With the current ongoing UK debate on super-injunctions, privacy laws and the behaviour of the press, when I saw a copy of The Good, The Bad and The Unacceptable in an antiquarian bookshop I thought it would be a good chance to put the current position into perspective.
This book was published in 1992 in the aftermath of a perceived crisis in the press industry, with intrusion into individuals lives and poor behaviour following the Hillsborough disaster. Snoddy looks at how the press has been perceived by the elite throughout British history, and found that the perspective was persistently that press has recently been getting worse.
What is fascinating is how the legal position on an individual’s right to privacy and freedom of information has changed in the last twenty years, as neither of these concepts were part of the early nineties landscape. This combined with the development of the Press Compaints Commission, which is now unravelling as publications have begun to end their memberships with the fading of the threat of legislation against the press. It could be argued that this may also be due to the strengthening of the individual right to privacy, the legal position has changed so that this is no longer required.
The expense of challenging a newspaper for libel has not lessened in this time however, and these remain the preserve of the rich and well-supported. Also there appears to have been an increase in the papers’ willingness to report on those accused (but not yet found guilty of) crimes, and the associated impact this has on the lives of those incorrectly accused. It does generally appear that the behaviour of papers, like that of young people, always appears to be getting worse, and there is no need to over-react at this point.