A day before the Leveson inquiry report is published, the Spectator has set itself against any statutory scheme to control the press apart from self-regulation. In an editorial entitled ‘Why we won’t sign’ (1 December 2012), it thunders:
‘If the press agrees a new form of self-regulation, perhaps contractually binding this time, we will happily take part. But we would not sign up to anything enforced by government.’
Magazines have been given little coverage in the controversy, but several were called to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry, including Hello!, Heat and OK!
The Spectator has lived under government control – it was founded in 1828 – with Stamp Duty, which was used to control distribution of newspapers and magazines, not being abolished until 1855.
This change created a free Press, enabled expansion and a way of meeting demand for reading material from the public – it’s easily forgotten that the works of many of the great Victorian writers were first published in magazines, from Dickens to Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. In the newspaper world, the Guardian went from twice weekly to daily publication.
The fortunes made by two magazine magnates – Alfred Harmsworth and Arthur Cyril Pearson – built on the invention of the New Journalism in magazines such as Tit-Bits to found the popular daily press – the Daily Mail, the Express and the Mirror.
Sam Delaney, a former editor of Heat, has warned that Leveson could end up muzzling the celebrity magazines:
Brace yourselves. By 2013, every title on the newsstand may well feature a gushing profile of Nancy Dell’Olio, lounging on a chaise longue ‘inside her beautiful home’
As the leaders of the political parties pore over the six copies of the Leveson report that were delivered to parliament this afternoon, the whole of the media awaits the next stage of the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal.