Belfast Telegraph

Newspapers’ turn in trenches as wind of change blows

By Paul Connolly

A whirlwind continues to blow through the UK’s media. The impending change is likely to be unprecedented. Every week brings new revelations — and this week was no different.

Virtually every pillar of the Establishment has now been rattled in the past two decades.

The miscarriages of justice of the 1980s and 1990s shook the foundations of the judicial and policing systems so much a special miscarriage of justice commission had to be established.

The work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission continues to this day.

The churches have been battered hither and thither across the British Isles by scandals and slumping congregations.

The Royal Family has had more than one ‘annus horribilis’ and only now seems secure again on its foundations.

MPs and bankers were pilloried on the public roasting spit in 2008 and 2009 (and let’s not mention the billions lost previously in mis-selling scandals).

Now it’s the turn of the newspapers, television having of course already been rattled by the premium phone lines and programming scandals of recent years.

So, in one way, it’s not surprising to see senior newspaper bosses giving passionate appeals at the Leveson inquiry this week.

And neither is it surprising that major ground is being yielded in a bid to stave off statutory Press regulation, which many people fear is the thin end of a very large wedge.

Even so, many eyebrows were raised when Associated Newspapers’ editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre, said all of his newspapers — the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and free Metro series — will now carry correction columns. This is a major crack in the edifice of national newspapers. Next they’ll be appointing Readers’ Editors!

Unlike the regional daily newspapers, it used to be well-nigh impossible to get a clarification, or correction, in the likes of the national tabloids, or middle-market papers.

It was felt that the projection of confidence, certainty and clarity was more important than admissions that mistakes can be made.

Arrogance by another name, in other words. How times change.

Mr Dacre has also conceded that a powerful Press Ombudsman should be created with the power to summon journalists, impose fines and pass the costs of such an investigation over to the newspaper concerned.

Mr Dacre sits on the Press Complaints Commission and knows the full implications of this and whether it would really be called true self-regulation.

Ironically, yesterday saw the appointment of the Tory peer Lord Hunt as new chairman of the embattled PCC.

Lord Hunt would be advised to quickly don his tin hat.

Belfast Telegraph

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