Local press did not cause the problems
With Lord Justice Leveson's report into press standards expected to be published in the next few weeks, a debate is raging about what sort of regulation the newspaper industry should be subjected to in the future.
Most people accept it will be tougher – the excesses of some national newspapers have made that inevitable. However, opinion is sharply divided over whether it should be a beefed-up system of self-regulation, or independent regulation established by law.
The former is favoured by many in the newspaper industry who regard a statutory body as a potential disaster for freedom of the press.
The latter is supported by many politicians from across the political spectrum; the campaign group Hacked Off, which includes the actor Hugh Grant; and three-quarters of respondents in a recent opinion poll.
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Yesterday, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that self-regulation had failed and that politicians should unite to ensure a "truly independent" body is established to look at complaints.
Even though the local media, including the Leicester Mercury, was not guilty of the excesses of some of the national press, we will obviously be governed by the new system of regulation which emerges from this debate.
And there are some real concerns for local newspapers over what lies ahead. If the new regulatory system is heavily bureaucratic it will mean more cost and time to defend complaints which may be entirely unwarranted. Given the limited resources available to local newspapers that would be a serious issue.
However, we can also see there is a strong case for independent regulation. The problem with self-regulation is that it relies on everybody playing the game and, as we have seen, that does not always happen.
Indeed, there is an opportunity for the newspaper industry to rehabilitate its battered reputation. If the public have more faith in the system of regulation then it will improve the perception of newspapers. So, we await Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations, and the Government's response, with interest. Our hope is that they remember the local press and do not create a system which is unworkable for a branch of the industry which did not cause the problems.