Commission on the Newspaper IndustryIn September 1995, a Commission on the Newspaper Industry was launched to consider, inter alia, "the need to guarantee plurality of ownership, to maintain diversity of editorial viewpoints necessary for a vigourous democracy and to promote cultural diversity in the industry".
The Commission, under Mr Justice Finlay, produced a useful report in June 1996, which is available from the Government Publications Sales Office at £7.50, reference Pn 2841.
On "The desirability of changes in the law of libel" (p.60), the Commission considered, inter alia, the Report of the Law Reform Commission of 19 December 1991 on the civil law of defamation.
It decided not to take a position on "details of legal procedure or purely legal questions arising from the reports and submissions on the civil law of defamation" (the "burden of proof " issue, one assumes: but why not say so?).
On "The desirability of a mechanism for complaint and adjudication" (p.57), the Commission concluded that, by and large, everybody was happy. (For pure bunkum, go directly to paragraph 7.21 (iv) on page 58). With the media (including RTÉ) generally all singing from the same hymn-sheet, the conclusion was not a surprising one.
The Commission nevertheless recommended, as a form of self-regulation, the appointment of an ombudsman "with complete independence with regard to all the functions proposed for the office". The main function would be the investigation of complaints alleging breaches of codes of press standards, as defined by representatives of owners and the NUJ. Complaints would only be entertained from "persons who are involved in and affected by the breach..". This would seem to exclude general questions of impartiality, objectivity and censorship in reporting. So much for the public's right to know!