Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Examination of Witness (Question Numbers 740-750)


28 APRIL 2009

  Q740  Rosemary McKenna: They also have enormous power.

  Mr Hill: We have the laws of libel which are the most severe in the world, we have the law of confidence which is now being used extensively in matters, particularly by celebrities, we have the law of privacy which is coming, we have European law and we are pretty much up to our ears in law now. We have the most stringent contempt of court laws which apply to all matters in this country of any country. If you go to the United States, they have what you could call a free press. We do not have a free press in this country by any means; we have a very, very shackled press in this country. Really you should be looking at means of removing those shackles not imposing more of them, which is what seems to me to be the tone of these discussions. How can we make the press freer? How can we have a free press? A free press is the only bastion that there really is in a democratic society; there is nothing else.

  Q741  Chairman: So part of the price of a free press is that every now and again something like the McCanns will happen.

  Mr Hill: I do not think it will happen again. No, I do not think that particular sort of thing will happen again. I do not think so.

  Q742  Paul Farrelly: On pre-notification, when we asked Mr Dacre last week whether, had the Max Mosley story fallen into his lap, the Daily Mail would have gone to him for comment first, to paraphrase the answer he said that it was not an issue because the Daily Mail would not have run that story because it was a family newspaper. Do you find that answer credible?

  Mr Hill: Yes, that is totally credible to me. It is not a story which I myself would have pursued. I would not have pursued that story because that is not the sort of story that we use in our newspaper.

  Q743  Paul Farrelly: Had that story been offered to you at an acceptable price you would not have run it.

  Mr Hill: I would not have wanted the story. I just would not have wanted that story. It just would not have been the sort of story which would have appealed to me or my readers. It was not the right sort of story. For the market the Daily Express and the Daily Mail are in it seems to me not the right kind of story.

  Q744  Paul Farrelly: There is another family on whom you have reported, which is the Rothermeres, with certain suggestions of Nazi sympathies, particularly with the Daily Mail's coverage in the 1930s.

  Mr Hill: Well they did support the British Nazi Party. That is a matter of record.

  Q745  Paul Farrelly: What would be your response to the speculation that sometimes knocks around the press with much mirth that there is a truce between proprietors, Mr Desmond and the Rothermeres, which is sometimes broken but now you seem to be abiding by it?

  Mr Hill: What kind of truce?

  Q746  Paul Farrelly: That the proprietors of newspapers do not report on other proprietors or their families.

  Mr Hill: There is not anything to write about them, is there? They are not very interesting to write about, are they?

  Q747  Paul Farrelly: So there is nothing in it?

  Mr Hill: People do write about Mr Desmond from time to time. I cannot remember a story about Lord Rothermere which was of interest to anyone.

  Q748  Paul Farrelly: So there is nothing in this idle speculation about unwritten truces?

  Mr Hill: I do not know what they say to each other. I do not even know whether they speak to each other. I have no idea. I am not privy to what Lord Rothermere and Mr Desmond say.

  Q749  Paul Farrelly: As an editor you have never been asked by Mr Desmond to go and get a Rothermere story for the paper when they described him as a pornographer?

  Mr Hill: Absolutely not.

  Q750  Paul Farrelly: There is no truth in that; absolutely not?

  Mr Hill: No, of course not; no. Why would he do that? No, certainly not.

  Chairman: I think that is all we have for you. Thank you very much.

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