The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press.
It's a pleasure, thank you.
This is where I do not feel on safe ground, I have to confess.
Then maybe, if there is going to be a public interest test in statute, it could be framed in such a way that it does the job that you're asking it to do. If it's a question of which moment in time we're looking at -- I mean ...
So why can't that then be translated back into those statutes where currently there is no public interest defence at all?
Can I just say, taking that a stage further, the suggestion -- the logical conclusion from that would be that those public interest defences that currently exist -- for example, in the Data Protection Act -- should be excluded.
I completely agree.
Yes. The answer to that is: categorically, yes. I think my concern is that we've heard a lot over the last few months -- a lot of self-serving evidence about the chilling effect of regulation, et cetera, and I suppose my concern is while I find most of those arguments ...
Well, it's certainly different in kind.
And you don't think that there are ways of writing safeguards into a law like that to ensure that -- I mean, it seems to me that it's not that different from the guidelines --
He has, and I was involved in one of the consultations.
The problem with that is that it is further down the road. You've actually -- by that time, you've committed the crime and you're taking a chance as to whether you're going to be prosecuted or ...
I understand that, but if this criminal act is then committed and is clearly committed in the knowledge that it is criminal and permission is given to carry out this criminal act, then clearly it is a risk that is being borne by the journalist, by the editor, by the ...
Yes, it can be abused.
That's entirely up to the editor.
Well, maybe there has to be provision. I think most journalists would be prepared to reveal their sources to their editor --
And this is audited. This is written down: "The reason why he's been given permission to do this is as follows."
But if he hacks into the email with the honest -- and part of this -- this would have to be a mechanism, a regulatory mechanism -- and I think this is actually laid out in the Media Standards Trust report -- where -- for a -- you first have to get permission from someone senior ...
Right. But --
I may have misunderstood, but if --
But the -- it would have to be a clear -- one of the criteria of a public interest test would have to be that the story published was manifestly in the public interest, and I don't think it's difficult to --
No corruption? Okay.
Sorry, the story he's published is not one of corruption but it's one of having an affair?
Sorry, yes, I agree.
Yes, I'm with you.
I missed that bit.
Who was that?
I mean a defence that could be used against more or less any -- I'd better be slightly careful what I say -- more or less any -- that could be introduced as a defence to crimes that are currently -- currently have no public interest defence. So I'm thinking about the ...
If I could just add one more thing -- and this is essentially carrying on from the public interest. It's for that reason that I am still very much in favour of a statutory public interest defence, because I do think that would enable both what I believe now to ...
"And we make money." Well, yes. "We make money", absolutely. And I'm afraid, for me, that's what -- what this research does for me is to give the lie to that. And as I say, my background is in sociology, I've been doing surveys for 30 years and ...
Well, I've heard the criticism levelled and it's levelled for two reasons. One I think is a perfectly valid reason, which is good tabloid journalism is something different from broadsheet journalism or broadcast journalism, and that expertise is missing. That's a valid point to make, whether or ...
And then you start thinking: okay, 14 million people read -- clearly a lot of those nevertheless still think there are limits to the way in which people's private lives should be invaded, what should be published, but even that 14 million represents less than a quarter of the total ...
I will give you the reference.
I think it's very substantial. And for me, it does give -- it does make me question -- you know, I've heard the role model argument and I've understood the rationale for them and had there been an obvious public backing for them, then perhaps you could say, "Okay ...
Taking that into account, the results are very similar and seem to me to suggest a really quite interesting stability of public attitudes over time.
If I maybe just make one more point about this --
The wording wasn't different. The answers -- the potential answers were slightly different, because we wanted to get in this idea of something that was interesting and therefore should be published, whereas they just had "definitely should be published", "probably should be published", et cetera. That's in the piece.
They were virtually identical.
I do actually give a reference. It's David Morrison and Michael Svennevig and it was done at the University of Leeds, at the bottom of page --
Not if you look at the figures for tabloid versus broadsheet readers, because if you look at the way it breaks down by newspaper readership, the proportion of tabloid newspaper readership who gave that response -- that it's a private matter and should not be published -- did fall, but it ...
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