Tag Archives: press standards privacy and libel report

CMS Report: News International claims party-politics make report on phone hacking worthless

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s report into press standards, privacy and libel has some pretty damning things to say about journalism and management at News International, following allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World.

[Read the full report at this link]

The committee opened an investigation into phone hacking following a series of stories by the Guardian last summer, said that News International senior staff called to the committee had suffered “collective amnesia” and were unwilling to provide detailed information about activities at the paper up to 2007.

So how has News International responded?

On the Sun’s website today coverage of the report goes by the headline: “Report on press ‘hijacked’ by Labour MPs” and says:

Labour MPs wanted to smear Tory communications boss Andy Coulson, an ex-News of the World editor. But the report found “no evidence” he knew phone hacking was taking place.

The report uncovered no new evidence of phone hacking at NOTW, says the Sun. But the committee did draw new conclusions by looking into existing evidence:

It is likely that the number of victims of illegal phone-hacking by Glenn Mulcaire
will never be known. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that there were a significant
number of people whose voice messages were intercepted, most of whom would appear
to have been of little interest to the Royal correspondent of the News of the World. This
adds weight to suspicions that it was not just Clive Goodman who knew about these

Tom Newton Dunn’s story made it onto page 2 of the print edition and op-ed on page 8 (next to a feature on ‘How to tell if you’re being lied to’) weighed in with the headline “No honour”:

Today is another dark day for parliament (…) members wasted seven months – nearly half their time – on unfounded claims made by the Guardian newspaper against News International (…) Parliamentary select committees are important but only work if MPs  on them behave with fairness and honour. Some on this committee have not. Its report is accordingly worthless.

The Sun’s leader piece makes particular reference to Tom Watson MP’s position on the panel. As Watson himself notes in a Comment is Free piece on the CMS report today, he recently won a libel action against the Sun. No mention of this in the Sun’s piece – perhaps the political tensions are more personal…

The Sun’s story toes the same line as the official statement from News International in response to the report [in full below], which suggested that certain members of the cross-party committee had pursued a party-political agenda.

They have worked in collusion with The Guardian, consistently leaking details of the Committee’s intentions and deliberations to that newspaper.

Elsewhere, sister title The Times reports on the committee’s recommendations offering up two stories on page 15 of the print edition.

Your guide to the CMS report on press standards, privacy and libel

It’s been going on for a year, but the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has finally published its report into press standards, privacy and libel in the UK.

You can read the 169-page report in full below, but we’ve highlighted some of the most interesting points in the report in this post.


The committee’s hearings and subsequent report cover a lot of ground: self-regulation of the press; libel law in the UK; privacy and the press – in particular the News of the World and Max Mosley; standards of journalism – in particular in relation to the reporting of suicides in Bridgend and the Madeleine McCann case; and allegations of phone hacking at News of the World.

In the committee’s own words:

This report is the product of the longest, most complex and wide-ranging inquiry this committee has undertaken. Our aim has been to arrive at recommendations that, if implemented, would help to restore the delicate balances associated with the freedom of the press. Individual proposals we make will have their critics – that is inevitable – but we are convinced that, taken together, our recommendations represent a constructive way forward for a free and healthy UK press in the years to come.

Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report into press standards, privacy and libel

Page guide and key quotes:

  • p10: the questions/issues that provoked the inquiry by the committee are set out.
  • p18: recommendation for “a fast-track appeal system where interim injunctions are concerned, in order to minimise the impact of delay on the media and the costs of a case, while at the same time taking account of the entitlement of the individual claimant seeking the protection of the courts”.
  • p18: report says Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice and the courts should collect data on number of injunctions refused or granted and the impact of Section 12 of the Human Rights Act on interim injunctions.
  • p23: On Max Mosley and the News of the World: “We found the News of the World editor’s attempts to justify the Max Mosley story on ‘public interest’ grounds wholly unpersuasive, although we have no doubt the public was interested in it.”
  • p27: Focus on Justice Eady “shaping” UK privacy law is “misplaced”.
  • p31: Recommendations for the PCC to include guidance to newspapers on pre-notification.
  • p33: On Trafigura/Carter-Ruck and reporting parliamentary proceedings.
  • p40: Defendants in libel cases should still be required to prove the truth of their allegations, says the report.
  • p45: On the cost and difficulties of mounting a Reynolds Defence and whether this should be put on a statutory footing.
  • p54-55: The committee asks for better data collection on cases of ‘libel tourism’.
  • p59: On the single-publication rule and newspaper archives: “In order to balance these competing concerns, we recommend that the government should introduce a one year limitation period on actions brought in respect of publications on the internet.”
  • p72-76: On Conditional Fee Arrangements (CFAs) and After The Event Insurance (ATE) in defamation cases.
  • p82: Recommendations for better headline writing to improve press standards.
  • p91: Criticism of the press and the PCC for the handling of the Madeleine McCann case: “The newspaper industry’s assertion that the McCann case is a one-off event shows that it is in denial about the scale and gravity of what went wrong, and about the need to learn from those mistakes. In any other industry suffering such a collective breakdown – as for example in the
    banking sector now – any regulator worth its salt would have instigated an enquiry. The
    press, indeed, would have been clamouring for it to do so. It is an indictment on the
    PCC’s record, that it signally failed to do so.”
  • p95-6: On moderating comments on websites and user-generated material: “The Codebook [upheld by the Press Complaints Commission] should be amended to include a specific responsibility to moderate websites and take down offensive comments, without the need for a prior complaint. We also believe the PCC should be proactive in monitoring adherence, which could easily be done by periodic sampling of newspaper websites, to maintain standards.”
  • p101-3: On NOTW and phone hacking: “It is likely that the number of victims of illegal phone-hacking by Glenn Mulcaire will never be known.”
  • p114: Guardian articles on phone hacking did contain new evidence, but committee has heard now evidence that such practices are still ongoing.
  • p121: On the PCC: “The powers of the PCC must be enhanced, as it is toothless compared to other regulators.”
  • p123-5: Recommendations for a more independent PCC.
  • p126: Peter Hill’s resignation from the PCC.
  • p128: Criticism for how the PCC reports statistics of complaints it receives: “In particular, contacts from members of the public which are not followed up with the appropriate documentation should not be considered as true complaints.”
  • p129: A new system for “due prominence” of corrections and apologies by newspapers?
  • p130: Proposals for the PCC to have the power of financial sanctions.

In-depth coverage on Journalism.co.uk:

CMS report: No case for a general privacy law

As part of its report into press standards, privacy and libel, the Culture Media and Sport Committee had said there is currently no case for a general privacy law.

“Since the passage of the Human Rights Act, there have been a growing number of cases brought on grounds of privacy. While some argue that Parliament should introduce specific legislation in this area, it will still be for the Courts to interpret the law and seek to find the right balance between freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Each case will be different and we do not believe the case has been made for a general privacy law,” says John Whittingdale MP, who chaired the CMS committee.

“However, we are deeply concerned at the confusion that has arisen over the right of the press to report what is said in parliament. The free and fair reporting of proceedings in parliament is a cornerstone of our democracy and the government should quickly introduce a clear and comprehensive modern statute to put this freedom beyond doubt.”

The committee had the following to say about the reporting of parliamentary proceedings, an issue highlighted by Carter-Ruck’s attempt to gag the Guardian reporting a parliamentary question relating to oil trader Trafigura. The report recommended creating “a modern statute” to protect this reporting as an important element of freedom of speech.

Full coverage of the CMS report at this link…

The report in full and our page-by-page guide at this link…