Press freedom? (I have a) great idea!
Oddest aspect to this week’s debate over press freedom and legislation following the Leveson enquiry has been the idea that Britain has a “free press”. Sure, it’s freer than most, and all attempts at imposing new restrictions must be fought (how depressing that Miliband is wrong and Cameron right on this issue). However, journalism in Britain is in a parlous state.
Over the last few weeks, while attempting to finish my new novel, Kidology (which has now reached 90,000 words - though of course it’s the ORDER of those words that count), I’ve been investigating a number of stories on a serious and timely subject. However, every editor I’ve approached either said the investigation was too complicated, or they didn’t have enough “space” (i.e. money), or didn’t bother to respond.
I don’t blame these editors (not the ones who responded anyway); investigative journalism can cost a lot of money. Sure, the rewards can be high if it pays off, but most editors prefer yet another comment piece written from the comfort of a desk.
The Leveson report, as we all now know, barely touched on the internet; yet if things continue along the same path, in a few short years, many of the papers will cease to exist – at least in their current state. A lot of very intelligent and decent people believe it might be a good thing if certain proprietors had less influence, and they might have a point; but if the Murdochs, Rothermeres and Lebedevs can’t or won’t produce newspapers, what’s the alternative? Twitter?
I believe Parliament needs to set up a similar institution to the BBC – for newspapers. It would be funded by the tax-payer, and allowed to raise revenues, and untouchable by politicians. That way, at least there would always be at least one newspaper that would never need to worry about falling circulation, advertisers or upsetting politicians. Or am I being naive here..?
Oh well, as the printer spits out pages (all 530 of ‘em) maybe it’s time to forget journalism and stick to fiction. At least there’s one industry in tiptop shape. Hmm...