THE Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, argued on
Friday for a "fully independent" press regulator, "guaranteed by
Speaking in the House of Lords during a debate on the Leveson
Report, Bishop James, who sits on the House of Lords Select
Committee on Communications, said: "Our newspapers have been very
good at defending themselves from independent statutory regulation
while calling for it in almost every other walk of life. We need a
fully independent body able to investigate the practices of the
press without the trigger of a complaint bringing it into
"To ensure that the independence of such a body is guaranteed by
statute is a long way from state control of the press."
The Leveson report, which was published in November, recommended
the creation of an independent regulator, free from political and
editorial ties, guaranteed in law. It was described at the time by
Bishop James as a "finely nuanced recommendation" (
News, 30 November).
After the report's publication, the Prime Minister expressed
"serious concerns and misgivings" about the recommendation of
enshrining the regulatory system in statute. Mr Cameron
subsequently gave national newspaper editors the chance to form
their own plan for an independent regulator early in December.
During the debate on Friday, however, Bishop James said that he
was "wary of the claims of editors that they can clean up their act
without the independence of their regulator being guaranteed by
statute or in some other way".
The Leveson report showed that "some elements" of the national
press had made the lives of families who had experienced the
abduction or murder of loved ones "unendurable. . . In another age
there might have been calls for public acts of penitence."
During the Lords debate, Bishop James spoke in favour of
regional and local newspapers, which "are part of the communities
they serve, strengthening our sense of belonging, providing
information and exchange of ideas, celebrating what is good and
reporting on what is disturbing. Occasionally people say newspapers
only report bad news. That's not true of our local and regional
A transcript of the full debate can be read here.
Jessica Bull is a freelance journalist