Jon Snow: Good journalists should not fear regulation

Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow said last night that good journalists have nothing to fear from stronger regulation in the wake of the hacking scandal.

Delivering the annual Cudlipp Lecture at the London College of Communication, he said: ‘What are these print guys afraid of? If their story is right, is justified, they have nothing to fear from a regulator. Even the most hardened of tabloid journalists must have been, mortified, embarrassed, even shocked at the rubbish that has tipped across Leveson’s desk; what age do these supposed journalists and editors who are the agents of this stuff live in… what lives do they live?”

And rowing back on previous comments, he said he no longer sees the case for a new privacy law – provided the new system of press regulation is sufficiently strong.

He said: ‘If we can practice cutting edge journalism on television with regulation I see no reason why an Ofcom style regulator (although not necessarily an identical system) with full access for public complaint – should not be perfectly applicable to the print world too. If we have good regulation, we don’t need a privacy law, it’s the sensationalist tabloid stuff that has triggered the desire for a privacy act – I admit that I went through a phase of wanting one but if we get regulation right we shall get privacy right.”

Speaking in general about the challenges facing journalism as a result of new technology, he insisted that journalism is on the cusp of a ‘golden age”

He said: ‘For the first time since Caxton, Alexander Graham Bell, Marconi, or Logie Baird – the entire media has been liberated; liberated in a way that allows the reader, viewer, listener the true capacity to answer back. We are in the age of answer back, better still we are in the age in which ‘we the people’ have their greatest opportunity ever to influence the information agenda…But above all we are in the age of more. More potential to get it right, to get it fast, to get it in depth. We have that illusive entity ‘the level playing field’; we can compete on equal terms and yet be the best.”

As to how journalism will be supported financially in the future, he said: ‘We will survive by doing it better and in concert with our consumers…if we fail them, they will leave us, that’s the market. If we get it right they will join us in ever greater numbers, the money will most assuredly follow the numbers, if it doesn’t we really have seen the birth of a new capitalism.”

On the hacking scandal, Snow suggested that all journalists should be encouraged to get involved in the ‘real world’– as he does by volunteering at the New Horizon Youth Centre in London.

He said: ‘The hacking scandal reveals an echelon of hacks who removed themselves from the world in which the rest of us live – they took some weird pleasure in urinating on our world.”

Talking about the Wikileaks release of thousands of confidential US embassy cables, Snow questioned whether anyone was really put in danger by the action – as the US government has stated.

He said: ‘The Americans told us that WikiLeaks would result in the deaths of many agents and informers. Are we to suppose that if even one had died the Americans would not have broadcast the fact to prove their case? How about a challenge: I believe there is no evidence that anyone has died from a WikiLeak. WikiLeaks told us what we know: the most extraordinary quantity of stuff is kept from the citizenry because it’s easier that way – it’s the culture.”

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