From Prof Steven Barnett.
Sir, In your report on the Daily Mail’s intemperate attack on Ed Miliband’s father, your first line explicitly links the row with the proposed independent system of press regulation, which is due to be signed off next week (“Miliband’s row with Mail stirs press freedom debate”, October 2). While this may well have prompted Mail editor Paul Dacre’s splenetic outburst, it is highly misleading to suggest that there is any connection with what you call “the debate on press freedoms”.
A casual reader might easily conclude – as I’m sure Mr Dacre would wish – that the proposed reforms will allow Mr Miliband or any other politician to interfere with the press. In fact, the Daily Mail will remain free to launch as many tasteless attacks on politicians – dead or alive – as it wishes. The proposed reforms may, however, provide an opportunity for ordinary people who have been traduced or hounded by the press to finally receive a fair hearing through a genuinely independent process of complaints and arbitration.
This framework of independent accountability will for the first time not be effectively managed by Mr Dacre and his colleagues at News UK and the Telegraph Group. While this might explain Mr Dacre’s poor humour, it is no excuse for the FT to fall into his well-laid trap and confuse a deeply personal political onslaught with the issue of press regulation reform. There really is no connection.
Steven Barnett, Professor of Communications, University of Westminster, Harrow, Middx, UK