Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Politics: Daily Express editor before the Media Committee

Peter Hill was the witness at this morning's meeting of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and he came armed with a positive entourage of suited and booted assistants, ready to hand him hand-written notes from the public gallery, should he need them (he didn't, but they thought he did). Stuttering his way through the interview, he was quizzed relentlessly on the Madeleine McCann story, but was adamant that his errors in that situation were committed across the industry, and if anyone was to blame, it was the inadequacy of the Portuguese police. He also repeated intimated that libel lawyers (in particularly from Carter-ruck, whom he mentioned by name) were fishing for cases.

He are some paraphrased quotes from his cross examination. Again, I make no assertions of their accuracy, but I do try to present them in as fair a manner as possible.

PH: I was surprised the McCanns only sued the Daily Express. There were headlines on this story across the globe, and the Portuguese police's case was a complete travesty and the media repeated the police's leaks. They had grounds to sue, but they could have sued anyone.

PH: We were not milking the story more than anyone else. The story was on the TV and in the newspapers every single day. I have personally apologised to the McCanns for the mistakes, and we insisted on printing that apology on the front page, which we didn't have to do.
There were 38 headlines that they complained about, but I could also point to over eighty headlines that were positive towards them. The story changed dramatically when they became the suspects. Portugal is a fully fledged member of the European Community, and a functioning democracy. How were we to know that their police were so incompetent.

The McCanns had a PR machine, which they built up brilliantly, and they were right to do so, to increase the chances of finding Madeleine.

We didn't publish the offending material maliciously, because as far as we knew at the time, the revelations were true. There was an insatiable clamour for information, centred on what happened to Madeleine. Everyone you would have spoken to at the time was asking what happened to Madeleine. We followed every lead, in a genuine effort to help find her, and had teams of reporters all over Europe and sent some to North Africa.

There was a new story every day, that why there were headlines every day, both sides were leaking stories. It was not the case that we needed a Maddie story, so we made one up.

He is asked about fact checking in the case.

That's a good question. When Kate and Gerry McCann were given aguido status, the Portuguese police were unable to comment officially, so they resorted to leaks to Portuguese papers. We did our best to check up on stories, but we could get no comment. When Kate and Gerry became suspects, their PR team stopped returning our calls.
Newspapers operate at high speed, sometimes it's not possible to check each story.

He is asked if he felt justified at the time for published the 38 stories that were complained about, in particular a story about a corpse hidden in a hire car.
These stories came from the Portuguese police, we had every reason to believe that it was true.

He is asked was this a unique case, or merely the tip of the iceberg of press behaviour.
This was a unique case in every sense of that word. The world has seen nothing like this since the Lindbergh baby in the 1930s, and the longevity of the story was a factor. There was the mystery of the disappearance, the fact that they courted publicity as much as they could. The media had a genuine wish to find Maddie. Then this perfectly respectable couple was accused of kidnapping their daughter by the police. It is nonsense to pretend that this is a common occurrence.

He is if the suspicion of the McCanns originated largely from the newspapers.
The suspicion of the McCanns was not from the newspapers, it was from the Portuguese police. We were reporting what the police were saying, and the alternative for the British press was not to report anything. This would not be an ideal situation when the rest of the world was reporting freely.

He is asked if sales were different when Maddie was on the front page
There was certainly an increase in circulation by many thousands, as would be the case with any story that was of such interest, and it was the same with the BBC. It is the job of the news to report on stories of interest to readers.
-well it is as long as it's the truth.
There was no reason to believe that we were not telling the truth. This was the only show around at the time, we were getting thousands of messages from people wanting to know more about the story - messages, not just hits on our website.

He is asked if he ever sought new stories from the police.
Of course not, I completely reject that we sought out stories, that is not the way people work.

He is asked why, if he felt justified, did he not fight the libel case
We in the UK don't have a libel law where it is a defence to say that you thought the story was true.
It is
Well, only in stories where it is in the public interest, which is a very narrowly defined field.
You don't believe that the McCann story was in the public interest?
No. It interested the public, but it was not in the public interest. This was a matter that involved a family, meaning it was not in the public interest. We have the most Draconian libel laws in the world and we have claimants from all over the world, and lawyers make it their business to alert people of potential libels, and to fight for people in the courts. We did libel the McCanns because under the law, we lied about them.
We were never sued by the McCanns, we were contacted by Carter-Ruck about a potential action. We thought it would be unthinkable in their situation to drag the McCann's through the courts, so we settled this matter as well as possible.
We have not revisited the McCann story much since the settlement, because nothing new has happened

He is asked how people can expect the press to behave if there were no libel laws, considering the way they behave now.
In the US, the First Amendment wouldn't allow these libel suits, because it entrenches a freedom of the press. In the UK, we don't have a free press, and a free press is vital for a democracy. In order to have a free press, it must be free to make mistakes.

He is asked what type of reporting restrictions are placed on aguidos
There are restrictions in Portuguese law, but these were largely ignored by the Portuguese press.
Do you know what the restrictions were?
I find that surprising considering the amount of times you reported their stories.
Well I don't know
I think that speaks for itself

He is asked if anyone was reprimanded for the story
Myself, because I was responsible.
But did you offer to resign, considering Piers Morgan, and others have done before.
Certainly not. If every editor offered to resign after a libel case, there would be no more editors.
Is that all this is, just a libel case?
If I have to resign, then every other editor has to resign, and the head of the BBC and the board of directors have to resign. I have never seen anyone in the Government resign. Did Jacqui Smith resign for the expenses scandal. Did Gordon Brown resign for destroying the economy? I apologised for my error, which is more than politicians ever do.
Yes, but they didn't accuse parents of killing their child, as you did, because you didn't have the professionalism to check your stories.
If I was breaking the law, then everyone was breaking the law
That's your defence?
Everyone was breaking the law, and we were making a genuine attempt to find Maddie. You are trying to present this as a one-sided thing - the story kept changing.
Why didn't the McCanns come to the PCC? If they had, I would have thought very carefully about stopping the stories.
'We'd think about it' doesn't bring much comfort for people accused of killing their daughter
We didn't say that, or try to make people believe that.

He is asked about a story that was almost single-handedly the Daily Express, as opposed to an industry-wide error - a conspiracy theory surrounding Princess Diana's death.
As far as I am concerned, the inquest was pretty much the end of the story. We had reason to believe that the official reports were not true. Our readers were interested in the story, and I don't print stories I believe to be untrue.
The Express was alone on the Diana story, almost to the point of obsession.
It's not a crime to have an obsession. We do try to sell newspapers, we don't go out of our way to print boring stories that would drive our readers away.

He is asked what he thinks of the Reynolds Defence, as compared to a statutory solution to the issue of libel.
Well, the main question is 'is the story in the public interest?' But who decides what is in the public interest? That could be a borderline issue - some things certainly are, for example MP's expenses, or people who set themselves up as arbiters of morals, judges, or public servants, but some things are borderline, for example, are the activities of sects always in the public interest? There is not always a difference between what interests the public, and what is in the public interest.
It would be difficult for a statute to establish a defence for journalists, since every case is different.
Should the subjects of stories get prior notification?
No, not always, because they would probably obtain an injunction, and the story would be lost, but we usually go to the other side to ask for comment. Injunctions can be granted for the flimsiest reasons, because the judges are not qualified - especially in 'Saturday Night Injunctions'.
Newspapers have enormous constraints nowadays, with libel laws, privacy laws, European laws, Contempt of Court laws - we are pretty much up to our ears in laws. We have a very shackled press in this country, and you should be looking to remove these shackles, not add more, as seems to be the tone of these meetings. Free press is vital to a democracy, more than anything else.

He is asked why, when Max Mosley was before the committee, the room was packed with journalists who wrote extensively on the issue, but when Paul Dacre, and himself are being interviewed, there is little press interest. Is there an unwritten code between papers to not write about each other?
No. I know that there are quite a few journalists that want to shots at myself and Mr Dacre, but it does not make good copy. I did see some reports in the odd media section.
Yes, in the odd media section
An editor has to ask is it interesting. Would the readers want to read about it?
When was the last time you wrote a story about a journalist?
I can't remember writing one.
Well I can't remember reading one
Those stories are never any interest to the general public - although I do think it is in the public interest.
Is there a truce between the proprietors of your paper and the Mail to not publish stories about each other or their families?
Proprietors are not interesting stories. I don't know what they would say to each other if they spoke, I don't even know if they do speak, so I don't think there is any truce.

He is asked is the PCC undermined by editor's presence on it.
If a matter concerns a particular editor, he is not allowed to take any part in those proceedings, he is not even allowed in the room. I think it is a false perception that the PCC is a bad system.
I don't see that the PCC is not feared by editors. It is good at amicably settling issues between the press and the public, and a lot of cases have been resolved amicably, which is surely better than a bitter legal battle? Also, there is an ombudsman who is very conscientious when carrying out his duties. 
I'm sure you'd [the committee members] would be welcome to sit in on the PCC's meetings.
But the issue is that the story has been damaging, and the offended party may not want to bring the story back into the public domain.
Well we can't turn the clocks back to retract the story
The newspapers could behave better
What can we do to make the newspapers behave better?

He is asked if the PCC Code of Conduct should be included in his journalists' contract of employment.
We expect our journalists to follow the code fully, but I don't believe it is necessary to make it an issue of contract. All journalists know the code, and how to do their job within it. 
We are becoming more careful about the reporting of children, and matters of privacy, as well as the reporting of suicides, and other things the code is helpful on, but that is not to say we don't make mistakes.
Lots of copy does not originate within our newsroom, it comes from outside sources, such as freelancers, and it can be very difficult to check these stories. It wouldn't be practical to check every story, we couldn't get the newspapers out.
What about possible amendments of the code to further child protection?
We are very careful at the Express in regard to child protection. I have rejected many photographs of celebrities, where the child was involved, or the child was obscured. This is mostly a photographic issue, rarely a matter of words. Me and my journalists are careful, and I think the code is pretty good.

He is asked whose decision it was that he leave the PCC
I didn't offer to resign, but I did consider it carefully, and discussed it with people whose opinion I trust, who said I should not resign. Their advice was that if every editor who made a mistake was to resign from the PCC, there would be no editors left on it, and I believe that there should be editors there to offer their knowledge of the newspaper industry and advice. All editors on the PCC carry out their duties as conscientiously as they could.
[He went on to discuss at length a dispute Express Newspapers had with the Newspaper Publishers Association, which I didn't fully grasp, but the upshot being that the dispute forced his newspaper group to stop being part of the PCC, I think]

He is asked about headlines that are misleading, especially on the front page.
This can happen, but at the Express, we try to qualify our headlines, but we have only a few letter in which to fit a headline in. Libel laws are concerned with misleading headlines, as they should be.

He is asked have journalistic standards fallen.
I don't accept this, and 'churnalism' is such a gimmicky word. The standards have increased, but so too have constraints. Journalists nowadays have more knowledge, and look into stories better than before.

He is asked how staff numbers have changed since he took over.
I think they are fairly similar, there may have been a small reduction, in line with the economic difficulties we are experiencing.
I have seen evidence of major reductions in staff numbers.
That is an industry-wide occurrence. Where did you get these figures?
I don't have the article to hand, but I believe I saw them in such publications as the UK Press Gazette.
The UK Press Gazette is not even there any more.

Would you have broken the Mosley story?
No, it would not have appealed to our readership.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Politics: Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre before the Media Select Committee

Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, today sat before the Media Select Committee, flanked by his managing director, Robin Esser, whose only contributions were to stop Dacre digging himself into a hole. It certainly was a revealing meeting, with Dacre perched on the edge of his seat throughout, and he appeared to be slightly nervous in the proceedings. He constantly, and seemingly genuinely, defended the Press Complaints Commission, and repeatedly declared he would "die in a ditch" to defend the right of the News of the World and others to publish salacious details of people's private lives, so long as it was in the public interest, which he defined as what interests the public.

Below are some quotes and exchanges between Dacre, and the panel, although it must be stressed, that as with my last post, most of these will not be verbatim, but I make a genuine attempt to paraphrase the parties in context, and to maintain the spirit of what they said.

On a side note, I was stopped by no fewer than five officials (Westminster employees and police) on my way to the meeting, enquiring, with an air of suspicion, what my business was there. The fact that I was going to a committee meeting, as opposed to a tour, or observing the Commons seemed to be even more bizarre to them. There is a constant defence of a heavy police presence at a vicinity should make one 'feel safe,' but I didn't. I was getting increasingly paranoid that one of them was going to arrest me. I will add that as many officials offered help, and carried out their duties admirably. Still, I was carrying out my citizenry duty by observing the gears of democracy, and I was made to feel uneasy about the process.

Paul Dacre: I've been a journalist for over forty years, and I have never known chillier times for freedom of the press.

PD: There have been two well-intentioned pieces of legislation which, when combined, have proved to be lethal for the press. The legislation on Conditional Fee Agreements, and the Human Rights Act (HRA). Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs) allow lawyers to use unscrupulous methods, such as doubling their legal fees, and drawing out proceedings to keep raising these fees. In one case, the Mail on Sunday (MoS) was sued by Martin Jones MP, and lost the case. The damages payable to Mr Jones was approximately £5000, but the legal fees, plus the cost of the increase of insurance amounted to £520,000.
Every day we are not going as far into a story as we used to, and we settle earlier to avoid legal costs - legal costs that would be so high that they would bankrupt provincial newspapers.
The hourly rate for a lawyer in defamation cases is £650, when up-priced under the CFAs, it becomes £1300. Why does it cost four times as much to defend somebody's damaged reputation than it does to defend somebody from life imprisonment.

Paul Farrelly MP: Is the cherry-picking  of cases by the lawyers turning CFAs from 'No Win, No Fee', to 'Always win, double fee'? 

PD: Yes.

PD: The amount of letters we receive from libel lawyers would amount to deforestation, and from overseas clients that would have been unlikely to have read the stories. I would be astonished if it were not the case that Carter-Ruck and Schillings are actively touting for custom, and ambulance-chasing rich overseas clients.

Rosemary McKenna MP: Is it truly 'privacy law through the back door,' as you believe, or are the courts simply applying the HRA effectively?

PD: The Human Rights Act was well-intentioned, after all, who could deny human rights to anyone. But when it is combined with the CFAs, it is exploited by the rich. Before 1998 [when the HRA came into force], the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was never used against the press -even during the eighties, when the press behaviour was at its worse. The problem with the HRA is that it enables the judges to interpret the law from the European Court of Human Rights, which gives more weight to privacy than press freedom.

PD: The opinion within the press is why is it that one judge, Justice Eady presides over most privacy cases. He has a history of trying to impose privacy laws in the 80s, and has been known in speeches to make sneering attacks on tabloids and individual journalists. I personally feel that judges are arrogant and make amoral decisions. In one case, a man whose wife was seduced by a sports star, was not allowed to sell his story, because of the breach of privacy of the sports star's wife. The adulterer had his rights respected above the wronged man.

PD: For Max Mosley to present himself in front of this committee as a white knight is against civilised society, it is akin to the Yorkshire Ripper taking a stand against violence against women. If he had asked his wife, or neighbour, to dress him up in army uniform and smack him, it would not be an issue that would interest the papers, but he paid a mistress to provide him with women to smack. There is a direct line between that and the trafficked women in the 'massage parlours,' who are exploited and degraded - one legitimises the other. Mosley's status as head of Formula 1, a sport watched by millions of people around the world, presented a greater justification for the running of the story.
He is quick to point out that it was not his paper that broke the Mosley story when an MP suggests that it was. Later on in the session he is asked if the Mosley story was 'put in his lap' would he have run with it.
PD: We are a family newspaper, so no we wouldn't have broke the story.

PD: [privileged] judges don't understand what is in the public interest, what is the public interest should be decided by the public.
Dacre didn't actually use the word privileged, but his description of them, which I failed to note, certainly intimated that impression

PD: I am not aware of journalists at The Daily Mail paying for access to medical records. There was an incident some years back, where we used an agency to provide us with access to addresses and other details of individuals via the Electoral Register, a legal process. The agency was used by other news organisations, and there was no indication that they were accessing people's medical records. Following concerns raised by the Information Commissioner, we banned the use of the agency, and trained our staff accordingly, and the PCC changed the code. I can't think of more rigourous measures we could have taken in the circumstances.

PD: I would like to think that headlines  in the Mail are not deliberately misleading compared to the body of the aticle. The PCC guidelines insist that the body of the article must be accurate.

Whittingdale MP quoted an example from Nick Davies' book, Flat Earth News, about a detail from Anne Frank's diary that was analysed with the headline, "Did Anne Frank's father betray her?". The body of the article made very little reference to this statement, and the only redress was a letter published a week later, on page 68.

PD: I regret that happened, mistakes happen within the pressures of running a daily newspaper.

He is asked why the paper campaigns against government intrusion into privacy, yet wants the power for the press to do so.

PD: The PCC code has strict boundaries of privacy regarding family life, health etc. I hope that these are only broached if it in the public interest to do so. If I get this wrong, you can take me to court.

At this point, Robin Esser quickly prompts him to say, "or don't buy the paper," which Dacre quickly repeats.

He is then asked about the unflattering appraisal of the Mail, again from Nick Davies' book, which calls it 'spiteful' and 'aggressive' among other things.

PD: Mr Davies is a very good journalist, and I have paid him well to write for me, but I think the criteria on which he measures our paper is flawed. He writes for the Gaurdian, and like most of their writers feels like they are the only people who can take the moral high ground. His book didn't take basic journalistic steps such as fact-check or offer a right of reply to the people he criticised. I don't believe we are a 'spiteful' newspaper, but we are aggressive, and are passionate about the interests of our readers.

He is asked if investigative journalism is suffering in journalism today.

PD: In provincial presses, yes, and also in some of the national titles that do not have sufficient resources. I refute that charge against the Mail however, we are famous, and infamous, for looking behind the press releases to uncover the spin. Spending on journalism today is a great as ever, despite the financial troubles of the industry.

He is asked about the supposed dichotomy of public interest versus what interests the public, particularly in regard to boiling stories down to individual accounts.

PD: There is a patronising element to this question. All stories are personal, and telling stories through people is an effective way to explain dry and complicated stories. Politicians and celebrities like to personalise their lives to reach out to the people to whom they are communicating. If you want issues, you can buy the Guardian, if you want titilliation and gossip, buy the Sun or the News of the World, and I'll die in a ditch to defend their right to print that, despite my misgivings, because they have broken some very important stories.

He is asked what went wrong with the McCann case.

PD: I want to point out that the McCann saga was not just confined to newspapers, BBC News and ITN had interviews on the doorsteps of neighbours.
The McCann case was a great news story, and the McCanns went out of their way to seek publicity, understandably so they could increase the chances that they would find their daughter. This created a vortex for some news papers to declare open season. It was compounded by the Portuguese and British police leaking against each other, and this was regrettably picked up by British newspapers. And yes, there was the issue of circulation. I can't remember a story that would positively increase sales the way a McCann headline on the front page would.
He is asked why in other walks of life, such as with social workers, or the police, collective failures are railed against by the press, and calls are made for inquiries, but not in the case of the press' behaviour towards the McCanns.
PD: I can't comment, because I don't believe it was a collective failure. Correct boundaries must be observed, and some newspapers did not observe those boundaries. I sure The Mail has transgressed since the McCann case, but I can't think of an example, and I hope it was not intentional.
He is asked why The Mail published the village where Elizabeth Fritzl was housed.
PD: I was not aware we did that. I'm sure other papers published it also.
You were the first, on March 11.
PD: I'll have to get back to on that. I was unaware of this.
Was this a moral thing to do?
PD: I can't answer that, because I don't what the agencies were doing at the time, or the German newspapers. You [Paul Farrelly MP, a former journalist] know how newspapers operate, I don't see everything that goes into the paper.
But surely you would see the main stories?
PD: I do, but I will get back to on this incident, and sent you a note.
We would appreciate that

He is asked if the presence of newspaper editors on the PCC undermines its authority.

PD: There are 10 lay members, compared to seven editors, so the majority is still independent, and the editors provide valuable insight into the working of newspapers. This is not akin to having a jury that includes members of the defendant's family [a charge levelled by Nick Davies in the previous meeting]. The PCC is a more robust system of self-regulation than exists in Parliament. It is unfair to suggest that newspapers don't take the PCC seriously, because it is a huge shame for an editor to be investigated by the PCC, and its perception has improved steadily since its inception. The journalistic landscape has changed dramatically since the 80s because of the PCC, and it 'blunts the ability of Red Tops to sell papers' [he attributed this quote to someone, but I didn't hear who]. It sickens me to hear the PCC is not independent, the code is organic and changes to reflect society, such as the tightening up of suicide reporting, for example. We want to get it right. 

He is asked about the Mail's campaign against MMR.

All papers were concerned about this issue, and there was an expert who was raising concerns about the MMR jab, as well as distressed parents. The Mail primarily felt it was hypocritical of Tony Blair to not disclose whether his son Leo had had the jab, considering he was insisting other parents do it.

He is asked to what extent the Mail fact-checks.

We do not have a process of fact-checking that they have in American newspapers, most British papers don't. Our reporters are professionals, with expert training, and accuracy is extremely important to the process of journalism. I don't see what more we can do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Politics: Media Select committee's meeting with Nick Davies

Yesterday, I sat in on the Media Select Committee's meeting with Nick Davies, author of Flat Earth News, and Roy Greenslade, a Guardian media commentator, having learned about it from Ben Goldacre's Twitterings (@bengoldacre). The meeting has been covered by a Guardian reporter here, but I thought I would put some of the more interesting quotes here.

Paul Dacre is going before the committee tomorrow, and barring unforeseen circumstances, I intend to be there, and should post the results here forthwith.

NB: Very few (if any) of these quotes will be verbatim what the people said, since I can't write in shorthand, but they do represent the general gist of what they were saying.

On libel laws:
Libel law in England and Wales is a means for one to seek redress if a statement has been published which seriously damages the reputation of the victim, without justification (ie it's not true). Obviously this relates to the press since they often print untruths (intentionally or otherwise), and people's reputations or businesses may be irreparably wrecked. However, increasingly, the libel laws in England have been increasingly been used (abused?) by powerful figures to prevent journalists publishing damaging material, which could be considered to be in the public interest, and the heavily punative damages awarded if the figure wins means that newspapers have been reluctant to run with stories for fear of falling foul of a libel writ.
The courts have tried to balance this dilemma over the years, with varying results. The current situation is that journalists can claim the "Reynold's Defence" - basically if they show that they acted responsibly and gave the offended party a right of a reply in a story that is in the public interest, they can be exempt from liability. It is named after the former Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, in his case against the Times (Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd and Others [1999] UKHL 45).
Mike Hall MP asked the specific question as to whether libel laws were still relevant, to which Nick Davies' view was an unequivocal no. His reasoning was that libel writs don't write wrongs as much as they could, and access to justice is still too expensive for the lay person (a term used frequently during the proceedings to describe a person who is not a member of the press, and would not be considered a 'public figure'). Roy Greenslade wasn't so entrenched, although he did say that the libel laws in England and Wales need serious reform.

Nick Davies:
'The Reynolds defence gives licence to print malicious falsehoods, as long as the article prints a denial by the other side.' Davies went to recount a story about how after he published his book, a journalist contacted him about a story they were running concerning the sexual conduct of his wife. The journalist was aware that the story was untrue, but were running with it anyway, with an inclusion of his denial. It was only after Davies made it clear he would go public with this behaviour that the journalist dropped the story. Davies has never been married.

Roy Greenslade: 'I am constantly under threat from publishers and editors of libel action. Journalists are the prime users of the law that they rail against.'

RG: 'Prior notification [to the other side] gives spin doctors the opportunity to sabotage the story, by giving a press conference softening the impact of the story, and denying the journalist their scoop.' The example given here was when ITN had uncovered evidence of the extent of Charles Kennedy's drinking issues. His PRs set up a press conference at around 4pm (two hours before ITN's main evening news broadcast) to change the story from 'I've got a drinking problem,' to 'I'm on top of a drinking problem'. Both Davies and Greenslade commented that prior notification can also be used to blackmail or bribe the subject of the report when the story needs more substance. For example, they can get an exclusive interview from the subject of the story, if they leave out more lurid elements of the story. Frank Bough's name was mentioned as an example of how this was done to the detriment of the subject.

RG: 'When the Guardian was investigating Tesco's overseas tax structures, they tried to do the responsible thing and give Tesco a right of reply. Tesco responded by suing the Guardian for malicious falsehood for getting the exact details of a complex case wrong.' This case was criticised as 'bullying' by the panel, especially since Private Eye was able to provide evidence that tax evasion was taking place, just not in the way the Guardian had alleged. Greenslade said that 'corporations should not be allowed to sue for libel.'

ND: 'The newspapers lawayers, who vet the stories, often play it safe, and advise not running stories - this is the real chilling effect [on free speech].' ... 'Even in a paper such as the Guardian, the lawyers will ask, 'does this person have money,' because if he does, he will sue.'

Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs) are a device in law to provide greater access to justice to those who can't afford it. They are commonly known as 'no win, no fee' agreements, whereby the lawyer will not accept payment if they don't win any compensation for the client. To offset this rick (beyond the practice of not taking on risky cases), is that they increase their legal fees, usually by about 100%, which is recoverable from the losing side.

RG: 'Anecdotally, CFAs have been used by rich clients to rachet up the legal fees for the newspapers,' Often, if legal fees increase too rapidly, one side will settle in order to cut their losses, this is often the result in libel cases in journalism.

On the PCC:
The Press Complaints Commission was widely condemned on all quarters, with Greenslade decided that it was useful to have editors on its panel, whereas Davies said there shouldn't be.

ND: 'Having editors on the PCC is akin to having a jury of twelve people, where five of them share commercial and common interests with the accused.'...'The PCC is not sufficiently independent enough to be functional, it is not on the side of readers, it has repeatedly shown its function to be the defence of bad journalistic practice.'

RG: 'The PCC is not proactive enough. The feeding frenzy of the McCanns, and Robert Murat was due to the fact that the PCC was not proactive enough.'

ND: 'The PCC is so weak, it damages the notion of self-regulation.' Davies did go on to say that under its new leadership, the PCC should be given another chance, if only to prevent constant court proceedings for press wrongdoing.

Other Miscellaneous quotes:

'Journalists told me that they knew that the story of their being bones hidden under a foster home in Jersey was not true, but ran with the crowd anyway, or else they would eventually be marginalised within their newsrooms.'

RG: 'If one paper runs with something, such as revealing where Elizabeth Fritzl was now residing, the others feel that they must catch, or get new details, creating a vicious cycle. The Independent used the defence that the information was already in the public domain, so they published it, rather than criticising the peper for revealing it in the first place.'
Committee member: 'The Austrians called the British press, "Satan's reporters."

RG: 'There is virtue in the probing style of UK journalism, but the fearlessness that drives it should not be turned into recklessness.'

ND: The university courses are more concerned with getting their graduate jobs, so they teach their students how to recreate press releases, as the papers want them to be. There are only about four or five good journalism courses in the UK.

ND: The Courts have a history of being hostile to good journalism. We are suspicious of them.

ND: Paul Dacre has lobbied Gordon Brown to not have prison sentences for breaches of the Data Protection Act, because he wants to plunder people's medical records. However, if he was in hospital with a heart condition, a message would go around Fleet Street to not report it.

RG: Competition should be a good thing, but the bad result of competition in the UK press has resulted in increasingly bad behaviour.