Publishers used their submissons on the closing day of the Leveson Inquiry yesterday to urge the judge not to overburden their ‘fragile’industry with regulation.
Listing the events which have occurred since revelatons about the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone a year ago, Rhodrie Davies QC for News International said: ‘The News of the World, a 168-year-old paper, has been felled. There have been a lot of arrests and a host of civil claims.
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“These are lessons that are too severe to be forgotten and News International are determined not to have to learn them again.”
But he added: ‘The excesses of the press have occurred when the search for a story has overcome the boundaries of privacy. Whatever the regulatory solution may be, lessons have been learned.
“It is a culture of clean-up that is now in place.”
But he said popular newspapers had to be given the “scope to entertain”.
“The majority of newspaper readers don’t read the Times, Telegraph or the Guardian. They read the popular and mid-market papers – the Sun, Mirror, Mail and Express.
“Between them they give the UK a uniquely vivid and vibrant popular press.
“The popular press must be allowed the scope to entertain and amuse as well as to educate and inform.”
Jonathan Caplan QC speaking for Associated Newspapers said: ‘My clients feel we have heard too few speaking up for the popular press.
“In order to produce public interest journalism you need to have journalism that interests the public.
“It is important there is no groundswell of elitism whereby the minority dictate what the majority can read.”
He warned that the newspaper industry was “fragile” and said: “Your inquiry could be reading the last rites on an industry which sees circulation falling year after year, provincial newspapers closing every week and very few of the national newspapers making any profit.”
Closing the 97-day public stage of the inquiry, Justice Leveson today thanked the press.
“It’s an interesting moment. The gathering of formal evidence by the examination of witnesses is now at an end.
“I thank the press who have reported on the inquiry … for keeping everybody informed.”
Leveson said he recognised the urgency of providing a report for ministers and interested parties, adding: “I will produce a report as soon as I reasonably can.”