Before I get onto my main point, let me outline a few things and give some examples: I’ve worked as a web designer for a company that supplies promotional products and clothing for the past 5 years. In that time some of the laws that govern this kind of thing have changed.
When I started work there in 2007, we had a merchandise scheme set up by a pharmaceutical company to provide pens, desk tidies etc to doctors surgeries. There was a law in place stating that no item given away to a medical professional could be perceived to be above the value of £6. For example, a nice metal pen that was £3 at cost price but could reasonably sell at a retail value of £10 was not allowed to be given away. The rules changed further a couple of years ago when all giveaways to doctors was forbidden. Fair enough in my view; doctors shouldn’t be persuaded to prescribe certain drugs just because they’re made by a company that gives them free stuff.
Another recent change is the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010. For example, we sometimes have offers that give away football tickets or technology products such as iPhones to customers who bought a certain amount of a particular product. We used to be able to leave these off of the invoice and deliver the giveaway to a different address than the order. That cannot be done now.
For these reasons, when I was reading the findings of the Leveson Inquiry just now, one thing jumped out at me:
Hospitality police received from media, lavish restaurant meals and champagne, did not enhance the Met’s reputation. [ref]
So a small company isn’t allowed to give an iPhone to a customer as part of an order but chief police officers are allowed to accept lavish hospitality. I’m assuming that, like the company I work for, this wasn’t given without something in return. In our case it’s perhaps an order for 500 USB drives. For the newspapers…? Can we see where the media and police went wrong here?!!!?
I’m currently flicking through reports as time allows so I expect I’ll moan about something else soon enough but I just couldn’t wait to talk about this one.
…in my view(!)
It’s been summed up quite nicely by Graham Foulkes, whose son David was killed in the 7/7 attacks. Although not confirmed, it is believed that he was a victim of phone hacking after being told by police that Glenn Mulcaire had a file full of his details:
What mustn’t happen, under any circumstances, is for parliament and government to start interfering and passing laws to regulate the press and the media in any shape or form. A free press and a free media is a cornerstone of democracy and we should not allow the government to interfere.
I’m hoping that Leveson comes up with a process which will restore public confidence in the media by forcing the media to behave themselves. [ref]
In a similar vein to my “don’t be a dick and stay out of prison” post a little while ago, the newspaper industry could have avoided all this by showing some common decency and empathy towards those who are suffering with personal tragedies and by simply not invading people’s privacy.
For me, the only answer is a truly independent regulator, not influenced by either the press or the government. Quite who should be a part of this, I don’t know. I’d never heard of Lord Leveson before this inquiry so I’m sure there’ll be someone I’ve never heard of perfect for this job.
Lets hope whatever happens today puts a stop to needlessly intrusive journalism, though I’m not sure that illegally listening to other people’s voicemails qualifies as journalism.