Raheem Kassam: Competition, not government bureaucrats should temper the media
There is a false dichotomy when discussing press regulation. Unfortunately Nadhim Zahawi MP has been the one espousing it.
Flatly, the banking scandal taught us one thing. Regulation cannot safeguard against everything. What's more is that regulation often creates oligopolies and further entrenches industry-wide problems, restricting competition and creating a hive-mentality.
Speaking of hive mentality, the 42 MPs who signed a letter in the Guardian (presumably the only paper that would run such a thing) are guilty of starring into the abyss that is their communal naval.
How else would individuals often on the receiving end of a free(r) media's sting come to the conclusion that the public somehow want another quango, presumably with another Old Etonian at the top of it, to watch over the watchers?
You know where the real regulation is? It's in my pocket. It's in yours too. It resides in the coins, notes and debit cards that we use to procure our preferred newspapers or magazines. It rests in our Sky subscriptions or Freeview box purchases. It doesn't rest in the hands of a politician and it most definitely cannot end up in the clutches of some quangocrat, no matter how many years he or she has been asleep in the House of Lords.
Nadhim Zahawi said he was born into a country where the will of the people was not reflected in the media. If he's not careful, he's going to create the very same scenario here, where a cabal of the ruling classes dictate what we can and cannot consume. As if that doesn't happen enough already.
In Britain, we're at risk of turning information into a demerit product. Yes, the media is not perfect. Mistakes happen. Bad choices are made. So punish the individuals in question. The law isn't simply there to act as a deterrent at Nadhim implies. It's supposed to come with consequences.
The consequence for shackling the free press will of course be that we all just offshore and deliver our content online. Then what? Will 42 Tory MPs write somewhere (where?) urging the blocking of Internet sites. It's a slippery slope. And we've already begun the descent.