Tom Watson on Leveson, libel and Murdoch

Tom Watson with Labour activists at Kingston Retail Park

Tom Watson with Labour activists at Kingston Retail Park

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Tom Watson swapped Murdoch for millionaires during a visit to MK today.

The West Bromwich MP is best known for his crusade against phone hacking and media mogul, Rupert Murdoch.

But during a visit to Kingston Retail Park he turned his attention to a Conservative tax cut that means millionaires will be more than £100,000-a-year better off.

Mr Watson is on the campaign trail in his role as campaign co-ordinator, but the Citizen couldn’t let him escape without a word on all things Leveson.

The MP was a leading member of the Culture and Media Select Committee whose investigation led to the Leveson Inquiry.

Prior to that he pursued the phone hacking issue for many years, regularly raising it in Parliament.

The Citizen asked him about Leveson and the regional press, newspaper ownership, libel reform and Freedom of Information:

WATSON ON LEVESON:

The first part (of Leveson) was to rememdy what was irresponsible journalism in tabloid papers.

There is a bit of fuss being made about the Royal Charter, but I am confident we can find a system that will allow freedom of expression while holding newspapers to account.

Although I know the Newspaper Society is worried regionals and local papers are having to carry a burden because of wrong doing in the tabloids, I don’t think regionals will be overburdened.

It is absolutely true that what Leveson has done is help clean up bad practice (in the tabloids). Newspapers have cleaned up their act.

WATSON ON NEWSPAPER OWNERSHIP:

Rupert Murdoch got too powerful. He was allowed to own too much of the media in Britain. At one point he had nearly half of the Sunday newspaper market.

That is not healthy for any country.

I feel very strongly that all political parties must address this before the next election. We need to spend some of the campaign discussing media ownership.

WATSON ON LIBEL REFORM:

Parliament ratified libel laws yesterday. A huge trench of reform was passed with cross party support on a lot of issues.

Those people wronged will have access to redress, while the reforms will go a long way to producing greater freedom of expression.

WATSON ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION:

I feel very personally responsible. I have to try and help Government give something back to journalists.

One of the things I want to make sure we campaign on very strongly is reform of freedom of information.

There are no strict obligations in terms of time and the appeal process is cumbersome.

There are too many exceptions. I want to strengthen freedom of information laws.

One of the things that would really help is changes to combat massive increases in privatisation. A private company providing a public service isn’t subject to FoI.

That is just not right or fair.