Cole tells students what to look out for in Leveson's recommendations

Professor Peter ColeStudents of journalism were given a shrewd idea of what to look out for in the much anticipated findings of the Leveson report, in a special guest lecture in Sheffield by Professor Peter Cole.

Lord Justice Leveson, who has spent months taking evidence from victims of press malpractice, alleged phone hackers, celebrities and editors, is expected to deliver his recommendations this autumn into the “culture, practices and ethics” of the press.

Cole, Emeritus Professor of Journalism at the University of Sheffield, told students that the enquiry had so far cost £5.6 million, heard 97 days of evidence, interviewed 650 witnesses and sifted through more than 6,000 pieces of evidence.

He said the chances that Leveson would recommend no change were slim and more likely were either a beefed up version of the Press Complaints Commission, known by some as the PCC Plus, or some kind of statutory underpinning of regulation, whereby parliament enacts legislation to set up the new regulatory body and influences its form.

He told to students to look out for six things in particular in Leveson’s report:

  • Is there a definition of what constitutes “the public interest”?
  • What are the investigatory powers of the new body?
  • Is there more independence in the regulator with editors in the minority or not represented at all?
  • What sanctions – for example heavy fines - are there for contravening the Code of Practice?
  • What plans are there to deal with those media organisations that refuse to sign up to the new body?
  • What will be done about the unregulatable internet?

Cole said his own view was that the “PPC Plus” option was the least worst alternative as he feared the “thin edge of the wedge” of political interference if statutory underpinning is enacted.

Professor Cole was head of the Department of Journalism Studies in Sheffield from 2000 to 2007. He is a former deputy editor of the Guardian, Editor of the Sunday Times News Review and Editor of the Sunday Correspondent.