Press fight-back begins in earnest

A rakishly dishevelled Hugh Grant pops up in his latest on-screen role - advertising The Guardian and Observer.

Ian Monk: 'The PR industry should not count on  papers remaining too cowed by Leveson or too encumbered by new statutes.'
Ian Monk: 'The PR industry should not count on papers remaining too cowed by Leveson or too encumbered by new statutes.'

In it the box office star of the Hacked Off campaign for tighter press regulation lauds them for their ‘quality and integrity’ and suggests that these newspapers do not engage in ‘obnoxious marketing gimmicks’.

Grant is presumably too canny ever to have believed that his passionate and frequently vitriolic anti-press campaign was likely to be a great long-term PR move.

Yet this public and commercial endorsement of a single newspaper group may be the worst PR move yet, both for him and the faltering Hacked Off campaign.

Other newspapers will seize on it as proof much of the Leveson farrago was got up by a left-wing establishment out to muzzle hostile elements of a free press.

Significantly, since the New Year, the parameters of the post-Leveson debate about how to tighten press controls while retaining freedom have shifted significantly.

Some editors who answered Downing Street summons with resignation before Christmas have now cast off their hair shirts. They are fighting to preserve the press freedoms they believe are fundamental to democracy and to their own commercial success.

Lord Hunt, the new chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, is making an increasingly powerful case for non-statutory regulation – despite the myriad failings of the old PCC that were laid before Leveson.

I dealt with the PCC last week on behalf of clients and found both it and the newspapers with which it worked on our behalf exemplary in their responses. Between them they ensured a previously unlikely total non-intrusion into a private family situation.

The PR industry should not count on newspapers remaining either too cowed by Leveson or too encumbered by new statutes. What it may well find is a more responsive press, receptive to well-presented strategies and requests made on behalf of our clients.

Meanwhile, Grant, Hacked Off and quite possibly Grant’s next movie look increasingly like three turkeys tottering towards next Christmas.

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

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