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Report of the UK Leveson inquiry into the conduct of the press published
December 7, 2012 5:44 AM   Subscribe

"For the seventh time in less than 70 years, a report has been commissioned by the Government which has dealt with concerns about the press. It was sparked by public revulsion about a single action – the hacking of the mobile phone of a murdered teenager. From that beginning, the scope of the Inquiry was expanded to cover the culture, practices and ethics of the press in its relations with the public, with the police, with politicians and, as to the police and politicians, the conduct of each."
The report, in four volumes of around 500 pages each, is available for download.
posted by rjs (38 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Leveson Inquiry
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:01 AM on December 7, 2012


It might be good to explain in the text above what this is - it's been a massive story in the UK but I wouldn't assume it's well-known outwith its borders.
posted by mippy at 6:31 AM on December 7, 2012


Yeah, nothing will happen - the papers are full of "whaaa but we need a free press whaaa".

And Cameron has already said "No legislation", as advised by his Murdochian cronies.

It is all a bit of fun and games for the rich and powerful to play, a distraction from doing any kind of real work.
posted by marienbad at 6:33 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You would be surprised how much less well known this story is in the US than the UK. Some headlines this summer, some mentions of Murdoch, but it hasn't had the same traction. Indeed it might be good to summarize soon.
posted by Miko at 6:36 AM on December 7, 2012


From Blazecock Pileon's wikipedia link, a summary of The Leveson Inquiry, in case anyone doesn't want to click through:
The Leveson Inquiry is a judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, who was appointed in July 2011. A series of public hearings were held throughout 2011 and 2012. The Inquiry published the Leveson Report in November 2012, which reviewed the general culture and ethics of the British media, and made recommendations for a new, independent, body to replace the existing Press Complaints Commission, which would be recognised by the state through new laws. Part 2 of the inquiry has been deferred until after criminal prosecutions regarding events at the News of the World.

In 2007, News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were convicted of illegal interception of phone messages. According to the News of the World, this was an isolated incident, but The Guardian claimed that evidence existed that this practice extended beyond Goodman and Mulcaire. In 2011, after a civil settlement with Sienna Miller, the Metropolitan Police Service set up a new investigation, Operation Weeting. In July 2011 it was revealed that News of the World reporters had hacked the voicemail of murder victim Milly Dowler. The Prime Minister, David Cameron announced that a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 would be chaired by Lord Justice Leveson on July 13, 2011.
I've only read the executive summary so far, but it's excellent. It's good to see they analyzed the failures of the PCC and recommended a very clear structure for a functional independent regulatory body.
posted by zarq at 6:36 AM on December 7, 2012


It is, mippy. It was a huge story in the US at the time, too. But our media is good at thowing all sorts of interesting info at us with breakneck velocity, so we often forget or lose track. Plus, 500 pages... we rely on the media to tell us what it says. I'm 230+ pages into Against the Day. I don't have time to learn the minute details about these things.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to tend to this intriguing article on CNN informing me which milk is the healthiest for me and my loved ones.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:37 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Telegraph: Timeline of the phone hacking scandal

The BBC's timeline.

Wikipedia.
posted by zarq at 6:38 AM on December 7, 2012


Thanks zarq. TO be clear, I wasn't advocating not reading the link, but often people do need more clues in order to decide to read the link.
posted by Miko at 6:38 AM on December 7, 2012


*nod* I posted my first comment without previewing.
posted by zarq at 6:42 AM on December 7, 2012


It is, mippy. It was a huge story in the US at the time, too

I did not know this. I also wonder how much of the Jimmy Saville and then the continuing BBC/sexual abuse scandals, which have led the headlines until the announcement of the Royal Foetus, were reported over there.

With the Leveson story, the main moment of public revulsion came with the revelations about Milly Dowler. She was a schoolgirl who went missing, and her family frantically called her phone to see if she still had it, even if she couldn't answer. By some means (I'm not sure if there is a way of knowing this or whether the police checked) they realised that her voicemails were being read, so they kept up the hope that she was still alive, even if held against her will, rather than dead. It turned out that a News of the World journalist was hacking into her voicemail and listening to them in the hope of a story.
posted by mippy at 6:46 AM on December 7, 2012


It's good to see they analyzed the failures of the PCC and recommended a very clear structure for a functional independent regulatory body.

Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems that Lord Leveson proposed an oversight group with few teeth, one which is voluntary and managed by the same press that it is intended to regulate. PM Cameron, in an effort to placate Murdoch, won't even implement this much. It's hard to see how this result is an improvement for the British public.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:50 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


mippy, here's how they knew: The journalists were accessing and listening to her voicemail messages; Milly Dowler's cheapo phone provider, like mine at the time, auto-deleted voicemails three days after they were listened to, to save space. (The journos did not, contrary to popular belief, deliberately delete the messages themselves.)

As the family knew that new messages were still being left on her phone, and as some were disappearing before they heard them, it revealed that a third party was accessing them. Surrey Police invited the News of the World for a meeting, but for unknown-but-guessable reasons did not press any action against them.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:59 AM on December 7, 2012


Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems that Lord Leveson proposed an oversight group with few teeth, one which is voluntary and managed by the same press that it is intended to regulate. PM Cameron, in an effort to placate Murdoch, won't even implement this much. It's hard to see how this result is an improvement for the British public.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:50 PM on December 7 [+] [!]


Leveson recomended "statutory underpinning" which would involve legislation backing up the regulators.

What it looks like we will get is the voluntary scheme where the press regulates itsself (read: doesn't regulate anything).
posted by Reggie Knoble at 7:03 AM on December 7, 2012


I have no idea how typical this is of their usual reporting, but this FOX News segment about the inquiry (scroll down for the embedded video) was bad enough to be hilarious. A FOX presenter chats with the former head of a Murdoch-friendly PR company, and without mentioning what the inquiry is about beyond "hacking", they stress that it was a tiny incident that everyone should forget about, and then change their language to strongly imply that the NotW was actually a victim of hacking. They don't actually tell a direct lie at any point in the segment, as far as I can tell, but... wow. That's an interesting relationship with the truth that they have there.

(Context: FOX, of course, is owned by (Murdoch's) News International, who also owned News Of The World. As a side note, when the NotW closed down, it was instantly replaced by the "Sun on Sunday", which has the same target market and similar editorial slant, re-employed many of the NotW staff and is owned by... *drumroll* ...News International. Plus ca change....)
posted by metaBugs at 7:06 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Reggie Knoble: Leveson recomended "statutory underpinning" which would involve legislation backing up the regulators.

Yes, exactly. Whether it happens or not is another story.

mippy: I did not know this. I also wonder how much of the Jimmy Saville and then the continuing BBC/sexual abuse scandals, which have led the headlines until the announcement of the Royal Foetus, were reported over there.

It was reported in small segments on local/national news tv and in a bunch of news articles. But he wasn't really known here and we're a bit removed from the scandal. I'm not sure how aware the American public is about it.
posted by zarq at 7:33 AM on December 7, 2012


. I'm not sure how aware the American public is about it.

I'd say not very much. My boss is British and was avidly following it in the British press; she kept bringing each fresh revelation to work in outrage, and the rest of us were kind of "huh?" She took to sharing links from the British press with us so I started following the story in the foreign press and on BBC World News on the radio. American news media did not give it as much play at all by comparison.
posted by Miko at 7:37 AM on December 7, 2012


I do think it's worth noting that a great deal of the most repulsive and disturbing things uncovered by this inquiry were already illegal and are being taken to trial. To me that points to a need for greater enforcement rather than the need for a statutory oversight body, but I freely admit that I'm not reading a 2000 page document to find out if this is addressed somewhere within.
posted by atrazine at 7:42 AM on December 7, 2012


A lot of folk I've spoken to or read comments from believe the same thing. The press's activities were unlawful: plain against the law. A quicker and easier system for wronged parties to get to court would make things a lot better. It would let the press publish freely while within the law, yet face having to justify themselves when stepping outside of it. Of course, there needs to be a strong public interest defense, as sometimes the law can be broken for good reason, as well as better libel law (but these seem to be in hand).
posted by Jehan at 8:02 AM on December 7, 2012


As the family knew that new messages were still being left on her phone, and as some were disappearing before they heard them, it revealed that a third party was accessing them.

However, this did not happen.

I think that for most Brits this is when the whole thing kicked off: when the Guardian reported that because of the News of the World journalists deleting messages, Milly Dowler's family thought she was still alive. Worse, the police investigation was misled.

But from the report:
This Inquiry was set up in the light of the public reaction to the Guardian’s story published on 4 July 2011 that the voicemail of Milly Dowler was hacked into and tampered with by one or more journalists from the NoTW, such that a number of her voicemail messages were deleted, thereby giving her family false hope in her well being. The evidence relating to these allegations will need to be examined, not least because the Guardian later retracted that part of its story that asserted that one or more messages had been deleted.
So, for the record: the key event that initiated the Inquiry never took place, and was (to be charitable) a mistake by the Guardian. (The URL in the Leveson report to the Guardian story is broken. Wayback had it, but it's dead too. I assume that's for legal reasons.)
posted by alasdair at 8:06 AM on December 7, 2012


It's worth being aware of Leveson, if only because it directly influenced both the last series of The Thick of It and Skyfall. Like a medieval magician, he invoked pretty much everything that was vile over the last couple of decades - Murdoch, Murdoch, Blair, Morgan, Cameron, Hunt, a whole daemonology of the loathsome fuckers - and was snippy at them for us.
posted by Grangousier at 8:10 AM on December 7, 2012


I do think it's worth noting that a great deal of the most repulsive and disturbing things uncovered by this inquiry were already illegal and are being taken to trial.

For context many of the participants in the London Riots were charged and in court in less than 5 days with very little evidence compared to these crimes.

The trick with this crime is that Murdoch and company has corrupted every level of possible enforcement impetus: both major political parties, the police and the press as well as controlling major propaganda outlets that have been consistently playing down the severity of the crimes.

I'm amazed it even got this far.
posted by srboisvert at 8:10 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, and I'm not being snarky here, does that make it a case of "they did shitty things but not actually the shittiest one you heard about?"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:13 AM on December 7, 2012


So, and I'm not being snarky here, does that make it a case of "they did shitty things but not actually the shittiest one you heard about?"
It's more a case of examining a building because you think a timber is rotten, finding that the timber is fine but that the crawlspace is full of dead bodies.
posted by Jehan at 8:24 AM on December 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


As the family knew that new messages were still being left on her phone, and as some were disappearing before they heard them, it revealed that a third party was accessing them.

However, this did not happen.

alasdair

You're misreading forgetful snow's post. The paragraph above the one you quote from explains:

mippy, here's how they knew: The journalists were accessing and listening to her voicemail messages; Milly Dowler's cheapo phone provider, like mine at the time, auto-deleted voicemails three days after they were listened to, to save space. (The journos did not, contrary to popular belief, deliberately delete the messages themselves.)


Actually, I'm not quite sure how you read that post and then made a post of your own reiterating exactly what the post said.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:33 AM on December 7, 2012


alasdair, I understand that the Guardian has retracted their allegation that it was deliberate deletion, and that further investigation is still needed to determine the precise events, but I thought that the fundamental story was basically unchallenged?

I am still wading through the Report, but certainly Sally Dowler's witness statement (section 15 in particular) seems to bear this out.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:42 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for adding the extra info, everyone, I probably should have added some background material.
posted by rjs at 9:20 AM on December 7, 2012


alasdair - Yeah, they retracted that the NoTW deleted the messages when it turned out it was automatic, but the allegation that NoTW hacked a dead girls phone messages still stands as true - they did. Scum.
posted by marienbad at 10:04 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The real issue exposed by the Leveson inquiry was the massive circlejerk between police, politicians and the press. Crimes were not investigated or not prosecuted, false police statements were reported as gospel, newspapers were routinely in contempt of court without being censured at all for it and members of the ruling class - political, media, and law enforcement - schmoozed together at a series of chintzy dinners and dos and exchanged embarassingly matey texts. For me it was a real 'Surely this..?' moment; after all, none of this is news to old-fashioned lefties who have been talking about all this stuff since the dawn of time, but it was a first in terms of its being openly reported in the mainstream press and identified specifically as a problem. However, it appears that The Great British Public have eaten once again of the lotus fruit; nothing changed, no great cries for blood were heard, and all parties are more-or-less back to their old tricks. I guess the Revolution will not be this year after all.
posted by Acheman at 10:05 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This was reported in the US by NPR and by Rachel Maddow, at least... but NPR is the sort of outlet people go to if they really care about the news (which isn't a majority of Americans) and Rachel, as much as I love her, is openly partisan (though far fairer and more reasoned than Faux News). I frequently read about this story online, and had no trouble finding sources, but I was interested. Enough so that this:
It was sparked by public revulsion about a single action – the hacking of the mobile phone of a murdered teenager.
...seems like a very lazy mischaracterization to me. Yes, it was the most grievous and unforgivable of a whole mountain of bullshit actions by the tabloids, but the context--that there was indeed this mountain of bullshit actions--seems too important to say it was only that case of phone-hacking that uncovered all this other stuff.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:17 AM on December 7, 2012


I've followed this case for the past year, and the question I have is, aren't there already laws against wiretapping that apply to everyone, including journalists? Why does there have to be special oversight of the media?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:20 AM on December 7, 2012


Because, as documented in the Leveson report, the police are in the media's pocket and often do not prosecute in cases of wiretapping unless they are publicly pressured to do so.
posted by Acheman at 10:23 AM on December 7, 2012


Oh, apologies, forgetful snow: yes, reading fail on my part. As forgetful snow observes and I repeated, the messages autodeleted. The journalists did not delete them.
posted by alasdair at 10:26 AM on December 7, 2012


So the answer is to give the "corrupted" police more oversight and de facto censorship?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:26 AM on December 7, 2012


Scotland Yard's most senior officers tried to convince the Guardian during two private meetings that its coverage of phone hacking was exaggerated and incorrect without revealing they had hired Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World, as an adviser.
More oversight of the police would be a good thing, yes.
posted by alex_reno at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2012


So the answer is to give the "corrupted" police more oversight and de facto censorship?

No, the answer is to devolve oversight to a group of extremely boring civil servants who have nothing to gain from anyone involved because they are already as comfortable as they could desire to be and don't need to manipulate their own image in the press. Most types of media are regulated in some way by bodies like these, and they work OK though not brilliantly.

The other answer would be for everyone to realise that it doesn't make sense to have an immense concentration of power in the hands of a tiny group of people, because the result is always a cosy sort of corruption that often isn't even perceived as such by its participants, being governed by chumminess, warm feelings and mutual favours. What most people don't seem to realise is that corruption almost never presents as textbook moustache-twirling cold-hearted evil. Corruption is warm and friendly and lovely to everyone within its circle.

As I get older and more cynical I move further to the left, because I believe less and less that people can be trusted to make good decisions on behalf of other people without a real democratic check. For genuine freedom you need mass power, and you need a level playing field with real economic equality.
posted by Acheman at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2012


Most types of media are regulated in some way by bodies like these, and they work OK though not brilliantly.

I'm not so sure I agree with this. Do you have any examples? We do we mean by "regulate"? If it means not using illegal methods such as wiretapping or bribes, aren't both practices already covered under existing laws?

Many unjust laws are administered by boring public servants.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2012


I don't agree that this isn't being covered in the US press. I hear something about it from time to time on NPR, heard about the report release for instance, and see articles on it online.

Also, the US govt is looking into prosecuting Murdoch & Ilk for possible US wiretapping violations, and that's been discussed.

It might not make the ABC Nightly News, but I'd still assume that news-following Americans have heard of it.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:04 PM on December 7, 2012


I'm not so sure I agree with this. Do you have any examples? We do we mean by "regulate"? If it means not using illegal methods such as wiretapping or bribes, aren't both practices already covered under existing laws?

I'll assume you missed the earlier comment so I'll repeat the point it made: These laws do exist and the police DID NOT investigate not because they were not broken or because they lacked evidence (in fact the evidence but deliberately avoided even looking at it) because they were in the pocket of the press - both in terms of being infiltrated by them and being paid for leaks by them. The report will cover how the police were themselves involved in the criminality and actively hired the very people they were supposed to investigate and then conspired to backburner the investigation with the full complicity of the political establishment which was busy riding police ponies that were gifted to Murdoch and godfathering his grandchildren.

The context for not wanting police involved in this is that UK policing is corrupt in very particular ways. It routinely uses the press as a weapon (for instance the English Riots were initially set off by the police leaking falsehoods to the press to cover its armed officers' asses whilst denying any information to the family of the man they killed - this kind of leaking is practice they have engaged in before - see the Jean Charles de Menezes murder ) and the press is delighted to comply (and even pay the police for this service). No police officer has ever been convicted of killing in the England.

The context for not wanting politicians involved is that they are both and bought and paid for and absolutely terrified of the power of the press in a way that is quite different from the United States.

You need true independence.

Ofcom is not an unreasonable model.
posted by srboisvert at 4:08 PM on December 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


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