Identifying an effective regulatory regime for news publishers was a primary mission of the Inquiry, which devoted much time to examining the failures of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and to hearing arguments for possible alternative models.

Much attention was devoted to the independence, including the financial independence, of a future regulator, both from government or political control and from the control of news publishers. There was a focus on whether or to what degree regulation might be ‘statutory’ or have ‘statutory underpinning’, and the Inquiry also considered regulatory codes and how and by whom they should be written.

The powers needed for effective regulation in matters such as the investigation of complaints and possible sanctions for code breaches were another matter of concern.

The Inquiry considered the history of the regulation of journalism in the UK since the 1940s, and also regulatory models employed in other countries.

Of the 92 Recommendations, 47 related to regulation of news publishing.


'Media plurality' refers to the relationship between the ownership of news organisations and the range of information they make available. If most newspaper proprietors are right-wing, does that mean their papers do not properly reflect other views? Does it mean the so-called 'marketplace of ideas' in our media is not a true or free market? In particular, do too few people own too much of the media in the UK, and if so what should be done about it?

Plurality and media ownership figured in the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry, and so it investigated the views and role of proprietors and of politicians and the functioning of existing legislation. The arguments are reviewed in Part C, Chapter 4 and conclusions on plurality are set out in Part I, Chapter 9. Eight of the Inquiry's Recommendations related to plurality.

Closely explored in this context were Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of the Times and Sunday Times in the 1980s and the involvement of the Thatcher government, and Murdoch's unsuccessful attempt in 2010-11 to acquire full ownership of the BSkyB television company. See also: 'The News International bid for BSkyB'.

Leading politicians gave their views on plurality, including Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Jeremy Hunt, and the subject was addressed in detail in submissions by Robin Foster, Ofcom, Guardian News and Media, and Clare Enders of Enders analysis.

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The treatment of minorities in journalism figured both in oral evidence and in written submissions from a variety of groups, including ENGAGE (now MEND), the Federation of Muslim Organisations, Trans Media Watch, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. Journalists raising concerns included Peter Oborne, Richard Peppiatt and Katharine Quarmby.

The Report reviewed this evidence chiefly here: Report

The ability of existing laws and code provisions to protect people from religious, ethnic and other minorities from discrimination and the incitement of hatred in journalism was challenged, as was the commitment of the managements of news organisations to tackle the issue. So far as regulation was concerned, much argument surrounded the reluctance of the Press Complaints Commission to accept third-party complaints.

There was limited discussion of the presence of minorities in newsrooms, and the opportunities for minority candidates to gain training and employment.

See also: 'Group and third-party complaints'; 'Representation of women'.

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The public interest

Both the law and the regulatory codes recognise that in some cases journalists may use the defence that they acted in the public interest, meaning in brief that, though they may have broken a law or breached a code, their actions were justified because they did more good for the public than they did harm.

Through the evidence of journalists (for example, Alan Rusbridger and John Witherow), regulators (Ofcom, the BBC), academics (including Professor Gavin Phillipson and in the hearing of 16 July 2012) and lawyers (Hugh Tomlinson, Keir Starmer), the Inquiry investigated how the public interest should be defined, referring to the ethical codes of the BBC, Ofcom and the PCC as well as to guidelines drawn up while the Inquiry sat by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Also examined was the question of who should decide when and how the public interest was relevant. This led to the question of the independence of regulation: if a regulator was insufficiently independent of the press, would it too often give journalists the benefit of the doubt, even where citizens suffered harm?

The Report addressed the public interest at length in Part B, notably in Chapter 3. The legal aspects were analysed in Appendix 4. The Inquiry made three Recommendations relating to the public interest.

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Journalistic ethics

Although the judge insisted that the determination of ethical boundaries for journalism were beyond his remit the Inquiry inevitably heard much evidence relating to those boundaries. Many witnesses drew distinctions between the role of the law in constraining journalists and the role of regulation or self-regulation, with ethical matters ascribed to the latter.

Victims of abuse and journalists themselves drew attention to difficulties in dealing with suicide, for example, and private grief, while there was also discussion of when journalists should declare any personal interests in a subject, or the interests of their employers. A good deal of time was devoted to the public interest, and when it might override ethical concerns.

Ethics and codes overlapped closely, and there are many references to codes, notably the Editors’ Code of Conduct as applied by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). Whether this code was sufficient, and whether it was right that editors wrote the code, were matters of debate.

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The term 'intrusion', as used at the Inquiry, tended to embrace both activities that were illegal, such as breaches of privacy rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, and conduct that was legal but generally considered unethical or in breach of codes of practice, such as publishing photographs of the bereaved in distress.

The Inquiry received abundant evidence of press intrusion. The Report (Part F, Chapter 5) gave a series of case studies, while other relevant testimony came from Sienna Miller, Charlotte Church, Chris Bryant, David Cameron and Bob and Sue Firth.

Editors, former editors, journalists and photographers were questioned on the subject, including Colin Myler, Rebekah Brooks, Peter Hill, Alan Rusbridger, Neville Thurlbeck , Nick Davies, David Pilditch, Darryn Lyons and Paul McMullan. A number discussed the degree to which intrusion may be justified when an investigation is in the public interest.

Legal specialists such as Mark Thomson, Hugh Tomlinson QC, Professor Kenneth McKinnon, Tom Crone and Liz Hartley gave evidence on the subject, as did those engaged in regulation, such as the PCC and Stephen Abell.

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The role of a code of practice in news publishing and who should have responsibility for it were matters examined very closely by the Inquiry. They were central to the Inquiry's mission because upholding a code was seen as the principal task of a regulator.

The Report looked closely at the function of professional codes generally (see Part B, Chapter 4, Section 4), the evolution of the Editors' Code of Practice that was operated by the Press Complaints Commission (see Part D, Chapters 1 and 2), the codes that applied in broadcasting (see Part K), significant breaches of the code (see Part F), monitoring the code (see Part J, Chapter 4, Section 6.22-6.27), relevant proposals for the future (see Part K, Chapter 3, Section 4 and Chapter 4, Section 8), and Recommendations (see Part K, Chapter 7, Section 4.18-4.24).

Among those whose evidence included discussion of codes were the PCC, Lord Black, Baroness O'Neill, Paul Dacre, Alan Rusbridger, Dr Martin Moore and Professor Chris Frost.

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History of regulation

Press regulation in the UK began in 1953 with the founding of the General Council of the Press, which became the Press Council in 1962 and was replaced by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in 1990. Discussions of the history of regulation tended to focus on the reasons for failures, and often referred to the previous inquiries into the press: three Royal Commissions on the Press (in 1947-49, 1961-62 and 1974), the Younger Committee on Privacy (1972) and the Calcutt Committee (1989-90).

The Report reviewed the history here:

Leveson Report

And here:

Leveson Report

The Leveson Inquiry took it as a premise that these bodies had failed to uphold standards and protect the public from harm, and its Terms of Reference required the judge to make Recommendations for a new regulatory regime.

The Inquiry naturally looked particularly closely at the history of the PCC, with many witnesses and submissions commenting on its record, including almost all of its previous chairs. Key witnesses and submitters included Lord Hunt, Lord Black, Baroness Buscombe, Stephen Abell, Martin Moore, James Curran, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and Paul Dacre.

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The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) was established as a self-regulator by the newspaper industry in 1990 in response to the findings of the first Calcutt Report (see here), which called for more accountability and improved complaints handling. When its early performance was assessed by Sir David Calcutt in 1993, he declared it a failure, but his findings were shelved by the government of the time.

At the time the Leveson Inquiry was established, the view was widely shared that the PCC was ineffective in upholding journalistic standards and had failed, and the Inquiry's Terms of Reference explicitly called for Recommendations for a new system.

The Inquiry reviewed in considerable detail the PCC's history, particularly in the 21st century, up to and including its limited efforts to respond to phone hacking. It is likely that the majority of witnesses addressed the subject. Former directors and officials and responsible industry figures were questioned in detail about its structure, operations and record, and about how far it had been independent of the news industry. Editors and journalists gave evidence about their views of and relationships with the PCC. Politicians were asked their opinions on its effectiveness.

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Regulatory models

Besides reviewing the models of press regulation that had been tried in the UK in the past, the Inquiry considered others, both existing models at work in other countries and models proposed in submissions and witness evidence. These were addressed at length in Part K of the Report.

The Irish model was discussed in evidence from the Irish press ombudsman, John Horgan, and from Seamus Dooley of the Irish National Union of Journalists. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism also submitted a comparative study of regulation is six countries, carried out by Lara Fielden, who gave oral evidence on the subject. Submissions were also made in relation to Australia and New Zealand.

Proposals for new models of UK regulation were made by a number of parties. Chief among these was that of the PCC and PressBoF (which was sometimes referred to as the 'Hunt/Black plan'), on which both Lord Hunt and Lord Black were questioned at length.

Another came from the Media Regulation Roundtable, and Hugh Tomlinson QC gave evidence on this. See here.

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Independence of regulators

How far should or could regulation be independent of the press industry itself? And what measures should be taken to ensure it was free of political influence? These questions were central to the Inquiry, as was another: how could a regulatory system recommended by a public inquiry established by government with parliament's assent be implemented without impinging on press freedom?

The Terms of Reference clearly stated that the Inquiry's Recommendations must support the independence of the press, 'including from Government', and the Inquiry's draft regulatory criteria (see Part K, Chapter 1, Section 1) included a clear statement of independence from industry and politicians.

The Report (see Part K, Chapter 1, Section 4) noted that when it came to evidence these matters were 'relatively uncontroversial', though in practice there were a number of differences of view. Notably, much emphasis was placed on appointments, how they should be made and by whom; if press organisations had a role in this, the objection could be made that the resultant body would not be independent. Some press witnesses offered the counter-arguments that press expertise and experience was necessary, and that without press input there was a risk of losing press 'buy-in'. See also: 'Funding of regulators'.

Part K, Chapter 7 of the Report delivered the Inquiry's conclusions on such matters, notably at Section 4, and Recommendations 1-6 dealt with independence of appointments and funding.

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Funding of regulators

How regulators are funded relates, potentially, both to their independence (who holds the purse strings, and are they in a position to abuse that power?) and to their effectiveness (regulators must have enough money to do their job). Equally there were concerns about the burden of the cost of regulation upon an industry facing economic challenges.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) was funded by the Press Board of Finance (also known as PressBoF). The Inquiry Report reviewed these arrangements at Part D, Chapter 2, Section 4, and at Part J, Chapter 4. The Inquiry received evidence about PressBof from its chair, Lord Black, and from PCC chairs including Baroness Buscombe and Lord Hunt.

Funding and cost were addressed more generally in the Report at Part J, Chapter 3, Section 3 and in Part K (see Chapter 1, Section 6; Chapter 2, Sections 7 and 9; and Chapter 4, Section 14), and funding was the subject of Recommendation 6.

Witnesses and submitters who provided relevant evidence included Professors Roy Greenslade and Chris Frost, the Media Standards Trust, Paul Dacre (including his contribution to the Seminars), Max Mosley and Stephen Abell.

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Effectiveness of regulators

Its Terms of Reference required the Inquiry to 'make recommendations for a new, more effective policy and regulatory regime', thus formally placing effectiveness at the centre of its concerns.

Much of Part F of the Report was devoted to evidence of regulatory ineffectiveness, and Part J, Chapter 4 looked specifically at the effectiveness or otherwise of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). Part K, Chapter 1, Sections 1 and 2 set out the Inquiry's criteria for effectiveness and Chapter 3, Section 2 assessed the PCC/PressBoF regulatory proposal (see also: 'Regulatory models') against those criteria. Recommendation 23 directly linked effectiveness to the involvement in the system of all significant news publishers.

Evidence to the Inquiry linked effectiveness most notably to independence, powers, sanctions and membership and since the issue was central to the Inquiry's mission it surfaced in a great deal of written and oral evidence.

Criticisms of the PCC's record came notably from victims, from a number of academics including Professors James Curran, Chris Frost and Brian Cathcart, and from bodies such as the Media Standards Trust and MediaWise. It was defended by witnesses such as Lords Black, Hunt and Grade, and by Stephen Abell and Tim Toulmin.

See also: 'Regulatory models' for discussion of reform possibilities.

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Group and third party complaints

Should a regulator investigate only those complaints which originate from people directly affected by an alleged code breach, or should it also accept complaints from 'third parties', including from representative groups? The Inquiry heard a good deal of evidence on these questions.

Submissions and testimony from a number of groups ' including ones concerned for the rights of women, of Muslims, of Travellers and of transgender people, and also a group concerned with the reporting of science (see Report, Volume 1, page 22) - asserted that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) normally rejected complaints from third parties and that this was unjust and prevented the correction of important reporting errors.

Lord Wakeham and Tim Toulmin gave evidence as to why this approach was preferred, though Lord Hunt told the Inquiry it was not a hard-and-fast rule. Evidence from Stephen Abell and Baroness Buscombe also addressed the point. Some editors argued that accepting third-party complaints laid regulation open to abuse by specialist lobbying groups and fanatics.

The Report classed this as a 'power the PCC did not exercise' (see analysis at Volume 4, Chapter 4, Section 6.18) and Recommendation 11 of the Report stated that regulators should have the power to accept third-party complaints in matters of accuracy.

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Recognition & statute

The chief novelty of the Inquiry's Recommendations on regulation was the proposal for a 'recognition body' whose job would be to certify that a press regulator (or regulators) met the standards of effectiveness and independence set out in the Report. This proposal was explained in Part K, Chapter 7, with the detail in Section 6, and the relevant Recommendations are numbers 27-33.

The Report did not propose mandatory regulation under statute, but Recommendation 33 stated that statute would be required to create a recognition body and fix its criteria. (It also said such a statute should 'place an explicit duty on the Government to uphold and protect the freedom of the press'). Background to the possible involvement of statute was set out in Part K, Chapter 4, Section 6, referring to evidence by Lord Black, Paul Dacre, the Media Regulation Roundtable, the Libel Reform Coalition and others. Other evidence relevant to recognition was provided by the Irish Press Council and Dr John Horgan.

Recommendation 31 stated that the task of recognition should be assigned to Ofcom, or failing that an independent body or individual. In the event, by cross-party agreement reached in March 2013, a new body, the Press Recognition Panel, was set up under Royal Charter rather than by Act of Parliament. See also: 'Royal Charter'.

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

Journalism & society
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Background & history
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Subsequent developments
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Ethics & abuses
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