Today's news, tomorrow's lesson 28 November - David Cameron receives Leveson report ahead of official publication on Thursday

The publication of Lord Leveson’s report tomorrow on improving regulation of newspapers and journalism is already big news.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 28 November

David Cameron receives Leveson report ahead of official publication on Thursday

The publication of Lord Leveson’s report tomorrow on improving regulation of newspapers and journalism is already big news.

Tasked with investigating the inner workings of Britain’s press by David Cameron when the phone-hacking scandal was at its peak in June 2011, Lord Leveson spent the month that followed publicly picking over every last detail of relationships that exist both formally and informally between journalists, politicians and the police.

Leveson – and the revelations that he uncovered while interviewing everyone from the Prime Minister to Hugh Grant – became almost as sensational as the original phone hacking revelations. The inquiry shone a light on any number of associations, not least those between Mr Cameron, senior executives at Rupert Murdoch’s News International such as Rebekah Brooks and former No 10 spin doctor, Andy Coulson, a previous News of the World editor.

In truth, no one has come out of the scandal, or Leveson’s probing, in a good light other than perhaps some of the dignified victims such as Millie Dowler’s family. This is one of the reasons that the publication of the inquiry’s report tomorrow is so anticipated. Mr Cameron, for example, is in an uncomfortable situation as not only is he obliged to decide on the government’s response – and whether or not to regulate our free press using legislation – but he has also consistently been part of the story. Friendly texts with Brooks and the appointment of Coulson have ensured this.

Added to this, two senior Tories have spent the last fortnight vocally opposing any statutory regulation of the press. Mayor of London Boris Johnson and education secretary Michael Gove, both formerly high-profile journalists, have warned him against drastic reform of the current system of newspaper self-regulation. In turn most of Mr Cameron’s Lib Dem coalition allies and the opposition Labour Party are very much in favour of change.

To make matters even more complex, the public also seems wholly unclear on what it wants. Two recent polls, by the same pollster (YouGov), illustrate the confusion. One – for the charity Media Standards Trust – found that 79 per cent of people agreed that “There should be an independent body, established by law, which deals with complaints and decides what sanctions there should be if journalists break agreed codes of conduct.” While a separate survey – this time for the Sun – the largest proportion, 43 per cent of respondents, agreed that “It is vital for our democracy that a free press is protected. Whatever the failings of a few journalists, statutory regulation set up by politicians would risk damaging our press freedom.”

YouGov boss Peter Kellner has suggested that the reason for these seemingly conflicting results is that the public trust neither the press nor politicians, which is hardly surprising given the content of many of the revelations during the Leveson inquiries.

As such, Mr Cameron can probably only be certain of one thing – whatever he decides in the days ahead, it will almost certainly trigger yet another row.

Questions for discussion

General Discussion

  • What does ‘self-regulation’ mean?
  • Do you think that self-regulation would work in our school? Could pupils regulate their own behaviour?
  • What are the arguments for and against press freedom? Where do you stand on the issue?
  • This inquiry focuses on regulation of the press, but not the internet. Do you think there should be more regulation online?

Related resources

Does the press behave legally?

  • A thoughtful resource exploring the role of the Press Complaints Commission.

The right to privacy

  • A lesson examining the right to privacy as upheld by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Influencing attitudes

  • With this lesson plan, pupils can explore how our attitudes and opinions are influenced by the media.

Media ethics activity

  • A series of scenarios which put pupils in the role of a newspaper editor facing ethical dilemmas.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week

Dr Joseph Murray, the pioneering surgeon who performed the world's first successful kidney transplant, has died at the age of 93.

The Environment Agency has announced a "national crisis" after storms and floods ravaged communities across England and Wales, with more flooding still predicted.

The bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians over the Gaza strip may have been halted but the likelihood of a long-standing peace deal in the region is as remote as ever.

Women bishops will not be welcomed into the Church of England after The General Synod decided to stick with tradition in a narrow vote.

In the news archive index