Leveson Inquiry

A murky pool of vested interest, where monsters wait to swallow the free press and media bite by bite.

The UK Column has already written a number of articles warning about the real Leveson Inquiry agenda - and that agenda is political control of the free press and media in Britain. Stirring the Leveson Inquiry pond, we have already exposed the extraordinary links between major funders and supposedly charitable trusts, and the very people now thrust forward to judge the values and performance of the press and media in this country.

In doing so, we have pointed an early accusatory finger at one key organisation, the Media Standards Trust, a self-appointed body, which has claimed the right to attack both press and media, and to demand and campaign for an inquiry into press and media standards. Strangely Leveson’s  senior panel member, Sir David Bell, was lead figure in this very same organisation, until ‘called’ for inquiry duties by Leveson.

Having created itself from nothing under the leadership of Bell, the MST submitted a 97 page report to the Leveson Inquiry in June 2012, attributing the document to their “Press Review Group”. In a 5 part breakdown of the press and media, the document covers ‘Historical Content, What’s wrong with the previous system, Will any of the proposals on the table work, A new system entirely and A public interest defence in law.’ Two appendices cover ‘Press self-regulation recommendations grid and Funding the new system.’

The key purpose of the report is stated as making:

... Recommendations for a new framework of news media self-regulation. The recommendations are aimed at protecting free expression and a free press, enhancing the protection of good journalism in the public interest, addressing the problems revealed prior to and during the Leveson Inquiry, and better protecting the public.

So far all seems apple pie and ice-cream, but is it? A quick look at the authors and review group named, starts questions over connections, transparency and vested interest. Lead report author is Dr Martin Moore, the Director of Media Standards Trust and intimate colleague of Sir David Bell as Chairman of MST Board - a position Bell held until ‘standing down’ to head the very Leveson Inquiry panel to which Moore is submitting his report.  Conflict of interest anyone?

Moore’s CV lists the BBC, IPC Media (Time Warner), Trinity Mirror, Channel 4 and others. Surely this man, who has been part of the history of the media should, under the ‘warts and all’ rule, take some blame for the present problems? Why should we take his advice on the future of the media?

David Yelland

The same could be said of MST review group member David Yelland. Starting his journalism career at Pearson’s Westminster Press group (the Pearson empire for which David Bell was Board Member), Yelland spent 14 years working for the Murdoch empire, including 5 years as Editor of the Sun. During this time he admits publicly that he was drunk at his job and drunk every night for nearly 24 years, sometimes unable to remember what he wrote. Admittedly now dry, we should still ask who is Yelland to advise the public on anything to do with the press or media? Didn’t he help create the Sun media culture that Rebekah Brookes took over - to her great cost and ultimate downfall? Hypocrisy anyone?

Meanwhile the review group themselves are a diverse collection of privileged career analysts of the media, government, media, corporate placemen and major bankers. Just what is their real agenda?

Moore’s MST colleague Gordon Ramsey is a professional researcher of media content and history. He appears to have no practical experience of the press or media. Professor Steven Barnett is a professor of communications at the University of Westminster. He has advised the House of Lords select committee on Investigative journalism and News and Media Ownership. Those that can, do, those that can’t teach springs to mind.

Martin Dickson’s resume boasts of leading the way in MST’s call for Press Complaints Commission reform. This statement is yet another clue that the Leveson Inquiry is a contrived set-up by the MST. Their ‘Hacked Off’ campaign coincidently registered its web domain name before the phone hacking scandal broke and is now recruiting for a range of professional posts to keep the ‘campaign’ running, post Leverson. Why? Because the real agenda is complete control of the press and media. If they can’t swallow press freedom this time, they will get it with the next bite - or two.

Dickson is a Financial Times man, which fits well with David Bell’s former role as Chair of the FT.  Carolyn Fairburn, a strategy director of BBC and ITV, is of course a banker, working as a non-executive director of Lloyds Banking Group. Richard Hooper - founding deputy chairman of Ofcom and independent reviewer of the Royal Mail for Peter Mandelson, is an ongoing guru for Vince Cable’s copyright licensing study. So much connectivity, so little transparency. The list goes on.  Professor Stewart Purvis, formerly Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief of ITN, President of EuroNews, and Ofcom partner for Content and Standards. 

Golden Chairman of the MST Review Group is Rothschild banker and Executive Vice-Chairman Anthony Salz. Former Vice Chairman of the BBC, he is also a corporate lawyer and sits on the board of the Department of Education. He is a trustee of the MST, Scott Trust, which runs the Guardian Newspaper, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation......and a member of Hacked Off, of course.

Let’s come back to Media Standards Trust director Martin Moore who has recently blogged on Inforrm, “The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog”:

There is no shortage of quotes or aphorisms about the corrupting nature of too much power. From Thomas Bailey’s warning that 'The possession of unlimited power will make a despot of almost any man' to Lord Acton’s 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' ... This appears to be what happened at parts of News International, where the subjects of stories — whether they were politicians, celebrities, public figures or the victims of a tragedy — were harassed, hounded, intimidated and discarded. It reached such a scale — the victims of phone hacking number in the thousands — because News International accumulated enormous power, and this power went almost entirely unchecked.

Moore goes on to say that:

Reforms should, for this reason, focus on these large corporations. Individuals, bloggers, tweeters, independent news sites, small magazines and newspapers should not be Leveson’s focus. They should be free to publish whatever they like within the law. They should be excluded from any regulatory obligations that might risk constraining their free speech.

These sound fine words but Moore is himself part of an elitest club backed by huge corporations and money. Just track the funders for his Media Standards Trust. Esmee Fairburn, Gatsby (Lord Sainsbury), Joseph Rowntree (with funds of £millions), Eranda Foundation (Rothschild),  Pearson Foundation (yes, David Bell’s old company), Nuffield, Scott Trust (Rothschild & Guardian Media Group) and others. Just what are the real interests of Moore’s powerful backers?

Another clue comes from the links between Moore and Will Moy, budding press and media critic from Fullfact.org. A pushy little organisation funded by four of the very same funders who fund the Media Standards Trust (see Fullfact article opposite). Just who did set up Fullfact and why? Could it be that the aim is for Rothschild, Sainsbury, Pearson and other rich powerful shadowy figures to create and inflame the press and media saga, for Leveson to introduce the very controls they want in the first place?

Sources close to Tory central office allege that PM David Cameron stated just prior to the general election ... “When we get in power we will legislate against people like that.” His remarks were allegedly aimed at the UK Column.

Will control of the press stop with the big corporations? Absolutely not, because the powers that control the big media corporations already control the faux fact organisations such as the Media Standards Trust, Hacked Off and Fullfact, which pretend to have press freedoms and our best interests at heart. In the cross party dictatorship now running Britain, control of all press and media is simply a question of bite by bite. Hacked Off is already recruiting staff for their post Leveson push. The free press and media need to start investigating and reporting fast, before they are eaten alive.