Ian Monk: Decision time for Lord Leveson

The curtain fell this week on the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, with final witness statements and closing submissions leaving his Lordship with eight months of testimony to ponder before delivering recommendations for future press regulation.

Ian Monk: Leveson's inquiry has already weakened the press
Ian Monk: Leveson's inquiry has already weakened the press

And what a hot potato they will be for the politicians they invite to legislate for increased press accountability.

However Leveson cuts the cake, his recommendations will be widely portrayed as an attack on a free press.

Enacting this into law will be an unattractive option for politicians. In attempting to pass such legislation they will earn the unending enmity of the press.

For PR professionals the final outcome will be important. Alongside social and broadcast media, newspapers both on and offline remain a vital part of any publicity strategy.

At the same time, a vigorous, cavalier and sometimes intrusive free press still presents one of the major challenges of reputation management.

Most of us who have dealt with it on behalf of clients would share Leveson's scathing views of the general hopelessness of the old Press Complaints Commission.

His inquiry exposed the conceit that the PCC had ever been a regulatory body, laying bare the reality that it was simply a complaints handling body run by the newspapers which were the subjects of complaints.

Abolishing it, however, is the easy bit.

Replacing it with something with teeth that do not gnaw away at the press' ability to operate freely in the public interest will require the wisdom of Solomon.

Reputation managers frequently cross swords with the press. Yet as publicists we also benefit from its strength and diversity.

Already Leveson's inquiry has weakened the press, planting doubts about its viability and reliability at a time when circulations are threatened.

If all that emerges from it is a political fudge that changes little, Leveson will not have been a price worth paying - even for the titillating tabloid tales it has provided.

LOL, Lord Leveson!

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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