Tasked to make recommendations on the future conduct of relations between politicians and the press, the Inquiry heard extensive evidence about the power balance between the two. Did they do covert deals? Were politicians blackmailed? Did governments censor or intimidate journalists? Could journalists be regulated effectively without placing them at the mercy of politicians, so compromising freedom of expression?

The record of politicians in relation to press freedom and regulation was discussed with many witnesses, as was the role of journalists in holding power to account and ensuring the proper functioning of democracy.

There was also scrutiny of day-to-day relations between reporters and politicians and the ethical and other challenges that these pose. What should be on the record and what off the record, and how is the public interest best served?

The history of these relationships was explored, notably through the evidence of four prime ministers and of Rupert Murdoch.


'Media plurality' refers to the relationship between the ownership of news organisations and the range of information they make available. If most newspaper proprietors are right-wing, does that mean their papers do not properly reflect other views? Does it mean the so-called 'marketplace of ideas' in our media is not a true or free market? In particular, do too few people own too much of the media in the UK, and if so what should be done about it?

Plurality and media ownership figured in the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry, and so it investigated the views and role of proprietors and of politicians and the functioning of existing legislation. The arguments are reviewed in Part C, Chapter 4 and conclusions on plurality are set out in Part I, Chapter 9. Eight of the Inquiry's Recommendations related to plurality.

Closely explored in this context were Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of the Times and Sunday Times in the 1980s and the involvement of the Thatcher government, and Murdoch's unsuccessful attempt in 2010-11 to acquire full ownership of the BSkyB television company. See also: 'The News International bid for BSkyB'.

Leading politicians gave their views on plurality, including Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Jeremy Hunt, and the subject was addressed in detail in submissions by Robin Foster, Ofcom, Guardian News and Media, and Clare Enders of Enders analysis.

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The treatment of minorities in journalism figured both in oral evidence and in written submissions from a variety of groups, including ENGAGE (now MEND), the Federation of Muslim Organisations, Trans Media Watch, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. Journalists raising concerns included Peter Oborne, Richard Peppiatt and Katharine Quarmby.

The Report reviewed this evidence chiefly here: Report

The ability of existing laws and code provisions to protect people from religious, ethnic and other minorities from discrimination and the incitement of hatred in journalism was challenged, as was the commitment of the managements of news organisations to tackle the issue. So far as regulation was concerned, much argument surrounded the reluctance of the Press Complaints Commission to accept third-party complaints.

There was limited discussion of the presence of minorities in newsrooms, and the opportunities for minority candidates to gain training and employment.

See also: 'Group and third-party complaints'; 'Representation of women'.

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Phone hacking

From the 1990s, newspapers illegally hacked the voicemails of celebrities, politicians, police officers, the royal household, rival journalists, ordinary people in the news such as bereaved families and the relatives, friends and associates of target individuals.

In 2006, a journalist, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, both working for the News of the World, were caught hacking, and though the paper said it was just 'one rogue reporter' who was to blame, in 2009 The Guardian showed the practice went wider. There followed civil court actions, denials and accusations of cover-up involving News International (owners of the paper), the police and politicians.

In July 2011, The Guardian revealed that the phone of murdered 13-year-old Milly Dowler had been hacked and the Leveson Inquiry was established. By then, new criminal proceedings were under way and the matter was sub judice, so the Inquiry dealt with the subject mainly in general terms, including the roles of the police and politicians.

Since the Inquiry, it has been confirmed that journalists for the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People also hacked phones. Thousands were targeted and nine journalists were convicted of hacking, including former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

Many submissions and witnesses addressed phone hacking. The Inquiry heard evidence from Guardian journalist Nick Davies as well as from relevant police officers, notably Philip Williams and John Yates, and from victims including Bob and Sally Dowler, Charlotte Church, Lord Prescott and Sienna Miller. Andy Coulson, Ian Edmondson and Neville Thurlbeck, all subsequently convicted of hacking, also gave evidence.

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History of regulation

Press regulation in the UK began in 1953 with the founding of the General Council of the Press, which became the Press Council in 1962 and was replaced by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in 1990. Discussions of the history of regulation tended to focus on the reasons for failures, and often referred to the previous inquiries into the press: three Royal Commissions on the Press (in 1947-49, 1961-62 and 1974), the Younger Committee on Privacy (1972) and the Calcutt Committee (1989-90).

The Report reviewed the history here:

Leveson Report

And here:

Leveson Report

The Leveson Inquiry took it as a premise that these bodies had failed to uphold standards and protect the public from harm, and its Terms of Reference required the judge to make Recommendations for a new regulatory regime.

The Inquiry naturally looked particularly closely at the history of the PCC, with many witnesses and submissions commenting on its record, including almost all of its previous chairs. Key witnesses and submitters included Lord Hunt, Lord Black, Baroness Buscombe, Stephen Abell, Martin Moore, James Curran, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and Paul Dacre.

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Press power

The power of news organisations and particularly of newspapers was a recurring theme of the Inquiry. How far were editors and proprietors able to influence policy? Did politicians trade policy concessions for media support? If they did, how did this happen and how might it be prevented? These discussions involved scrutiny of the contacts and relationships between the two sides, most of it during Module 3. In some respects, the exploration of the BSkyB bid (see also: 'The News International bid for BSkyB') opened a window on this subject.

The Inquiry also looked closely at whether press power had been used over the years to prevent effective regulation of journalism, to blunt the effects of legislation on journalists and even to prevent proper scrutiny of wrongdoing and illegal activities by news organisations, such as phone hacking and data theft. Here the evidence of James Curran , Martin Moore, Simon Jenkins, Lord Wakeham, Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron is relevant.

Evidence was heard relating to events going back to the 1980s, especially concerning the activities and influence of Rupert Murdoch and his companies and family.

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Select committees

In some respects, the work of the Inquiry overlapped with the work of parliamentary select committees, and various committee reports proved relevant to the Inquiry's business.

In 2008-10, the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport conducted an investigation, with submissions and public hearings, into 'Press standards, privacy and libel'. The latter part of this inquiry was overshadowed by revelations about phone hacking. The report is here.

In April 2012, the same committee published a follow-up report on 'News International and Phone-Hacking'. See here.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee also conducted an inquiry into 'Unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications', with particular reference to the role of the police. Its report is here.

The House of Lords Communications Committee published a report in 2008 on 'The ownership of the news'. See here.

It also reported in 2012 on 'The future of investigative journalism'. See here.

In March 2012, following lengthy deliberations, a committee of both houses published a report in 'Privacy and injunctions'. See here.

Another joint committee reported in October 2011 on the 'Draft Defamation Bill'. See here.

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The News International bid for BSkyB

One consequence of the Milly Dowler phone-hacking revelation (see also: 'Phone hacking') was that Rupert Murdoch's News International abandoned a bid to acquire the shares in BSkyB television that it did not already own. Tabled in June 2010, the bid had been controversial, and since it required approval from government, it was a focus of concern about the propriety of the relations between politicians and media companies.

The Report discusses this in detail at Part I, Chapter 6. Extensive relevant evidence was received from Rupert and James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks and other Murdoch employees including Frederic Michel, as well as from government ministers, notably Vince Cable, Jeremy Hunt and David Cameron, as well as officials including Adam Smith and Tim Colbourne.

Consideration of this 'case study', as it was described, contributed to Recommendations 82-84, which encouraged politicians to show greater transparency in their dealings with the media.

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Recognition & statute

The chief novelty of the Inquiry's Recommendations on regulation was the proposal for a 'recognition body' whose job would be to certify that a press regulator (or regulators) met the standards of effectiveness and independence set out in the Report. This proposal was explained in Part K, Chapter 7, with the detail in Section 6, and the relevant Recommendations are numbers 27-33.

The Report did not propose mandatory regulation under statute, but Recommendation 33 stated that statute would be required to create a recognition body and fix its criteria. (It also said such a statute should 'place an explicit duty on the Government to uphold and protect the freedom of the press'). Background to the possible involvement of statute was set out in Part K, Chapter 4, Section 6, referring to evidence by Lord Black, Paul Dacre, the Media Regulation Roundtable, the Libel Reform Coalition and others. Other evidence relevant to recognition was provided by the Irish Press Council and Dr John Horgan.

Recommendation 31 stated that the task of recognition should be assigned to Ofcom, or failing that an independent body or individual. In the event, by cross-party agreement reached in March 2013, a new body, the Press Recognition Panel, was set up under Royal Charter rather than by Act of Parliament. See also: 'Royal Charter'.

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Understand all the key topics and the context behind the Inquiry's findings

Journalism & society
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Future of journalism
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Background & history
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Subsequent developments
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Ethics & abuses
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