Douglas Carswell

27 NOV 2012

Do we need IPSA, the Independent Press Standards Agency?

On Thursday, Lord Leveson delivers his verdict on the press; to regulate or not to regulate?

Being a democracy, it will be for those we elect, not for His Lordship, to then decide what we actually do.

So, should we MPs go for it? Tempting, eh?

A tougher code. Statutory rules. Policed by an Independent Press Standards Agency, or IPSA, for short. After all, if IPSA is good enough for MPs, surely it'd be good enough for the press, eh?

However much MPs might privately think like that, we should resist the temptation at all costs. It would be wrong to impose any further top down accountability over the press.

However pesky, unfair - and at times infuriating – we politicians might find journalists, a free society needs a free press. We need the press to poke politicians. Challenge assumptions. Prick egos.

My beef with the press is not that they do these things, but that they don't do enough of it. Too many hacks are too accepting of conventional wisdoms – which turn out to be hollow. I don't see how more top down regulation will make the press any better at holding the political elite to account.

Already the politico-media elite are too cozy, too chummy. More regulation, with all the attendant barriers to entry it would inevitably spawn, would make pet pundits more tame. There would be fewer outsiders and upstarts, asking awkward questions.

Top down regulation would fly in the face of technological change, too.

Would this humble blog, for example, be covered by any new statutory rules? If not, then why not? Imagine the comparative advantage an unregulated blog site might have against big newspaper websites?

And if this blog - and the gazillions like it - were all to be covered by a new regulator, would it not be grotesquely illiberal?

We live in a world in which we all now publish things. In such a world, we need not more upward accountability, but actual accountability to one another.

When those who publish things do wrong, they should face not a remote quango, but those they have wronged. And face them with a view to trying to put things right.

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