Law proposed to curb cheque-book journalism

Newspapers should have to admit publicly when they have paid for a story, an MP said today.

Tory former minister Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, proposed a law that would require all media outlets to display clearly how much was paid to a source.

“Chequebook journalism” undermined people’s faith in the media, he told the House of Commons.

Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programmes were immensely powerful and operated with little effective regulation, he said.

Compelling them to disclose the amount of any payments would help the public make up their own mind about the veracity of a story, he said as he introduced his Media (Transparency and Disclosure) Bill.

“Too often we do not know enough about the motivation behind the primary source of a story,” Mr Streeter said.

“We do not know if the primary source for the story has been paid. The reader or listener or viewer is rarely told whether the source for

a story was paid and if so how much.”

“I’m not saying that the media shouldn’t pay people for stories. I’m not saying people shouldn’t receive payment for their stories.

“I’m simply saying that the reader, the listener or the viewer should be told what was paid for that story.”

His Bill would protect anonymous sources because the name of the person who received the money would not be given, only the amount paid.

“I believe my Bill, far from hurting the media, can help restore lost confidence in a noble profession,” he said.

“Let us celebrate the robust and vivid character of the fourth estate but let it be sensational and responsible in equal measure.”

The Bill gained its first reading but stands little chance of becoming law.

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