Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm sure this will end well

Some of the more conservative members of my audience might occasionally read my blog and think, "Wow, has this guy ever met a regulation he didn't like?" As it turns out, the answer is yes:
At a hastily-convened news conference to unveil his plans for inquiries, Mr. Cameron also proposed an extraordinary tightening of regulations on the behavior of the free-wheeling British press, which prides itself on investigative prowess far beyond the tabloid titillation with which some of its titles are associated.

“I believe we need a new system entirely,” Mr. Cameron declared, saying the current self-regulation of the press by a body called the Press Complaints Commission has “failed.”

In case you haven't been following the burgeoning scandal in the UK, the country is up in arms because a tabloid was caught hacking into the voicemails of newsworthy people -- people who also often happened to be dead, like soldiers or abducted teenagers. To make matters worse, there were, it appears, all manner of unseemly contacts and payoffs between the tabloid and the police, and because the now-deceased tabloid was a flagship paper of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, all manner of unseemly contacts between its staff and the current Tory government.

I enjoy a bit of schadenfreude as much as the next guy, particularly when it involves affirmed villains like Murdoch and clowns like David Cameron, but clearly the thing to crack down on here is not the press, but the government and the cops. Regulating the press is creepy and Big-Brother-ish; if anything, a healthy press corps should, from time to time, skirt over the bounds of good taste and legality in pursuit of a story. The real scandal is that the British government was aware that this sort of thing was happening, and because of its high- and low-level connections to Murdoch showed no interest in addressing it.

For the media to succeed as an institution, it should find itself occasionally at odds with the law (which the News of the World certainly did) and at odds with the ruling classes (which Rupert Murdoch certainly was not). Government oversight discourages both and drains the vitality of the whole enterprise.

1 comment:

  1. I see where you're coming from, but somehow "The government has repeatedly failed in its mission to regulate the murdoch-owned press, and it's going to take fundamental reform to fix the problems of corruption and regulatory capture" doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?