Yesterday, Lord Justice Leveson released the 2000 page, 1.3 million word Inquiry Into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press.
The report, which was commissioned in July 2011 in the wake of the phone hacking scandal that rocked News International, has taken a year to deliver, and cost £5 million to produce – yet as the Independent strikingly represents on its front cover today, David Cameron’s response has so far been less than enthusiastic.
The key recommendation of the report – that the British press should be governed by an independent, statutorily backed regulatory body – was met by a lukewarm response by the Prime Minister, despite the fact that he had commissioned it in the first place.
Shortly after the report was released, David Cameron said that he had “principled and practical concerns” about legislating to control the press, garnering him praise from the tabloid newspapers that have drawn most of the fire from the report’s findings, but anger from diverse groups who have been on the receiving end of intrusive journalistic practices.
Speaking on the Today programme, Garry McCann, father of missing schoolgirl Madeleine, said:
“Full implementation of Lord Leveson’s report is the minimal acceptable compromise for me and many other victims that have suffered at the hands of the press.
I think the prime minister and our other elected politicians have an opportunity to do the right thing. I think if they do the right thing for the public then it will help restore a bit of confidence.”
In an unusual show of conflict within the coalition government, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg expressed his support for the creation of a legislatory framework, in contradiction to the Prime Minister’s views.
Speaking directly after Cameron in Parliament, Clegg said that he believed that the creation of a media watchdog was “proportionate and workable”. Ed Milliband, Leader of the Opposition, said that he backed the report’s findings unequivocally.
Following cross-party talks on Thursday night, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is currently drawing up a draft version of a bill that would implement the report’s findings – but since most commentators believe the draft bill has been commissioned purely in an attempt to show the difficulty of passing legislation, there is speculation that the government could deliberately overcomplicate the bill.
As this process unfurls over the coming weeks, it will become apparent whether the Leveson Report signals a landmark moment for the British press – or a brief upset followed by more of the same.