We would like to let you know that our campaign is entering a new phase, the third in our short existence, and to ask you for further help.
Just over a year ago Hacked Off helped bring about a public inquiry into press practices and helped ensure it had a broad remit. Once the inquiry was under way we helped victims of press abuse to tell their stories, we reported on the inquiry hearings in far more depth than most of the national papers and we commented upon the evidence and made various submissions.
Now we are entering a third phase in which we will try to influence the decision over whether – after all that has happened – anything will really change. Hacked Off wants significant reforms, delivering a better press that is answerable to the public it is supposed to serve.
But we are very aware that the editors and owners of most of the national papers have set their faces against change and are determined to carry on as before. So we have a battle on our hands.
As the inquiry ended, the representatives of the press, Lords Hunt and Black, presented their proposals for the future regulation of their industry. It was no surprise that they demanded the right to continue with self-regulation, but their ideas for a contract-based system rightly met with scepticism at the inquiry and downright rejection from people such as the Dowlers and the McCanns, who have experienced the very worst of press abuse.
However flawed their plan is, the press is determined to foist it on MPs and the government. They will deploy all the power of their mighty megaphone to drown out opposition and – almost certainly – to vilify the Leveson report when it appears. We don’t know what Lord Justice Leveson will recommend but he has his pick of other proposals which would make the press genuinely accountable without compromising free expression in any way.
The arguments of the press are weak but the rest of their armoury is formidable. By biased reporting, distorted reporting and plain non-reporting and through their corrosive gossip pages and their vitriolic opinion columns, they are usually able to intimidate or marginalise anyone they don’t like, just as they can sometimes make black look like white and two and two equal five. They also continue to have influence over politicians, the people who will ultimately decide whether meaningful press reform goes ahead.
At Hacked Off we are determined that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a better press should not be wasted. There must be no more last chances for the press to regulate its own affairs. And there must be no fixes, fudges and delays that play into the hands of editors and proprietors. So we are gearing up for a very active few months.
We will campaign and lobby as hard as we can to make the case for effective regulation of the press that is independent of both the government and the industry. We plan to lobby MPs and peers. We will have a presence at all the big party conferences. We will also try to rally together all of those hundreds of groups and individuals who gave evidence at Leveson about the need for change, and hundreds more who could have, in a coalition for change. We will take our case to the media, even where they don’t want to hear it (the papers say, after all, that they believe in free speech). And we will petition and blog and tweet and organise meetings and rallies and do whatever else it takes to get the message out.
Something to look out for: September will see the publication of Everybody’s Hacked Off, a Penguin Special making the case for change. This will be an important element of our campaign. We will let you know when you can order it.
Very soon there will come a time when what you do could determine whether we get real change or whether the owners and editors of the press get to use their power to dodge accountability yet again.
We will be asking for your help over the next few months and anything you can do, from writing a letter to organising an event, will help to turn the tide. In the mean time, please reply to this email with your post code. It is really important for helping us make sure the right MPs hear from their constituents when it will make the most difference.
But right now, the most important thing we need is money. This phase of our campaign will be far more expensive than the others and we need every penny we can get. Please go online and donate. Remember that the main national newspapers, though they would like us to think they are hard up, make combined profits of well over £100 million a year. They are sparing no expense in the effort to protect the culture that gave us hacking and its associated cover-ups, the Motorman affair, the McCann scandal, the PCC and so much more.
Thank you for reading this. I will write again soon to bring you up to date with progress. In the meantime, if you see something nasty about us in a national newspaper don’t be surprised, just go to our website and read the real story.
Brian Cathcart, is a founder of Hacked Off. he teaches journalism at Kingston University London and tweets at @BrianCathcart