Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Regulation 'won't threaten press'

Greg Dyke is one of 11 high-profile broadcasters and film-makers who signed the letter

Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke has criticised claims that attempts at press regulation following the Leveson Report would be "inevitably anathema to free speech" as "wrong and insulting".

Mr Dyke, who spent four years in the top job at the BBC, is one of 11 high-profile broadcasters and film-makers who signed a letter published in The Times.

The letter, signed by documentary maker Nick Broomfield and impressionist Rory Bremner among others, states: "Delays in implementing the Leveson recommendations have been justified in some quarters by warnings that effective regulation would inevitably threaten free speech."

It continues: "We are broadcasters with long experience of working within a far tighter regulatory system - underpinned by legislation - than Leveson envisages for the print media. While we make no comment on the detail of the Leveson plan, we would point out that our industry has a proud record of independent, challenging journalism - calling the rich and powerful to account without fear or favour. Our experience of programme-making tells us that effective regulation, far from being something to be feared, often acts as a buttress to and a shield for journalism that takes on vested interests and asks awkward questions.

"We can say what we want and make the programmes we want within a regulatory framework that is enshrined in law. The suggestion that such regulation is inevitably anathema to free speech, or automatically places us under the thumb of politicians, is wrong and insulting to us as fellow journalists."

Among the recommendations in Lord Justice Leveson's report, which was published last year, was a call for a new self-regulatory body to be backed by legislation guaranteeing its independence of the press, of Parliament and of the Government.

It also called for the board of the new body to have a majority of non-press members, though with a "sufficient number" of ex-editors, senior journalists and academics with detailed knowledge of the industry.

The letter, also signed by former Today Programme editor Kevin Marsh, was originated by film-maker Peter Kosminsky after he spoke at an event on press freedom organised by campaign group English Pen.

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