19 July 2011


Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock put his foot in it on the Today programme this morning when he told John Humphrys that he favoured regulation of the press to ensure political balance in its coverage, along the lines of the rules governing broadcasting in Britain. Such regulation would spell the death of polemical partisan campaigning journalism – and as a former member of the board of Tribune he should know better.

Which is not to say that there should not be stricter rules to limit concentration of media ownership in order to encourage pluralism, but that's a different issue.

Incidentally, Nick Robinson was telling only a very small part of the story when he said on the same programme that the impartiality rules governing broadcasting were introduced because of lack of bandwidth. They date from the creation of the BBC in the 1920s, and by far the most important reason for them was the fear of the political class that without a politically neutral public monopoly broadcaster, radio in Britain would become as fiercely partisan as the press. Much the same fear was behind the maintenance of the impartiality rules when the BBC's monopoly was finally broken with the creation of ITV in the 1950s.

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