Newspaper ‘secrecy’ attacked by peers

A group of peers has launched a stinging attack on the newspaper industry, accusing owners and editors of hypocrisy on the way they conduct their work.

The House of Lords’ communications committee says the role of parliament when it comes to the newspaper industry is “less clear” than it is in relation to the BBC and commercial public service broadcasters.

It says regulation may need to be strengthened, given the consolidation of media ownership currently taking place. The report notes only eight companies run the national newspaper industry.

Existing public interest tests on the sector do not take into account their failing investment in newsgathering and investigative journalism, the report notes.

This is a problem because of the apparent lack of openness among the industry. The report expresses concern that several witnesses from the industry were “very reluctant” to give evidence, while one “refused to appear” outright.

“Newspapers themselves call for maximum openness and condemn secrecy and attempts at ‘cover ups’. We do not believe that newspaper owners or editors should be able to hide behind a shield of privacy that their newspapers would not accept when dealing with members of the public,” it concludes.

“We strongly believe in the freedom of the press. But we also believe that
there is a legitimate democratic expectation that newspaper owners and editors be open about how they approach their job.”