor and his office, or her office, to ensure that the payments that are made are proper, are substantiated and, if appropriate, that there is a receipt to support them. We don't have any cash in the system, so there's no mechanism for journalists or any other member of staff to make those sorts of payments. We also have a very robust series of monthly meetings going through the numbers, and we break down the editorial budgets into a series of departments, so these are relatively small numbers. We've also, as a business as Andy alluded to earlier, we've been sailing in some fairly choppy waters. It's a very competitive environment, so we've been managing our cost base very carefully, which means we go into quite a lot of detail to ensure we know exactly what these costs are. So from my point of view, we also we only ever really delegate the responsibility for approving these payments to very hand-selected senior members of staff, so what we would call officers of the company: the directors, the managing editors and some desk eds. So from that sense, I'm very comfortable that the controls we have in place would pick up these kinds of payments.
Q. I'm going to give you a theoretical example. I know you say at Independent or IPL titles, you don't use private investigators, but imagine you had a situation where you were trying to obtain information from someone like a private investigator, something that you believe to be above board. He may well be paid in a way which is completely in compliance with the systems you have in place but nevertheless is obtaining information illegally. How can a system of financial controls ever stop that occurring?
A. I would go back to the person who has to approve that payment would be generally within editorial payments is the managing editor's office, and they would always ask the person who's putting in the claim what exactly this money is for, and if they're not satisfied with that answer, I don't think they would make a recompense to that individual.
Q. I understand. You then tell us that as far as you're aware these practices are adhered to in practice. Is that still the case?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. I'm going to ask you briefly about the code of conduct, simply because you refer to it in the statement and in your appendix to your witness statement. It's in exhibit 1 to your statement. Do you see that? You explain that it came into force in September 2011. What input did you have into drafting the code, putting it in place?
A. I was involved in to a certain extent in the drafting and the initial kick-off meetings around it. I think the majority of the work was done by our in-house legal team, and Andy as managing director took a great lead in driving this forward as well. Once the code had been pushed up to board level and approved, then the distribution of it was down to the HR department and I took a hand in that as well.
Q. You explain at paragraph 35 that the code formed an integral part of editorial practice at IPL and your approach, you say, is: "Our journalists are required to work within the criminal law and the PCC code." So what does the IPL code of conduct add to the PCC code?
A. I think it's a wider document because it covers both commercial and editorial operations. It also goes into the use of hospitality and guidance and policies around that. So it's broadening out and bringing into one document a whole series of policies.
Q. I want to ask you about paragraphs 36 and 38 of your statement now, the contributory agreements which columnists who are self-employed have to sign and the terms for freelance contributions. Can I just be clear: are these two policies or agreements intended to apply to two different groups of people, the former being self-employed columnists and the latter being simply freelance journalists who may make a contribution to the titles?
A. Yes.
Q. I understand that contributories have to sign a particular agreement and freelancers have to comply with certain terms which you append to your statement, but is there any oversight over the practices of self-employed contributors and freelancers over and above their agreement to those terms?
A. I think the relationship generally with freelancers will be with the commissioning editors on the desks, so there you have a very good working relationship between the two individuals involved. So I think that is generally the series of checks and balances will be around that relationship.
Q. Finally, I need to ask you about paragraph 39. You explain that one of the non-executive directors, Mr Whittam Smith, has carried out an internal review of IPL's practices which looked at some of the issues which you refer to above: "This was concluded recently and Mr Whittam Smith was satisfied that the titles have not been involved in telephone hacking, blagging, employing private journalists or any other types of improper journalist practices". Can you tell me a little bit about this internal review. Who did he speak to? How long did the process take?
A. My understanding is that Andreas verbally interviewed a whole series of journalists, some of whom had been with the paper for some years so it was crossing over into the previous ownership by Independent News and Media mostly the senior desk heads and managing editors, to get a sense from them as to what the editorial practices were and to ensure that the systems that had been put in place were being adhered to in practice. He then reported back to the board and gave us the assurance that nothing untoward had been happening. MS PATRY HOSKINS Sir, unless you have any questions, I'm going to yes, you do. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just so that I understand, thinking about what Mr Whittam Smith did, he spoke to people, looked at stories, looked at documents, looked at background stories, or just spoke to people?
A. I'm not 100 per cent sure, if I'm honest, but my understanding is that it was a series of verbal interviews. Whether he then took it further, I don't know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much indeed. Is there anything you want to add? I apologise, I always ask that question.
A. No. Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Finally this morning, sir, we have Mr Blackhurst, the editor of the Independent. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. MR CHRISTOPHER CHARLES BLACKHURST (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Good afternoon, Mr Blackhurst. Your full name, please?
A. Christopher Charles Blackhurst.
Q. Again, you've provided a statement to the Inquiry following the provision of a section 21 notice. Can you confirm that the contents of that statement are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. Yes.
Q. You'll find that statement behind tab 2 in the bundle that you should have before you.
A. Yes.
Q. We know that you have been editor of the Independent newspaper since 4 July 2011.
A. That's correct.
Q. Paragraph 6 of this statement contains your previous career history. You explain that you've worked in the media in total for 27 years. After reading law at Cambridge, you entered journalism and you worked initially at a legal magazine and at various business magazines. You then moved to the national newspapers and have worked at six national titles: first, the Sunday Times, then you were city editor at the Sunday Express. You moved to the post of deputy editor at the Independent and then the Independent on Sunday. Then in 1998, you became deputy editor at the Daily Express and Sunday Express, and for the last nine years you've been the city editor of the Evening Standard and you were recently named business journalist of the year. Then you tell us that you started in your current position, as we said, in July 2011. So at the time of drafting your statement, you'd only been in the role for ten weeks?
A. That's correct.
Q. Now it's been about six months?
A. That's right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We'll do this rather generally. Is there anything substantial that you want to alter as a result of your additional experience?
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS I'm not going to ask you about corporate governance or financial governance, you'll be glad to hear.
A. Good.
Q. But I am going to ask you about some of the matters that you deal with in your statement. Can we start, please, with paragraph 9. You say this and I have to pick you up on this. You'll see why. "I am aware, as editor of the Independent, that we are expected to operate according to the highest ethical standards. The Independent I would say out of all the national newspapers prides itself on taking a high ethical stance. It is at the core of the newspaper's brand." Why do you say "of all the national newspapers"?
A. I think it's a historic thing, really. I think when the Independent was founded by Andreas and Steve Glover and Matthew Simons back in 1986 that it did take a very different stance and always has done. It certainly likes to think it's free from proprietorial influence. In those days, you had a heavy concentration of News International papers, you had union-restrictive practices that were dominating industry and the Independent at that time was seen as something different and has certainly maintained that ever since. Obviously I heard Lionel Barber this morning and he says his paper's the gold standard, and we can argue among ourselves which is higher but we've certainly put ourselves up there.
Q. I understand. You've heard Mr Malhotra and Mr Mullins tell us a bit about corporate governance, the separation between commercial and editorial sides of the newspaper. In your view, do procedures and policies and the separation between editorial and commercial sides of a newspaper actually make a difference to the culture of a newspaper, or does it depend more on the types of stories that a newspaper is particularly interested in?
A. I think it does depend more on the type of stories. I think some papers have a different culture, a different mindset. I think if you work in the Sunday market, where I have worked, there's very much a need to break exclusives on Sunday. We seem to have got ourselves into a position as a society where we expect Sunday newspapers to break stories, so that's quite different. Yes, I would say it's more the culture of the organisation. I mean, the Independent I think we need to put this slightly in context. The Independent is fairly small. It's extremely collegiate. We have, I think across three titles, just short of 200 journalists, whereas other places have 600. We do have some foreign correspondents but generally we are a bit smaller and it's possible for people to have a rough idea of what people are doing.
Q. Before I forget, I am going to come straight to the code of conduct, please, because you were passed that particular baton. If you look at tab 4 within the bundle you will find at the start of that extracts from IPL's code of conduct.
A. Yes.
Q. I have some questions to ask you about it, if I can. First of all, please, on page 4 of that internally, under the heading "Stage 1 preparing for publication", there is a section headed "Putting the story to the subject". Do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. "It is good journalistic practice that any potentially damaging story is put to the subject before publication." Now, good journalistic practice and what actually happens in practice may be different, so can you tell us whether, at the Independent, that's something that does happen?
A. It is good journalistic practice that it's put to the other side.
Q. Yes?
A. I would say that there are instances and I've come across them, I must admit, very rarely in my short stay at the Independent but in my very long time as a national newspaper journalist, there are some organisations some types of organisation that play games with the press, and you have to be very wary if you put a story. If you're very confident of the sources, very, very confident, and I mean two or three times sourced, and if you're putting it to them, they're quite likely and I don't mean they're going to seek injunctions or anything like that they're quite likely to be tipping off other journalists. We are in a very competitive field and there are one or two instances, types of organisations, where you have to be quite careful. If you go to them with a story, it's quite likely that somebody in that organisation might tip off another journalist, so you do have to be a bit wary. I really don't have much problem with that particular clause. I just think it's a bit broad, that's all.
Q. What happens in practice? Would you notify the subject?
A. I would expect us to, yes.
Q. And the situations in which you wouldn't would be dictated by the fact that in the past you'd had a bad experience
A. Not me personally or the paper. I think it's just knowledge that one or two types of organisations, particularly where there's constant press attention on them or where you phone up with a story and you just have to be a bit wary that it's going to leak and it's going to be passed on to another journalist on another paper, and it is as I say, it is an extremely competitive environment in which we operate.
Q. If someone was to say to you: "Mr Blackhurst, we've decided that actually prior notification in every case is going to be compulsory", would you have a concern about that?
A. Not really, no. No.
Q. I was going to ask you about attribution policies within the code of conduct as well. Page 6 internally.
A. Yes.
Q. Do you see that under the heading "Stage 2, pre-publication"?
A. Yes.
Q. "All substantial material and quotes must be attributed correctly [and so on] whatever the source of the material." Then it goes on over the page to discuss quotes: "If quoting someone directly, you must use their exact words. Take care if you want to quote someone anonymously. Ask yourself what their motivation is, if they are not prepared to go on the record And so on. Did you hear Mr Barber give evidence earlier?
A. Yes.
Q. What's the Independent's policy on using words such as "sources said" or "sources close to X said"?
A. We don't like them. I much prefer it that we actually name somebody or as close as could, give some sort of not identification but make it plain that we were talking to somebody on the inside. There are stock phrases like "sources close to the Prime Minister", which now is sort of ingrained in our brains, and we all know that's somebody at Number 10 or close, one of his advisers or whatever, but generally I think we try and avoid it.
Q. The last thing I want to ask you about is stage 3, post publication.
A. Yes.
Q. Complaints handling. This is on the same page, page 7, further down: "If you receive a complaint about a story, you should forward it to the managing editor and legal department." And so on. Now, I raised with one of your colleagues the possibility of a readers' editor. I think his answer was: "We're not going to pay for that", although he said it much more politely than that. What's your personal view on the merits of having a readers' editor who is independent from the editor himself?
A. Personally, in an ideal world with a large organisation, lots of resources, it would be a nice thing to have. In my time as editor of the Independent and actually prior to that, when I was deputy editor for a many longer period than I've currently been editor, I've always I've not felt the need for it. If somebody writes to me, I will read their letter, I will read their email, I will pass them to the managing editor, some I may respond to personally, or they will respond. I have not felt the need. On the other hand, I have no problem with it. As was pointed out, it is a cost, and we are not an overly rich organisation and we live in hard times.
Q. Where do you publish in the Independent corrections and clarifications?
A. We have a column on the I can't give you the page number but on the letters page there's a strip down there which we do use for those.
Q. Is that a daily column, a weekly column?
A. Well, fortunately we don't have daily corrections and clarifications. I mean, I'd say once a week, twice a week. If somebody's obviously if we have got something wrong and they are seeking a correction in the place where it appeared, I think we go along with that. I have no problem with that.
Q. I was about to ask you where you were on the prominence of apologies debate.
A. I think we try and publish them as prominently as we can. I mean, I I've not had cause to put one on the front page yet. If I had to I wouldn't want to, but if I had to, I would.
Q. So again, a theoretical example. If someone was to come to you and say, "Actually, we've decided that the industry-wide standard will be that all corrections and apologies must be published on page 2" that's only a theory would you have a problem with that?
A. None
Q. Or do you think that each newspaper should be allowed to publish corrections where it sees fit?
A. No, if the industry-wide standard is page 2, then page 2 it is. I have no problem with that at all.
Q. Can I ask you to turn back to your statement now, please, and ask you about your section on page 5, starting at paragraph 19. You were asked about where the responsibility for checking sources of information lies. You've told us a bit about attribution and so on, but I want to ask you about the responsibility now for checking sources. You say this at the start of this section: "As a preliminary comment, I would say that, from my experience, this is not an issue that arises very often at the Independent. Most of the stories we publish are relatively straightforward news reporting, comment and analysis, rather than investigative or in-depth feature pieces which might rely on a wider array of sources." Now, are you really intending to say that the responsibility for checking sources, that issue, doesn't arise very often? And if you are, can you just explain that a bit further?
A. I don't think I suppose what I'm trying to say there is that I think in nine times out of ten, or 99 times out of 100, the sources are obvious. We are quoting from reports, we're quoting from press conferences, from named interviews. Very rarely not very rarely, but rarely do we have stories where the provenance of the source is an issue. In that case, I would say if it was a news story, I would be saying to the news editor: "Where's this from?" I might speak to the reporter directly. I've not had cause to do it yet. Actually, I have asked the news editor: "Where's the story come from?" but I mean I've been happy with the answer. But it happens quite rarely.
Q. You explain at paragraph 21 how, if it was necessary to check the source of information, it works. Each level?
A. Yes.
Q. The original reporter and then the editor or the foreign editor, depending whether it was a news or a foreign story. Then deputy editor and then to you, with legal advice.
A. Yes.
Q. Is that a proper process? You're happy with that process?
A. Yes. I mean, I think we're giving slightly the wrong impression there. I stand by the words but we're not talking about a corridor of offices. We are we work with each other. I'm with the news editor, the foreign editor, the deputy editor pretty much all day long, and they're around me, and it's not a case of formal up and down the line requests. If I want to ask a reporter: "Where's the story come from?" I'll ask them. I won't wait for the deputy editor to speak to the news editor to speak to the reporter. We haven't got all day. I mean, just get on with it.
Q. Fine. Let's move on to private investigators, please. This is the section starting at paragraph 30 of your statement. You were asked whether the newspaper has ever used or paid or had any connection with private investigators in order to source stories or information. You say: to the best of the knowledge in the ten weeks that you'd been editor, the newspaper had never used, paid or had any connection with private investigators, and you say this: "Generally speaking, the sorts of stories that we publish in the Independent are not the sort that would require a private investigator or payments to the types of third parties referred to in the question. If a journalist on the newspaper did intend to use a private investigator, I would expect the journalist or their desk head to clear that with me in advance." Does that mean that you don't rule out the possibility of using private investigators?
A. I don't rule them out, no, but I'd say if I felt that a story was of such paramount importance in the public interest and there was a piece of information that was vital, be it a phone number or an address or something that was in the public interest, that that information was obtained and we could not obtain it another way, then I might sanction it, but it hasn't happened.
Q. Over the page, paragraph 41, you were asked about whether or not you pay or whether there are protocols or policies in place relating to payments to other external sources and you say that the Independent has a diary page which publishes out-and-about and social event-type stories. It doesn't publish inherently private stories such as exclusive celebrity kiss-and-tells, but you say you sometimes pay for tips for stories on the diary page. Can I ask you this: you can't have seen but did you hear or read of the evidence of Mr Atkins to this Inquiry? He's the gentleman who produced a film called Starsuckers and who planted false stories in showbiz and diary columns?
A. No. You're going to tell me that the Independent
Q. No, I'm not going to tell you that he rang the Independent, but I am going to ask you how you ensure that tips for diary pieces don't encourage fictional stories planted essentially for payment?
A. I think we'd have to I'm very wary. I mean, I have in my own experience, I've edited diaries and I was always very wary of people just ringing up who we didn't know. If it's from a named journalist who is a freelancer, who we have a relationship with, that's different. I'm very wary indeed of somebody phoning with a tip just like that, and we would only pay I would only pay, as a point of principle, if subsequently the story checked out. You wouldn't be agreeing and paying you know, no one can just ring up and say, "Pay me 50 quid, here's a story and I want it in my bank account now." That's not how it works. It would be if the story checked out, they might get 50 quid.
Q. Do you publish a phone number or an email address in your diary column for the public to ring in with tips?
A. No, we're not that I mean, we've got lots of people know where we are. They can get us online. There's email addresses published and phone numbers, but we don't we're not seeking I mean, we're not actively sort of putting signs up saying, "Please send us your really nasty stories." That's not how we work.
Q. There are two topics that I need to ask you about before we break for lunch. The first is the Johann Hari scandal, in inverted commas.
A. Yes.
Q. Then I'm going to ask about regulatory reform. Can we do it in that order?
A. Sure.
Q. Can I ask you about the Johann Hari issue first of all. First of all, I understand that the Johann Hari scandal broke very shortly before you became editor?
A. Yes.
Q. Can you tell us roughly how long that was?
A. Gosh, I think the paper first became aware of the plagiarism allegations against him I think it was two days before I was publicly appointed. You have to sort of remember that in the background, management knew there was a change of editor taking place and I think the previous editor knew there was a change of editor taking place, so people were there was an element of distraction, but the story, the allegations of the plagiarism, I think, broke two days before.
Q. In that context, I'm going to paraphrase and I'm going to just summarise very briefly what happened. If I say anything that you think is incorrect, please stop me and correct me.
A. Yes.
Q. Johann Hari was and remains an interviewer and columnist for the Independent?
A. He doesn't remain an interviewer.
Q. All right. We'll come on to what happened but he was at the time an interviewer and columnist for the Independent?
A. Yes.
Q. If I can summarise it in this way: he was accused first of all of plagiarism in this sense, in that it was pointed out that in relation to some of the interviews that he had published quotes were attributed to the person that he had interviewed that had not necessarily been spoken by them during the course of the interview. They were in fact quotes that had been taken from other sources. So, for example, in one case it was alleged that the subject had said what was attributed to him but he hadn't said it to Johann Hari; he'd said it in a book?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that a fair and accurate summary of the plagiarism issue?
A. That's correct.
Q. Secondly, Mr Hari was accused of having used a false identity to go into it's not a very technical term, I know, but to access the Wikipedia pages of others.
A. Yes.
Q. And amend them in such a way as to insert derogatory comments.
A. That's correct.
Q. Would that be a fair assessment?
A. Yes.
Q. You became aware of this, I assume, on taking
A. It's hard not to be aware. I mean, there was a the whole storm broke on the plagiarism LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What a wonderful way to start.
A. It was a great way. MS PATRY HOSKINS The storm broke and you were aware, weren't you, that this had generated considerable feeling?
A. Yes.
Q. Some supporters of Mr Hari and the excellent work that he had done up to that point, and others who were very angered indeed by what had occurred, not least the people whose Wikipedia's entries had been changed?
A. I think I'd slightly pause you there. I think there was a slight gap between the plagiarism and the Wikipedia amendments. They didn't happen concurrently sorry they didn't happen simultaneously. There was a gap. I think what I would want to stress was the shock this caused. Enormous shock to myself, as somebody who prior to then had mainly been an observer and an admirer of Johann's journalism, and a much deeper shock, I think, to his colleagues at the Independent. It was really profound and totally unexpected. My response I don't know if I'm heading off your questions or not, but if you want to keep asking me questions
Q. If I can, I want to ask you specific questions.
A. Sure.
Q. Because there are two fundamental points which have been put, which I must put to you.
A. Yes.
Q. You can deal with it in whatever form you would like. First of all, the allegation is that the Independent or editors at the Independent had known about this for some time and had done nothing about it, secondly that the sum consequence of all of this is that Mr Hari has not been sacked from the Independent. He remains at the Independent, although he's had a leave of absence, which I'm sure you'll tell us about it in a moment. The argument that's levelled against the Independent is that you have essentially protected your own, in much the same way as it has been suggested to News of the World that after the scandal involving Neville Thurlbeck and the comments made by a High Court judge, that they protected their own. He did not face the sack from News of the World despite having been heavily criticised for his actions. If we could just take those in stages, first of all, the issue of cover-up. I've seen there's an interview in the bundle with Mr Kelner in which he said that he would investigate which editors knew about this. If you look behind tab 10, it's probably easier than me reading it out. You'll see an article headed "Johann Hari row is political". It's the third article in to that tab. It's dated Wednesday, 29 June 2011. It's a Guardian article. Do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. At the top of the second page, the interviewer quotes Mr Kelner as saying this: "Kelner confirmed that the paper is investigating which editors knew about Hari's interview technique and that they would review some of his past articles." First of all, can you tell us whether or not the issue was investigated and whether, as part of that investigation, there was an investigation into whether editors knew about Hari's interview technique?
A. I think the word "investigating" there is probably quite strong. I think Simon I mean, I can't speak for Simon. Maybe you want to ask Simon to speak for himself. But I think that the as I stressed, the paper was in deep shock. The paper hadn't I'm surprised you say that there was cover-up in the sense that we'd had inklings before, because that is genuinely news to me. We had no inklings of the plagiarism at all. Indeed, one of the problems with the Johann affair was that nobody had ever complained. No journalist that he'd plagiarised, no person that he'd interviewed, no member of the public, no reader, no colleague, nobody had alerted us to the fact that he had drawn his information from somewhere else. If they had, it might have been nipped in the bud at a much earlier stage. The fact was it continued. What happened was that interview, 29 June and I took over literally that's the Wednesday. I took over on the Monday. One of my first acts was to ask Andreas Whittam Smith to investigate the allegations against Johann so and at that stage it was just the plagiarism. We did not know about the Wikipedia. That happened later when Nick Cohen wrote his article in the Spectator. Again, we had absolutely no knowledge. I certainly didn't. I don't believe any of my colleagues did. They had absolutely not knowledge that Johann Hari was messing about on the Internet under a false name amending people's Wikipedia entries. I mean, we just had no knowledge.
Q. So you started an investigation into what happened
A. Andreas Whittam Smith started an investigation.
Q. How did that conclude? What were the conclusions that you reached?
A. What happened was and there's two issues. The two issues are the plagiarism and let's call it the Wikipedia. The plagiarism I know it's hard for the rest of the world to understand but I've read Andreas' report. We won't publish it, simply because it is an internal report into an employee. It is a disciplinary matter. No company even though we're the Independent, we can't set a precedent of publishing disciplinary reports about employees. That wouldn't be on. I know it's hard for I mean, on the plagiarism, Johann genuinely believed he was doing nothing wrong. He wasn't amending people's words. He did fabricate things like: "He took another sip of wine and said", and obviously he wasn't taking another sip of wine, and then the bit he said he'd borrowed from elsewhere, but the fact that nobody complained, the fact that nobody spotted it, Johann did not believe he was doing anything wrong, and there was an issue, which came back to the fact that Johann left university he left Cambridge in 2001, I think I'm right in saying, and in 2002 he was as staff columnist on the Independent, and at no stage had he had any training.
Q. Is that an excuse?
A. No, because there are plenty of journalists who have no training who know the difference between right and wrong, and I accept that, and he should have known what he was doing was wrong, but nobody told him. I think in terms of plagiarism, it wasn't as stark and as severe as the Jayson Blair case. He wasn't fabricating hard news, as far as I was aware. On the Wikipedia, he was able to produce evidence that he acted in the way he did I mean, I don't want to too much into this.
Q. No, let's not go there.
A. But he produced his medical history, which showed that which, again, is another reason for not publishing the report which showed he acted in the way he did. Andreas took those into account. Andreas produced a very tightly argued reasoning as to why, while he had committed misdemeanours, he did not think it sufficient for him to lose his job.
Q. What sanctions were imposed?
A. Johann's now had four months without pay. He's had no his salary was stopped. That's four months entirely without pay from the Independent. He's gone to New York at his own cost to do ethics courses at Columbia and NYU. He will be returning to the paper in about four or five weeks' time as a columnist. He understands he won't be interviewing people. He understands I hope he understands that if anything arises that damages the paper's reputation, then I'm afraid that's it, and everything he writes will be heavily looked at, as I'm sure it will be by the outside world. There's a whole Twitter community who probably can't wait for him to start writing again, but that's what's going on happen. I think, as Roy Greenslade wrote in the Guardian, he thought it was a proportionate punishment.
Q. So did you protect your own?
A. No. I think if you're publicly suspending somebody for four months without pay his reputation has been very, very severely damaged. The reputation of the Independent in relation to Johann Hari has been severely damaged. He produced cogent reasons why he did what he did. We are the Independent. We had to respect those. I don't think we covered up at all.
Q. I want to move on to ask you about press regulation and reform, please. If you look at tab 9 in your bundle, you will find an article which is headlined: "Independent editor backs plan for bad journalists to be struck off." This sounds like you are in support of some kind of licensing of journalists, which is interesting. I think we've not had a witness yet who is in favour of that. Perhaps you could outline your views on this.
A. I'm not in favour of state licensing. I think that the as much as I regret saying it, I think the Press Complaints Commission has become tarnished in the eyes of the public. It is what the words say on the tin. It's a receptacle for complaints, and it ought to be I think the industry now recognises, and certainly when the editors meet and we talk among ourselves, we now recognise that there is need for substantial reform. What I'm profoundly against is state intervention, state control of the media. I think if we can find a formula so that all the newspapers are brought within the new body I think much is made of this, but the government has a way of defining newspapers for VAT purposes, and so if they can be defined and brought in, that might need a small statute. They are then in the body, whatever this body is called. It is then enshrined in every journalist's employment contract and every condition of payment for a freelancer that they abide by the code of this new body and failure to abide by the code may lead to disciplinary measures, and in the case of employed journalists, those employed by the news organisations, as opposed to freelancers, it could mean that they lose their job. I certainly would advocate fining the newspapers and I think this new body should be far more proactive. The example I give I would have dearly loved in the Johann Hari case to have passed the Johann Hari file to the PCC and said, "There you are, you look at this, I will respect this, because it won't damage " I mean, I wouldn't be sitting here it's not standing, you're standing I wouldn't be sitting here being accused of a cover-up if I'd passed the file to the PCC and they'd come back with a verdict on Johann that I followed. There's no means in the system for doing that. If you look at I mean, we all sort of in a way poke fun at slightly anachronistic organisations like the Jockey Club. The Jockey Club has a way of dealing with jockeys. The Law Society has a way of dealing with solicitors. The GMC if you're a hospital manager and you suspect negligence, you go to the GMC and they look into it and they might move against a doctor. There is nothing in our industry for that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One of the problems with that and I'm very interested in what you've just said and I'd certainly like to take it up with you, but one of the problems with your recent analogies is that the state is entitled to say who could practice as a doctor, who can practice as a lawyer or an optician or whatever, but it's fundamental to freedom of expression that what you are doing when you're writing something is doing no more than exercising your right of free speech.
A. Um LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Whether that means you have to have a job is different, and I take the point you make.
A. I think the way I would do it, and I have given some thought to this, is that this new body, if they said I mean, you know, let's use hypothetical I don't really want to use Johann, it's not fair on him, but say they came back to me and said, "We believe that Johann Hari broke our code, broke the code, and in our view he should not continue to be employed by the Independent." Obviously we have our own HR. The contract is with us, the employer, but in that contract, if there was a clause saying that it would be a disciplinary matter, that if you broke the code, we would then hold it would be quite a brave organisation that then turned around and said, "Actually, you know what, we hear what you say but we're going to ignore it." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You can tweak that slightly and fit in with employment law responsibilities by saying that a disciplinary matter could be adjudged by a press complaints authority, whatever it's called
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON and passed back to the management of the newspaper to deal with the particular journalist as they felt right.
A. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I could see that, but I'd like to go back on what you've just said, because what you did say is that hang on: "If we can find a formula so that all newspapers are brought within the new body And you said that might require a small statute. You probably heard my exchange with Mr Barber, that I'd be very keen to ensure that whatever regulation there was was independent.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I like that word, if you'll allow me to use it.
A. It's a good word. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That it isn't in any sense state-controlled or state-influenced. But to get some of the bells and whistles in place, do I gather
A. We have a problem at the moment, as you know, with Express Newspapers not wishing to be part of the PCC, and therefore we don't have in terms of our national title, we don't have an all-encompassing referee. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And there are lots more, too. There are magazines that don't subscribe.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not merely the Express.
A. I think if you're obviously it is the right of everybody to go to a photocopying machine and start writing and photocopying and handing out pamphlets in the street. That's the sort of society we believe in and the sort of society we want, and that's a principle that we hold very dear, all of us in this room. Well, I can't speak for everyone, but we do. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I'm going to agree with you.
A. Yes, good. But on the other hand we need to find a way of defining newspapers and magazines, if they're taking paid-for advertising. The government is able to find a way. The HMRC defines it for the purposes of VAT. Newspapers are exempt from VAT. I haven't looked at how they define but they do define it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It could be also the trade or business of journalism.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So, in other words, one analogy, if I take a quite different example: if you sell your car individually, then you're not within the trade description legislation.
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If, however, every single week you're advertising three different cars in a newspaper, then it's an inference that you're in the trade or business of selling cars and you are then
A. That's right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON so it's that sort of thing.
A. That's right, and I think that then spills over onto other areas, because obviously one area of concern is the Internet, but it strikes me that there's an enormous amount of concern about people blogging and saying what they like on the Internet, but how often does it actually come back to the story not being true until a recognisable, reputable news organisation has actually reported it? And that happens all the time. Yes, there's a blogosphere out there, but it's the BBC until it's on the BBC reporting it, or until it's in the Independent, the Guardian, the Times or the Sun or whatever, it's not regarded as true. Therefore, some type of badging, whether it's kite marks or standards or whatever, could easily be applied. If you want that standard, you have to play by these rules. I don't see that as it wouldn't affect the way I go about my business as a journalist, and would not affect the way the Independent goes about its business. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Sorry. I'll have a go after you. MS PATRY HOSKINS I'm very conscious of the time and the fact that you may have questions for Mr Blackhurst. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. Let me just carry on a little bit. You also heard the exchange about libel and the whole cost of litigation, and you've heard me speak about some sort of arbitral system which allowed people cheaply to resolve issues without incurring these vast expenses, both sides.
A. Yeah. I think I heard Lionel Barber and I agree with him and I think I know the law firm he was referring to, and when you get one of their letters, you feel you're going to be boiled in you know, they're pretty horrific. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not going to get too involved in what law firms or how they write letters. I'm more concerned with the idea of providing a mechanism, but if it's consensual, then the very, very wealthy will simply say, "I'm not interested". If that's the only way they can do it, then actually that has an advantage for the vast majority of people, and indeed for the press as well.
A. Yes. I'm intrigued as to in my time, and I've worked, as has been said, on Sunday Times, Express, Observer, Independent, Independent on Sunday I've not really come across these people who are libelled and have no form of redress. I'm not entirely sure that but nevertheless, if this new body had LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Blackhurst, with respect, you wouldn't, because if they have no money and have not been able to go to libel lawyers, then they'll be told, "I'm very sorry, unless you have ?X thousand to invest in it, you're wasting time."
A. Except now we operate in a different world of conditional fee arrangements. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's only comparatively recently.
A. Yeah. I it would not cause me a problem, and I don't believe it would cause a Independent a problem, if this new body had some sort of let's call it arbitration division or complaints division that actually dealt with these cases and both sides respected. It wouldn't bother me at all. I am all for legal disputes being settled in an afternoon by both parties in a room, and that's it, and I've always thought that should be the best way to operate. If it's left to lawyers, dare I say it, it will be strung out because you know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We're not that evil.
A. No, no, no, lots of my friends are lawyers. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That doesn't necessarily disagree with what you just said. I'm interested in a system, however we devise it, that works for everybody.
A. Obviously I've not made a study of this, but one that does come to mind is in construction law. In construction, they have very quick procedures where money is agreed. You know, they have a very quick arbitration procedure. You know, as I understand it, they have an expert, who probably isn't a judge, an expert who might be, in our case I guess it would be a former editor or former somebody who would sit in, both sides agree, and it's settled there and then. I don't see why something like that from the world of construction could not be applied to journalism. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MS PATRY HOSKINS Sir, it's past 1 o'clock. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you have any more? MS PATRY HOSKINS I don't have any more questions for Mr Blackhurst. I've not afforded him the opportunity LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'll afford him the opportunity. Is there anything you'd like to say that you don't feel you've had the opportunity to say?
A. No. I think it's a matter of regret that the PCC has been found to be wanting. I think we all recognise the need for reform. My biggest worry is that the sort of journalism that we do, and we do do investigations and we do think they're in the public interest, and I would count some other newspapers in this but also I don't think, you know, some the newspapers who've been traduced in public in the last months, they do fantastic work. Without the Daily Mail on Lawrence, we wouldn't have got to where we got last week. Without the News of the World, we'd still believe that Test cricket was entirely clean. These are huge things. I'm very worried that the outcome of this Inquiry, and I hope not, that our ability as an industry to investigate will be curtailed, because it's pretty hard, investigating. We don't live in an open society, whatever people might think, and finding out things about people that they do not want you to find out I mean, one thing that's lost in all this is that when you're doing investigations, and I've done an awful lot, the key point is very often the person you're investigating does not want you to find out. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Somebody defined news as: something that somebody else doesn't want you to hear.
A. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that point and I am absolutely at one with you that nothing should happen which, in any sense, impacts adversely on appropriate journalism.
A. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The problem and the trick is going to be to separate out all that is good, and there is a great deal that is good, as I've said several times.
A. I would stress very heavily there's a lot more good than bad. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, that's as may be, that's as may be; but, on the other hand, there certainly have been some practices which are not entirely laudable.
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And it's not just phone hacking.
A. No, it's not just phone hacking, although I stress on phone hacking, if the police had not had such a cosy relationship with News International, as they possibly had, it may have been investigated a lot earlier and people dealt with. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Except, we have to be a little bit careful about that as well, Mr Blackhurst, because we don't have a society where a policeman can sit on everybody's shoulder, and I'm not making any finding about this at all.
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I've read some of what has been said in Parliament, and it is at least plausible that if you're investigating or concerned about enormous crimes against the country, terrorism or the like, that how much you investigate every single allegation of data protection or hacking I'm not in any sense applauding, approving; I'm merely saying there's a balance even there.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But one has to be a little bit careful about saying if the police had done their job if it's to do with their relationship with News International, doubtless we'll find out.
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's part of the Inquiry.
A. Likewise, you could say if the PCC had done their job, we might not LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. They're one of the guilty parties here. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But my concern is it's a bit more fundamental than all that.
A. Sure, sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I entirely endorse your view that there is much, the predominance, the real predominance of work that's done by the press in this country is to everybody's advantage. The extent to which the press investigate the press is perhaps another question.
A. Oh, gosh. We're not going there, are we? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You look at everybody else. The extent to which you look at yourselves you are now, I recognise that.
A. We do. There is a sort of you know, the phrase "people in glass houses" always springs to mind. Whenever we look at what another paper's done, we're very wary, and I think they're wary about having a go at us, and there is a sort of unwritten code between us that we don't do that sort of thing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And that's the problem. Because we look to you, the press, to guard all of us, and we therefore need to make sure we have robust systems that guard you.
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That takes me back to the early part of July, which is what I said when I was first appointed. Mr Blackhurst, thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We'll say 2.10 pm. (1.08 pm)

Witnesses

Gave a statement at the hearing on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence

Themes

Understand all the key topics and the context behind the Inquiry's findings

Journalism & society
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Regulation
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Politics
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Future of journalism
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Background & history
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Subsequent developments
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Ethics & abuses
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