Asking about Steve Coogan as Patron of Index

The appointment of Mr Steve Coogan as a patron of Index on Censorship seems to me to be an odd one.

 

He is a vocal supporter of Hacked Off as well as one of its key financial supporters.

 

But Index and Hacked Off have contrasting views on the issue of press regulation.

 

There is a lot of concern at the apparent tension in this.  Is this concern warranted?

 

So I asked questions of both Hacked Off and Index.

 

Below are their responses.

[Add: statement from Mr Coogan has been added at foot of this post.]

 

From Hacked Off:

 

“We understand Steve Coogan agreed to be patron of Index on Censorship after an approach from the organisation, having debated the merits of Leveson on a platform at a legal conference on 20th May.  

 “He did not consult Hacked Off before agreeing their request and nor would we expect him to. 

 “We strongly support his decision to be a patron of Index because, on matters other than Leveson, Index does excellent work which we support. For example, leading members and supporters of Hacked Off are involved in the Libel Reform Campaign with Index.  Several other Index patrons are supporters of Leveson.”

 

 

In response to my questions:

 

1. A list of all times Mr Coogan has spoken on behalf of Hacked Off.

2. What he has said on those occasions.

3. A list of any public statements Hacked Off has made about Index (and its opposition to press regulation).

“We don’t keep these records – although you can search for published examples online.” 

 

 

4. The extent of Mr Coogan’s financial support for Hacked Off (including but not limited to http://hackinginquiry.org/mediareleases/steve-coogans-rash-cash-pledge/)

“Steve Coogan matched cash donations from the public during a fundraising campaign last year, accompanied by a subsequent plea from Alan Partridge not to be duped by this request for a matching cash pledge.”

[Added when I asked for more detail]“We think the public generously contributed about £20,000 and Steve has generously matched that. The full sum is not yet totalled but will be reported in due course.”

 

 

5. The other ways Mr Coogan has supported Hacked Off.

“Steve Coogan’s support included appearances on platforms with Hacked Off, written press articles and a reception at the Labour Party Conference last year. He set out much of this in an interview for Total Politics on 26th March

“He also provides support and encouragement to many of the victims of press abuse who are not otherwise in the public eye.  As well as writing, broadcasting and acting, his time has been taken up on the Philomena campaign and on a campaign to help prevent FGM.  We are very grateful for his time and energy.”

 

 

 

From Index:

 

In response to my questions:

 

1. Why has Mr Coogan appointed as a patron?

 “Index on Censorship is actively seeking new patrons from a variety of artistic spheres, known both in the UK and abroad. We are also looking for new patrons outside of the UK.

“Steve Coogan is a high profile writer and comedian who has spoken out openly on free expression and we believe he will be a strong supporter of work defending artistic freedom globally.”

 

2. When was the last patron appointed before Mr Coogan?

“I [Jodie Ginsberg, the CEO] don’t have a record on this but one has not been appointed for several years as far as I’m aware.”

 

3. Is there any formal procedure for appointing a patron?

“No.”

 

4. Who approached whom about Mr Coogan being a patron?

“I did.”

 

5. When was this approach?

“I first spoke to Mr Coogan in early May and approached him formally this week.”

 

6. Who made the decision to appoint Mr Coogan as patron?

“The management team in discussion with the chair and trustees.”

 

7. Who was consulted re this decision?

“Staff and trustees.”

 

8. Who approved this decision?

“The chair and CEO”

 

9. Did anyone oppose this decision?

“No.”

 

10. What account was made of Mr Coogan’s position as a spokesperson and key funder of Hacked Off?

“We recognised that Mr Coogan had taken an opposing position to us on the Royal Charter, as had other patrons.”

 

11. Has Mr Coogan made a donation to Index? Will he? Details please.

“Mr Coogan has made no donation to Index. I have no idea if he will make a donation.”

 

12. Is there any donation to Index connected with Mr Coogan’s appointment?

“No.”

 

13. When did the appointment take effect?

“Immediately.”

 

14. Is there any limit to the support a person could give to the regulation of the press in any country before they became ineligible to be a patron of Index?  If so, what is that limit?

“Yes – we would not appoint anyone as patron who did not agree with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

 

 

ADDED – From Steve Coogan:

This statement was emailed to me.

“It’s rather superficial to see any conflict at all between supporting freedom of expression and supporting the Leveson Report because the Leveson Report was about providing remedy for victims of press abuse and inaccuracies as well of course as securing plurality of the media which is so important in a democratic society.  
“As I say in the pub most of the time, the Leveson Report and Royal Charter actually reinforce journalistic free expression by providing full costs protection for members of a recognised independent self-regulator.  
“This is probably why so many writers and Human Rights campaigners support Hacked Off’s position.
“And it’s why leading Hacked Off supporters are so active on free expression issues like supporting the Guardian over the NSA, unlike the Mail, Telegraph and Murdoch papers and unlike some right-wing libertarian poseurs.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “Asking about Steve Coogan as Patron of Index”

  1. Why does everyone conflate wanting a better functioning press (and reforming the defunct PCC) with an attack (of the ‘chilling’ kind no doubt!) on freedom of speech?

    It’s all a bit simplistic isn’t it?

    Self-regulation has not worked unless hacking murdered schoolgirl’s phones is now OK and Leveson was so reasonable that even Cameron couldn’t see it’s flaws. Note that television editors who happily function under OFGEM are conspicuous by their absence in support for their print media counterparts on this.

  2. Ted,
    I think it’s unfair to suggest those who do not support the Leveson recommendations are content with all aspects of the national press at present. The flaws however are unlikely to be solved by statutory regulation/Royal Commission but such a system could diminish the freedom of the press.
    As regards broadcasting ‘happily functioning’ under OFCOM, I think it’s worth pointing out broadcasting can be much more risk averse than newspapers. Would state (backed) regulation of the press be more likely to lead to newspapers similar to Channel 4 News or the more conservative BBC News (which is regulated outside of OFCOM).
    I also think it’s been over-looked that the PCC had provided effective self-regulation of the UK’s regional/local press.
    As for Steve Coogan, I guess it’s to Index’s credit that it is able to appoint someone as a patron who has taken an opposing view to it on a high profile issue.

    1. “The flaws however are unlikely to be solved by statutory regulation/Royal Commission but such a system could diminish the freedom of the press.”

      Gibberish in 3 parts
      1) A judge after a 15 month public Inquiry recommended a system to “solve the existing flaws” by providing for regulatory independence, corporate and ethical governance, a fair complaints procedure and access to justice when a civil remedy is required.
      2) Leveson is not statutory regulation.
      3) The Royal Charter which implements Leveson’s proposed “audited and approved independent self-regulation” is not a Royal Commission.

      Not a surprise therefore that this is followed by an unsubstantiated assertion that having effective remedy for press abuses “could diminish the freedom of the press”. It could not do so, set against the certainty of the actual existence of recurrent press abuses under PCC/IPSO style fake regulation.

      “I also think it’s been over-looked that the PCC had provided effective self-regulation of the UK’s regional/local press.”

      Nonsense. Read the Leveson Report. The PCC was a sham industry front non-regulator.

    2. “I also think it’s been over-looked that the PCC had provided effective self-regulation of the UK’s regional/local press.”

      This, in my experience, is most definitely not the case – the local press frequently mis-represent individuals to suit their journalistic aims. Twas’ ever thus and I speak as a librarian who’s work includes the archiving of newspapers going back over 200 years.

      Individuals reported on in local newspapers, for whatever reason, have no realistic prospect of redress if they take issue with how they’ve been represented, in some ways even less so than with the national press, this is why Steve Coogan is absolutely right on this – but I still don’t forgive him for falling out with Top Gear ;)

  3. It is, of course, Ofcom, but Mr Bailey’s point stands. As a former editor of World In Action and a long-standing exec producer on many programmes for Dispatches and Panorama, I can confirm that the statutory TV codes have posed no threat to my – or anyone else’s – freedom of expression. I have little sympathy for the majority press position on the issue of regulation.

    1. Fair enough Steve, my point was a little too general. I recognise the BBC has produced challenging journalism and continues too. However I think regulation, especially closely tied to politicians/politically controlled institutions, are likely to self sensor to avoid falling foul of the regulator. Different standards of regulation can contribute to media plurality.

  4. Twm,

    In 30 years making current affairs at ITV and C4, I simply never saw that kind of self-censorship. It’s worth remembering that it was Thames TV, statutorily regulated, who made Death on the Rock whilst most of self-regulating Fleet St kowtowed to the Government line. My experience at the BBC is less extensive, but I personally never witnessed any reluctance to follow stories which might upset Government interests.

  5. “However I think regulation, especially closely tied to politicians/politically controlled institutions, are likely to self sensor to avoid falling foul of the regulator”

    More nonsense.

    The Royal Charter Recognition Panel is not allowed to have any party politicians on its board, in its staff or on its appointments panel. Its appointments panel must also be appointed independently from politicians. the Charter can not be changed without the unanimous agreement of the politician-free board.

    Under the Charter system an approved self-regulator is not allowed to have any party politicians on its board, in its staff or on its appointments panel.

    Who Chaired the PCC? Tory peer Lord Hunt. Who Chaired its funding/controlling body, PressBoF? Tory Peer Lord Black. Who was a fellow PCC Board Director? Tory Peer Lord Grade. Lord Hunt’s predecessor? Tory Peer Baroness Buscombe. PCC’s Director? Tory activist Michael McManus.

    IPSO’s architect? Tory peer Lord Black. Who helped appoint the appointments committee for IPSO? Former Labour cabinet minister Lord Smith.

    Why not base your arguments on fact rather than on the propaganda you read in .. er.. the newspapers.

  6. I don’t see a problem with Steve Coogan’s appointment as patron of Index. Hacked Off are not exactly calling for press censorship. At worst they support measures designed to enforce press accountability which are flawed. Some measures are needed, and they do need to be truly independent. I think Coogan’s appointment, which I understand was prompted by a healthy debate in which he participated, is a positive move and a sign of good will. One can hope that the two groups may be able to learn something from each other.

  7. Like the previous commentator, I fail to see a serious problem here, unless one is going to take a fundamentalist position that anybody should be able to say anything in any media without risk of reprisal, and that anything other than this consists of censorship.
    Assuming that one does not take this position, then the actual aims of the two organizations simply do not conflict. Index opposes censorship, Hacked Off promote press accountability, currently through the implementation of Leveson. It is therefore not fundamentally inconsistent for an individual to be an active member of both. Now, you may happen to believe that the Leveson proposals do amount to censorship, but if this is the case then it would seem to me that you are objecting to the means currently promoted by Hacked Off, not their basic aim. Surely, therefore, the reasonable way to handle this is to attempt to persuade the individual concerned that this is the case, by presenting the arguments why you (might) think Leveson is tantamount to censorship and encourage him to rethink the particular means that Hacked Off are promoting, rather than simply demand answers to a series of questions: an approach which, at the least, allows you to strongly imply that there is a basic inconsistency, even hypocrisy, of the part of Coogan, without requiring you to justify much why you find these two to be so irreconcilable.

    1. I don’t suggest they are “irreconcilable”. I say there is a tension, as they differ on a significant live issue.

      And asking questions (demanding?) of those concerned, and publishing the answers in full, seemed to the best way of approaching this. Now people can make their own minds up.

      1. OK, sorry, “demanding” was too strong and rather leading, which was a little hypocritical given that that was my problem with your original post. “Irreconcilable” was probably too strong too. I should think more carefully about my wording before firing off a response on the Jack of Kent blog!
        But I’m still a bit discomforted by the post. I feel that by not presenting even a link to another discussion of your views on the matter, the prima facie interpretation of your post is that you consider it to be self-evident that there are, well, self-evident problems to be addressed. Like the commentator before me, I’m not so sure. I think that even if there are differences of opinions between the two groups, they are not fundamentally opposed, and that if Coogan can act as a point of contact and dialogue, that surely must be a good thing. But my aggressively over-strong wording is hereby retracted, and slightly shame-facedly too.

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