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HUGH GRANT’S appearance at the Leveson Inquiry today began as a celebrity-cum-film-actor’s bitter axe to grind with the British tabloid press, but actually ended up with a sensible exchange of how best to regulate a section of the media that has lost its way. He did indeed start hacked off, but slowly mellowed as the afternoon went on being quizzed by QC Robert Jay.
Although it is for Lord Justice Leveson to determine how a new press will operate in a report, Grant’s suggestion of a co-regulated body, with a small element of statute, and a panel mixed up of hacks and non hacks is the basis for a positive idea. I would go further though, and have a panel fully made up of no journalists. Joan Smith, a writer who also appeared at Leveson today at the High Court also said there should be no editors sitting on a panel that regulates the media. In my opinion, a “new” PCC should be totally independent, and should be free from the smell of hacks. Or, if you really need hacks on there, have ex-ones or Professors.
But whether you have a panel comprised of hacks, non hacks, or badgers (yes, those black and white cuddly things, there is a cliché coming up) nothing is black and white. The biggest problem that Leveson will have is how to get over the public interest issue. What is in the public interest, and what interests the public? Sex, lies and video tape sell. It always will.
Grant did however fall down in his sense by somehow thinking that this is a great day to stand up to the bullies of the tabloid press. Does Hugh Grant believe that this period in British History will mean the end of British tabloid journalism as we know it – and secretly really fourn over it? He told Leveson that he could survive without tabloid publicity. He said they would rather they did not publish his name ever. The problem is, when these guys lose their wow factor, they are itching for the publicity again and again. For example, think of how many has beens have gone on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to reinvent their own wheel?
Hugh Grant may have won the battle today, but there’s still a long way to go until he, or indeed those other self appointed public avengers win the war against the tabs.
Like him or hate him, Hugh must be admired for his passion – but he knows, like most, that press hunt in packs. What Leveson has to do is try to tame those rogue wolves who think it is better to roam the moors killing at will, and come up with a strong whip that can make them tow the line like the other hunter-gatherers of the news media. I wouldn’t like to be a Sheep Dog at this time, would you? It’s the culture of a small section of the media that needs to change, as Joan Smith told Sky after her appearance. And like with everything else in life, it’s difficult to change the habit of a lifetime…