The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, on which I sit, has today published a report calling for the funding imbalance between London and the regions to be urgently rectified. The report, and a summary of its findings and proposals, can be read online here.
At yesterday’s Culture, Media and Sport questions I asked the Secretary of State whether he will meet alleged victims of unethical press conduct.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): If he will meet alleged victims of unethical and unlawful conduct by the press to discuss how to prevent such conduct in the future.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): I support freedom of the press while wanting to ensure that redress is available when mistakes are made, and I will welcome representations from a range of stakeholders who have an interest in the matter. My meetings will, of course, be a matter of public record through the Cabinet Office in the usual way.
Mr Bradshaw: I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new job. I think it is probably the best job in government, and I hope he enjoys it.
I was not quite sure from the right hon. Gentleman’s answer whether he will meet victims. I hope he will, because as he will be aware, they are not happy with what has happened since the Leveson report and they are certainly not happy with attempts by some newspapers to set up a replacement for the discredited Press Complaints Commission. Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said on oath to the Leveson inquiry that the test is
“not: do the politicians or the press feel happy with what we get? It’s: are we really protecting people who have been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves by this process”?
Sajid Javid: I know that the right hon. Gentleman feels passionately about the issue, and I am sure he recognises that since Lord Leveson’s report was published, we have made significant progress on the issue on a cross-party basis. As he knows, the royal charter has now been granted, and it is now for the press to decide what they wish to do next.
On the issue of meeting alleged victims, if they were to make a formal request, I would give it serious consideration.
At Culture, Media and Sport Questions this week, I asked the Secretary of State about the progress of the royal charter on press regulation.
Mr Bradshaw: Given the endemic misreporting of this issue by the press itself—including, I am afraid, by the Financial Times, which claimed this week that the right hon. Lady was going to break the all-party consensus and support the non-Leveson-compliant PressBoF charter—will the Secretary of State now explain for all our benefits what she thinks will happen next?
Maria Miller: It is a complicated issue, which explains the difficulties in the reporting of it. The royal charter has been put in place. More importantly, as the House should recognise, the press is well down the road of setting up the self-regulatory mechanism that it needs to move forward. That should be applauded, and the whole House should welcome it.
At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, I asked why the royal charter for press regulation has not yet been sent to the Privy Council.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Why has the royal charter, which was approved overwhelmingly by this House, still not been sent to the Privy Council when that should have been done in May? Will the Prime Minister assure the House and the victims that he will not do a deal with certain newspapers to further water down Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations?
The Prime Minister: What I can say to the right hon. Gentleman is that we have to follow the correct legal processes. The legal advice, which we have shared with the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, is that we have to take these things in order: we have to take the press’s royal charter proposal first, and then we have to bring forward the royal charter on which we have all agreed. I have to say that I think the press’s royal charter has some serious shortcomings, so, no, I have not changed my view.
In yesterday’s Business Questions, I asked the Leader of the House of Commons why the Government has so far failed to send the royal charter on press regulation to the Privy Council.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Can the Leader of the House explain why the Government have still not sent the royal charter on press regulation, which was passed overwhelmingly by this House, to the Privy Council? The motion on which we voted stipulated that it should be sent in May. Can he reassure the House and the victims that it is not because the Government are planning to do some kind of grubby backroom deal with elements of the press and to further water down Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations?
Mr Lansley: As I understand it, this is simply a matter of the proper processes relating to the approval of a royal charter by the Privy Council being pursued, in circumstances in which other proposals are also being presented. The Privy Council Office has gone through a process of securing the examination of other proposals as well, but these are matters of continuing discussion among my colleagues and I will ensure that the House is updated as soon as we are clear about the timing.
May 22, 2013 in Committee
The majority of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (including myself) have written to the Privy Council rejecting the model of press regulation put forward by the industry itself, this rival Royal Charter has many of the flaws the old regulator had does not ensure decent press standards and independent regulation.
More details can be found on my colleague Paul Farrelly’s website: http://www.paulfarrelly.com/news/westminster-news/news.aspx?p=102275
November 12, 2012 in Committee
Below is my piece from The Guardian Online regarding the current BBC crisis:
George Entwistle was chewed up and spat out by the dysfunctional BBC management system and culture he was appointed to change.
He began as director general less than eight weeks ago with the unanimous support of the BBC Trust as the outstanding candidate for the job. He has been disastrously let down by news managers twice and, without the support he should have been able to expect to get on top of the crisis, it will now fall to someone else to implement the “thorough and radical” change Lord Patten accepts is required to the structure and culture of BBC management.
This cannot simply be a reshuffling of failed news executives as happened after the Gilligan scandal. Then, both the director general and chairman went, rightly in my view, but those managers responsible stayed and some were even promoted.
The first thing Lord Patten needs to do, which he seems to acknowledge, is to split the job of director general into separate chief executive and editor-in-chief roles.
Secondly, he must deliver the radical management changes he’s promised. This is essential to restore the public’s trust and the morale of those who work for the BBC. Finally, politicians and the BBC must agree a new system of independent regulation. The BBC’s governance structure has let it down yet again. It is not fit for purpose. Self regulation does not work.
The Trust’s role must be split, with it’s regulatory responsibilities handed to Ofcom, which does a perfectly good job at regulating the rest of broadcasting. This is what the Labour government should have done after the Hutton inquiry, but shied away from. It should happen now and the BBC should welcome it, for it’s own future’s sake.
November 10, 2012 in Committee
No Director General of the BBC has had a baptism like this. Not fire but Two “tsunamis of filth”, to use BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten’s phrase, tipped over George Entwistle’s head in as many weeks.
In both instances Entwistle has been badly let down by a News management that feels completely dysfunctional and by the apparent absence of anyone else, including in his own office, capable of telling him what he needs to know when he needs to know it.
When Entwistle last came before our select committee over the Newsnight Savile fiasco I told him he needed to get a grip. I meant this as this as frank but friendly advice.
He faced a crisis. He was in charge. He needed the people and the systems to get on top of, manage it and resolve it. Now he’s engulfed by another, potentially more serious crisis. How can someone who is both able and decent and beat a very strong field to get the job find himself in this position?
From what I know about George Entwistle he’s not naturally very political. He hasn’t been playing the BBC management game for long. I don’t think he wanted to be Director General to satisfy his ego but because he thinks he can do a good job running an organisation he believes in. He may have imagined his senior colleagues are similarly motivated. But there are people now working under Entwistle who have spent decades and given their whole lives to inch their way up the BBC management ladder.
Entwistle was doing journalism and making TV programmes until just a few years ago.
He then leap-frogged a whole cadre of senior managers. Because Entwistle hasn’t spent decades moving up the ranks with them, he doesn’t know which ones are any good and which can be trusted. It certainly does not feel as if he is well supported by a collegiate bunch of senior colleagues. Maybe he should have foreseen this and employed the people and a strategy to deal with it. Now, he’s been blind-sided because this crisis has happened so early in his DG ship and he just doesn’t know whom he can trust to deliver. There’s a real danger that history is repeating itself.
One of the things which was wrong about the way the BBC reacted to the Hutton report was that the DG and the Chairman resigned but those who were responsible for the Gilligan scandal in the News division were not held to account. I fear with this debacle that Entwistle could be forced out and those in News management, who are responsible for what’s happened will get away with it, again.
I hope I am wrong.