The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

I would say this. My overall view is that everyone seems to agree that the current oversight and regulatory framework in which the press operates is discredited. The publication and so on. So everybody agrees there needs to be reform in that area.

There is then a -- and everyone agrees that the new system needs to be robustly independent. Independent of Parliament, politicians, government and crucially the media as well. To have new powers, which don't presently exist: powers to investigate, powers to impose sanctions and so on.

There is then a subsidiary question as to whether that new regulatory environment requires some form of statutory underpinning or not, which I hope we'll be able to return to because I have some views on that.

I think you need to -- I think one needs to come up with a coherent solution on all of that in order to ensure that accountability, when things go wrong, when ordinary people's privacy is abused, when power is abused by the press is properly held to account.

However, I think you need to counterbalance that with reforms that actually enshrine and protect and promote the freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to go after the truth without fear or impediment, and on that, my own view is I am intuitively quite attracted to some of the ideas that I think have been presented by other witnesses in this Inquiry, of, for instance, emulating the quasi constitutional guarantee of the independence of the judiciary in an Act of Parliament. I think it will be well worth exploring enshrining in sort of quasi constitutional statute the freedom of the press, and to supplement it with a clearer definition of the public interest so that journalists know they can use a clearly understood definition of the public interest -- frankly, some of the current definitions are -- personally I find somewhat arbitrary and circular. I think one of them is the public interest is whenever -- you know, almost tantamount to whenever the press want to be free to say whatever they like. You need to come up with something that the press has confidence in.

But I think if the press had confidence that they have a public interest definition which protects them and which acts as a shield against any intimidation or undue interference from politicians and others, and they have a kind of quasi constitutional recognition of their unique status in a free and democratic society, I hope that would then allow them to be a little more comfortable with some of the unavoidable reforms on the way in which they are regulated and held to account, where they are very anxious at the moment.

In other words, it's a two-pronged thing. You have to take steps to protect the freedom of the press and take steps to insure against the abuse of power in the press.

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