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In the UK…

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 pm, November 29th, 2012 - 11 comments
Categories: alcohol, loan sharks, Media, uk politics - Tags:

The big story for the day is the likely change in press regulation as the Leveson Report on questionable media ethics is about to released. But the next couple of stories are also interesting with similar (unresolved) stories here this year.

Firstly the Tory Government in the UK are to introduce Minimum Pricing on Alcohol – at ~90 NZc per unit.  The recommendation was for ~$NZ1, but I guess they had to give the alcohol lobby something, considering they also intend to introduce bars on multi-buy (2 for 1 etc) deals in supermarkets.  Pushed by the experts as the best thing they could do here, but dismissed by the Government as they distracted on age (which they didn’t change, even though Key voted for a rise to 20 – oh no, wait he didn’t…).

A Home Office impact assessment published alongside the consultation paper says a 45p minimum unit price would cut alcohol consumption by 3.3%, lead to 5,240 fewer crimes each year, reduce hospital admissions by 24,600 and lead to 714 fewer alcohol-related deaths. It would also cost the taxpayer about £200m a year in lost duty revenues.

The Home Office estimate is well below the estimate originally drawn up Sheffield University that a 45p minimum would cut consumption by 4.3% and lead to 2,000 fewer deaths.

Also being introduced – but only after a u-turn (David Cameron seems to be perfecting those) – is caps on payday loans.

“This may include rules that determine a maximum total cost for consumers of a product and determine the maximum duration of a supply of a product or service to an individual consumer.”

After voting down Carol Beaumont’s excellent member’s bill last term, National – through her Maungakiekie electoral opponent Sam Lotu-Iiga – briefly made noises about how to lower extortionate interest rates and other ways the poor are taken advantage of with these “payday loans”.  Can we build the pressure here to get some better legislation on the same issue, and get our own conservative u-turn?

11 comments on “In the UK…”

  1. karol 1

    Thanks for the links, Bunji.  And the Leveson inquiry is a significant one that puts the UK government in a difficult position.  In the linked article, Cameron says this:

    Cameron replied: “I would agree that a free press is absolutely vital to democracy.

    I think that he is referring to being free from state regulation and not from the influence of commercial media.  Also, in a SEMINAR a year ago, James Curran warned that this would be the argument used.

    To judge from this historical record, if the forthcoming Leveson report recommends any substantive reform, it will be denounced as an attack on press freedom; and if it fails to recommend a substantive reform, it will be judged a waste of time and money.

    I have also seen reports that focus on stars having their privacy infringed, which is the wrong focus.  Curran warns that one of the recurring problems in the UK press, is a ruling coalition between the media and government, which can happen if ownership of the media/press is concentrated into a small group of companies. This happened with the Murdoch press & the Thatcher government.

    Rather than focus on a limited notion of individualistic “freedom of expression”, Curran says the focus should be on the media serving the public good.  So he says the public should be included in the discussion and not just journalists and the government.  The aim should be for a free press that serves the public good.  

    Murdoch-style infotainment does not serve that good. Under this regime, a lot of the public have become disengaged from politics.  The whole idea of a free press being essential to democracy, is that it enables everyone to be able to critically and freely debate political issues.

    • Bunji 1.1

      Yes, definitely talking about freedom from the state, not from commercial considerations… Cameron is trying to work out a Third Way of some sort of regulator outside the media (Press Complaints Commission has proved toothless, as our equivalent here is), but free from the government. Like the judiciary, but a lot quicker…

      Focus is inevitably on the intrusions into privacy (the non-celebrity ones seen as more shocking by the public) as that was the cause of this scandal. It would be nice to have a broader enquiry into getting the 4th estate to look after the public good, and to have not just media owners and the government involved, but I suspect that’s a different enquiry – one that’s not going to happen (more’s the pity).

      That said, some of the privacy intrusions of celebrity I found quite shocking – in Dial M for Murdoch (partly written by crusading Labour MP Tom Watson) Hugh Grant was saying how everyone he tried to tell thought he was paranoid when he was saying you couldn’t report any crimes as the first person to turn up would be a tabloid journo, not a policeman. And indeed if you were mugged or robbed, likely nothing but a diary or similar would be taken, and the crime against you would be reported in the paper even if you didn’t report it to the police, and various details about your private life would start filtering into the gossip columns… Of course you couldn’t report it to the police because… It’s quite scary the level of corruption… (but it was alright, it was largely targeted at celebrities…)

      • Bunji 1.1.1

        Also interesting that all 3 major parties in the UK want a united line on such a divisive issue, but apparently unable to find one so far – looks like it’s going to be the first separate statements from the Tory’s Liberal Democrat partners on an issue in their House of Commons.

        Also a good thought – As this enquiry is into the press, it’s possibly irrelevant to 21st century journalism – based on the net and blogs…

        And I’m just further derailing my own thread which I was meaning to focus on the other 2 issues – minimum price for alcohol & payday loan sharks :)

        Oh well.

        (incidentally I’m going to write a post on my current book I’m reading, Flat Earth News at some point in the next week – scary how rotten journalism has become…)

        • rosy 1.1.1.1

          Flat Earth News is a must read for anyone interested in how news is produced. Nick Davies was also an integral cog in the breaking of the news that tabloids were making news through illegal means.

          I’m watching SkyUK and BBC positioning themselves for the Leveson report. Mostly along the lines of it’s too important to play party politics on this (Clegg and Cameron seem at odds on regulation) but at the same time putting the view forward that regulation will prevent the press criticising the State and the separation of press and state is sacrosanct.

          This is a bit hypocritical on two counts – the first is that information gathering such as phone tapping is already illegal and other methods such as phoning up banks, hospitals and the like pretending to be the owner of the information and receiving information from these sources when your not entitled to it (blagging, I think they call it) should be illegal. The second is that the cosy relationships between the press, politicians and corporate lobbyists already precludes the press criticising the State and it even influencing elections.

          I’ll definitely be watching to see what Leveson has come up with.

        • karol 1.1.1.2

          Well, it was me that derailed your thread, Bunji – sorry.

          The state of journalism is a pretty hot topic here right now.  I agree the issue of privacy is important.  Look forward to your post on Flat Earth News. 

  2. karol 2

    On the issue of alcohol pricing and age: I don’t usually comment a lot on the alcohol issue – I don’t drink.

    Generally, my main complaint is when the alcohol industry is exploitative,, causing harm to people or society in order to make a profit.  Ditto for the loan shark industry.  I just don’t think the latter should exist.  Also what about remedies that mean low paid workers are paid enough to get to the next pay day?

    Minimum pricing on alcohol is fine by me, unless someone can provide good evidence that this will harm people, especially the young, and/or will be harmful to society in general. 

    • CJ 2.1

      Karol – re the minimum alcohol pricing – I can’t say that there is evidence that this will actually harm people; though obviously the evidence of too much alcohol is well established. The main thing to me is that there is no real evidence that this will actually prevent the type of drinking that it’s intended to.

      In my experience those who have a problem with drink will buy alcohol, no matter what the price and at the expense of buying food, paying rent etc. The policy may well actually further harm those who it’s “supposed” to help, while having no affect at all on the drinking patterns of the vast majority of the population.

      The Scottish Government is a bit further ahead down the road on this policy having passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing)(Scotland) Act 2012 already – at 50p a unit (just over $1 at today’s rate).

      This debate was raised more by the actions of supermarkets over alcohol sales rather then the drink industry itself – in Scotland/rUK the big supermarkets had massive numbers of alcohol promotions/discounts and just cheap drink as part of their “loss leaders” policies, very often having cans of lager/bottles of wine which were cheaper than non-alcoholic drinks. And cheaper than off-licences which can’t afford to compete with their pricing structures.

      After all if you head to Asda for your voddy you’re not going to bother going to Tesco for the rest of your messages are you?

      For Scotland and rUK, however, there is question that this may run contrary to EU laws – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-20533189 so even if Westminster pass such a law for the rUK it may well never be enforceable. This point though would not be an issue for the same laws in NZ.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        In my experience those who have a problem with drink will buy alcohol, no matter what the price and at the expense of buying food, paying rent etc.

        This is true to some degree. But someone with $15 left to their name can only buy 5 standard drinks if its $3/std drink, as opposed to buying 15 standard drinks when it is an unregulated $1/std drink.

        • CJ 2.1.1.1

          True too – but then there is also the possibility of bootleg alcohol, and a return to the old Scots “solutions” to that. And they *will* replace everything else that they’d have spent that money on with the alcohol – which is more of a problem than the number of drinks.

          That $15 might have had them buy 10 drinks and a pie, but they won’t buy that pie now.

          The combination of little or no food with rougher, cheaper alcohol is a nightmare scenario to me.

  3. karol 3

    So, the Leveson Report is now out.  It’s claiming that, by and large,, the press works well in working in the public interest.  The main concern is for the press to be free from government interference – but really nothing about the impact of commercial interests or concentration of media ownership, in compromising the freedom of the press or that they act in the public interest.

    So the recommendation is for the press to decide what the set standards will be, based on a law set by government.  It recommends that once all this has been decided by the press, the press, editors etc, should not be on the regulatory board:

     The Chair and the other members of the body must be independent and appointed by a fair and open process. It must comprise a majority of members who are independent of the press. It should not include any serving editor or politician.

    But, it is still the press regulating itself once or twice removed. It should not be up to the corporate-dominated press to decide on the criteria of what is in the public interest. And the Inquiry has not recognised the damage to democracy done by concentrated media ownership, or the unacceptable alliance between the press and government.

    • Rogue Trooper 3.1

      Thanks for the update karol, saves wasting time watching tele unnecessarily :) and leaves Standard
      readers more time for Critical Thinking

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