Regulation for the news? Some say yes. Photo by Flickr user NS Newsflash.
Here at Backward Messages, I spend a lot of time writing about how journalists get it wrong, whether it’s playing up someone’s Wicca or Satanism faith or linking mass shootings with violent video games or heavy metal music. In some cases, they’re not getting it wrong by accident, but willingly focusing on “sexy” angles that will get more people to read or view a story, even if journalists are bending the truth in the process.
This week, Judge Brian Leveson delivered a long-awaited report sparked by British journalists’ misdeeds, and one of his top recommendation is for the news industry — in Britain at least — to establish a regulatory agency to keep reporters on the straight and narrow:
The British press should be regulated by an independent group supported by law and with the power to fine … Leveson said he was not recommending that Parliament set up a press regulator, but that the industry should create its own, which would be backed by legislation to make sure it meets certain standards of independence and effectiveness.
News International, a subsidiary of News Corp., responded with support for the idea in a statement, saying, “We accept that a new system should be independent, have a standards code, a means of resolving disputes, the power to demand prominent apologies and the ability to levy heavy fines.”
Rightly so, there are concerns that such an agency could stifle freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which are highly valued in Britain even without the backing of a doctrine like the First Amendment in the U.S. But the idea is a reminder that, other than laws against libelous or slanderous reporting, the news world is very lightly regulated, and journalists get away with a lot — even though their task is to properly inform the populace.
So, what do you think? Should the news industry — in any country — be regulated? If so, should it be regulated by peers, by the government, or by someone else? Share your thoughts in the comments.