Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Media Policy - Press & Broadcast Freedom

LAST night, at a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting on 'Making the media an election issue' in Manchester the Chairman of the NUJ, Chis Rea, jokingly introduced the editor of Northern Voices Brian Bamford, who was asking a question, as the proprietor of a local publication: 

'I'm from Rochdale and I edit a small publication called Northern Voices,  which in November 2012 was involved together with the Westminster blogger, Paul Waugh and the Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, in the outing of Cyril Smith.   A lot has been published recently about historic child sexual exploitation, but in the case of Cyril Smith last April, the Daily Mail serialised some stories by the Rochdale MP, Mr. Danczuk about the sexual abuse of some young boys by Cyril Smith:  The story then became one in which Simon and the Daily Mail had outed Sir Cyril Smith.

'This was twaddle!  As long ago as May 1979, another small journal – the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) – ran a report in which they presented the case of six lads at Cambridge House Rochdale in the 1960s, who had been spanked and had suffered false medicals.  These lads all made sworn statements, under oath before a solicitor, that they had been abused by Cyril Smith.

'Now the troubling thing about this is that none of the main-stream national media at the time followed up this story in 1979.  Other that is than Private Eye!  The reason being that Cyril Smith took out an injunction – what the solicitors call a gagging measure.  How would more new laws or the greater media diversity proposed by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom help here, when, it seems, the mainstream media is so spineless?'

Granville Williams CPBF:  'This is an important question.  I knew the people at RAP and had a lot of respect for them, but though the case of RAP and Cyril Smith was important it was not the only case at that time in 1979 (the Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom was ironically founded in 1979).  There were many other cases around that time.  The problem relates to the libel laws in this country, and the need for and the difficulties of corroboration.' 

Had I then had the courage to ask a further question, I would have raised the worry of Private Eye that 'Hack-off' and Leveson were potentially leading the way to less press freedom, and may yet,  through a passion for more legistlation and regulation, pose a danger to small publications like Northern Voices and even larger ones like Private Eye

1 comment:

Chris said...

This is fine, except I was serious when I introduced you as a media proprietor - the intention wasn't to bathetically contrast Northern Voices or your position with the Murdoch-centred context of the meeting, quite the opposite in fact.