THURSDAY 14 MAR 2013 5:01 PM


The stakes are high in determining the outcome of the Leveson Inquiry. “If we get it wrong we will actually end up damaging the fundamentals of free speech and free press,” Lord Black of Brentwood, executive director of the Telegraph Media Group, said at today’s PRCA Future of Communications after Leveson conference.

A particularly timely event, as David Cameron has just called off cross-party talks on the implementation of a statutory regulatory body.

The conference was introduced by YouGov’s President, Peter Kellner, who presented data on the public perception of the newspaper industry and the Leveson report. He says the public mistrust of the media and of the Government’s potential implementation of a regulatory body is a “clear but impossible” problem. YouGov’s research showed that 53% of respondents think MPs should not have a say in the design of the independent regulatory system.

The conference examined the impact Leveson will have on various industries from PR to public affairs to journalism itself. Most of the speakers agreed on two things – that print journalism has a flawed business plan and that increased regulation would lead to decreased freedoms and in turn an impingement on the communications industry.

Trevor Morris, PR professor at the University of Westminster, says that PR relies on media relations and that PR will begin shifting its focus to owned content from the current earned model as Leveson exerts its influence over the media. Peter Bingle, of Terrapin Consulting, added a view from the future, saying “Regulation killed the public affairs industry,” and that it would do the same for public relations.

Providing a perspective from journalism, Neil Midgley of the Daily Telegraph, hopes for a PCC-like trend of speed and informality in its regulatory actions, but that increased regulation tends to increase oversight.

The PR industry will be impacted by whatever choice is made by the Government in reaction to the Leveson Inquiry. Regulation will have, and already has exhibited, a huge impact on the ability of the press to operate in a free and open manner. “Newspapers are scared,” Neil Wallis, former executive editor of News of the World, says. He added that journalists are unwilling to be bold for fear of legal action, “They’re less interesting than they used to be,” he says.