5 Things to Know About the Leveson Inquiry
LONDON -- After months of hearings and debate, judge Brian Leveson will deliver his final Leveson Inquiry report on U.K. media ethics and standards here on Thursday, including recommendations for the regulation of newspapers.
Launched in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, his inquiry, which included interviews with a range of top media industry executives and celebrities, has looked at the relationship of newspapers with politicians, other officials and the public.
Here is a look at five things to know about the Leveson Inquiry and its final report and recommendations:
1. The inquiry and the VIP witness list:
In the wake of the News Corp. phone hacking scandal in the summer of 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a probe into media standards and ethics in the country and picked Leveson to oversee it as chairman.
The evidence phase of the inquiry included appearances or written submissions from such people as actor Hugh Grant, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, singer Charlotte Church, Cameron, former prime minister Tony Blair, News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and son and deputy COO James Murdoch.
"The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life." Leveson said in kicking off his hearings last November. "That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?"
2. The cost and the numbers:
The Leveson Inquiry had 97 evidence days, with more than 130 organizations and 474 individuals providing evidence.
The Inquiry team included Leveson, six assessors, six lawyers and other staff.
Through June 30, it cost $6.2 million (￡3.9 million). The two biggest cost factors for the inquiry have been its secretariat staff ($1.9 million) and its legal staff ($1.6 million).
3. Possible recommendations:
Leveson's findings will only be recommendations, but there would likely be a public outcry if he didn't propose changes after a lengthy and expensive process. In anticipation of the report, there has been intense lobbying from newspaper publishers who want to avoid stricter regulation and press critics and some celebrities, such as Grant who is the public face of the Hacked Off campaign.
There will certainly be no return to the Press Complaints Commission, a newspaper industry self-regulatory body that has been widely seen as ineffective and has been wound down amid the Leveson Inquiry.
The biggest debate has focused on whether the final Leveson report should not only include a call for stricter regulations, but statutory regulation, meaning legally mandated supervision of the press by a government-created body. Many observers expect the report will suggest such statutory regulation of the press.
Should harsh curbs on the press be introduced to protect celebrities, the mantra about any publicity being good publicity would be weakened, potentially increasing the competition among Hollywood studios for prime slots in newspapers when touting stars and new releases.
4. The Reactions:
Watch out for possible tweets from always-vocal News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch in the aftermath of Leveson's findings. The 81-year-old media mogul has been opposed to statutory regulation.
Grant could also share some kind of reaction. The actor's documentary about his campaign for stricter press regulation in the U.K. airs on Britain's Channel 4 Wednesday night, just hours before Leveson's final report is unveiled.
Leveson himself will make a brief statement to reporters early Thursday afternoon as his report is posted online, but he won't take questions.
5. The Results:
The Conservative Party-led government of Cameron will face a stress test. Its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, and the opposition Labour Party are ready to support stricter or even statutory press regulation. And even some of Cameron's party members have suggested stricter rules.
The British parliament will debate the report on Dec. 3.
Richard Sambrook, director of the Center for Journalism at Cardiff University, expects Leveson to suggest stricter press regulation, but the final outcome to be less severe for publishers. "Leveson is likely to recommend some form of statutory regulation -- the government is unlikely to push it through," he said. "The newspapers may get yet another round in the 'last chance saloon'."