Until the Leveson Report came out I was pretty agnostic about the whole thing. Aren’t we all ‘regulated’ by Parliament, after all? In a sense, having to regulate the press via an arm’s length body might actually make it harder for politicians to censor the media than if they can just pass laws directly.
Besides, there’s a decent argument (made by Peter Lloyd here) that the media is de facto itself a part of the constitution that requires checks and balances just as much as the judiciary or parliament does.
But the political reaction to Leveson has woken me up to the truth about politics and the media. The battle lines on whether or not to accept Leveson in its entirety have been drawn up on party political lines. In other words, at least one of the two sides is motivated purely by tactical political interest on what should be a question of constitutional principle.
So once the principle of state regulation is established, every time there is a media scandal such as phone hacking, one political party or the other will jump on the bandwagon to gain political advantage, and call for regulation to be ‘tightened’. There is then a good chance they’ll be held to it my Hugh Grant style populist campaigners next time they’re in power.