Belfast Telegraph

Pressing concerns but still no action on Leveson report

By Paul Connolly

The months have ticked by and still there is no sign of a deal on the regulation of the Press in the wake of the Leveson inquiry. There is complete stalemate between the industry and the Government and, as we go into the summer, no sign of a way out of the self-imposed thicket amid which we wander.

The regional Press, in particular, has many fundamental concerns, chief of which is the proposed arbitration scheme, which would be free for complainants to use and which has a range of unpalatable conditions, including the ability to hear group complaints. The effect of this will be to trigger a tidal wave of costs and red tape, which would overwhelm local and regional newspapers (which were, after all, absolved of any blame by Lord Justice Leveson).

As everyone knows, newsrooms are already shrinking.

Do we really want councils, courts and public meetings across Northern Ireland devoid of reporters, because of the financial burdens of this bureaucratic millstone? I think not.

A light-touch arbitration scheme might have a chance, but the one proposed by the Tories, Lib Dems and Labour will have serious unintended consequences.

This one is likely to run and run.

* Meanwhile, it's nice to see good oul' Norn Iron putting its best face forward for the arrival of the G8 this weekend.

There will, I'm sure, be lots to discuss at a local level, not least the traffic arrangements.

But it should all be well worth it -- the sort of international publicity this event will generate cannot, quite literally, be bought. Let's hope it's all of the good sort ...

* It would be churlish to let this week's column pass without recording my congratulations to the teams at the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life for scooping multiple gongs at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Northern Ireland journalism awards and the Online Media Awards at the Emirates Stadium in London. Winning Northern Ireland Newspaper of the Year, Northern Ireland Sunday Newspaper of the Year and UK Best Regional Website for, all in a single week, is a formidable achievement.

Special thanks to the CIPR, whose regional branch organises the Northern Ireland awards.

Relationships between journalists and PR professionals are very often prickly and, in truth, that is how they should be.

But it's cheering that, once a year, the CIPR showcases the talents of the local media.

The events are a reminder that, for a region the size of Leeds, and in spite of the fierce pressures on newsroom budgets, local journalism is in reasonably good health.

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