Leveson and the Use of English

John Rentoul

ed richards 300x200 Leveson and the Use of EnglishAs a denizen of the Ethical Vacuum,* I hasten to correct an error I made in my column in The Independent on Sunday yesterday. I said that, under Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals,

Ed Richards, who once worked for Gordon Brown, and who was appointed head of Ofcom by the Government, would decide who regulates the press.

I had confused the chairman of Ofcom, Colette Bowe, with its chief executive, Ed Richards (pictured), whom I remember from his time as a parliamentary assistant to the shadow chancellor.

I had not been listening closely enough to the Prime Minister in the Commons on Thursday. He said:

Of course, the chair of Ofcom is appointed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

It turns out that, formally, the chief executive of Ofcom is appointed differently, according to the Office of Communications Act 2002:

The chief executive shall be appointed by the chairman and other non-executive members of OFCOM with the approval of the Secretary of State.

I nevertheless think that, if the Secretary of State has to approve the appointment, that is the power of appointment even if it is not exercised nakedly in practice.

In fact, it is similar to LJ Leveson’s proposal for a self-regulatory body that has to be “verified” by Ofcom: that does not look like statutory regulation and it is designed not to do so, but if Ofcom has the power to approve or disapprove the regulatory body, it has the power of regulation.

*A phrase LJ Leveson uses twice in Vol 2, including here:

ethical vacuum Leveson and the Use of English

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  • Rick Role

    Humbug! Chris Grayling has a similar notional veto over Supreme Court appointments yet I’ve not heard journalists squealing that the judiciary is a poodle of the government. Double standards, or have you already been gagged?

  • John Rentoul

    This is a good point, to which I will return.

  • ZacMurdoch

    ‘As a denizen of the Ethical Vacuum’
    Come now, John – you are ‘one of the many bloggers . . . [who] should rightly and fairly be characterised as valuable and professional’, as you well know – no false modesty, please.
    And stop setting up straw men. It all depends on the independence of the regulatory body – if the non-execs are properly independent of the media and politics, and properly robust and independent-minded as individuals, no minister would dare question the appointment of their chief exec because of the fuss that would ensue re political interference.
    What I want to see is an end to the appalling behaviour of the journalists who are driven to intolerable breaches of individuals’ rights by their editors’ / owners’ demands for scoops or the next ‘development’ of the story. I’m not talking about the illegal behaviour – that could, and must, be prosecuted in future. At the moment, there is no comeback, and there needs to be a credible threat to eradicate the excesses.

  • Rick Role

    “This is a good point”?! I demand to be checked and balanced.

  • laura

    Sign this petition to sustain Lord Justice Leveson’s calling for a new independent media watchdog.

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