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A free press would be a good idea

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In an apocryphal story worthy of QI, when Gandhi was asked what he thought of western civilisation, he replied, “It would be a good idea.” We have the same feeling towards the idea of a free press, and, on the eve of Leveson, Simon Leadbetter asks what we would like to see in the report.

As we wrote last week, the debate about a free press is raging in the lead up to Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press, following the News International phone hacking scandal. In reality, the debate has been raging for nearly four centuries.

The core tension is between the essential freedom and demonstrable irresponsibility of the national press.

The national press has been lobbying, bullying and publishing like mad to secure self-regulation. They are certainly not exhibiting any humility on why they are in this self-made mess.

Campaigners such as HackedOff and individuals affected by press misbehaviour have been arguing for some form of statutory regulation.

What is so often lost in the fevered debate are the real victims of press misbehaviour and phone hacking (the McCanns, Dowlers and Christopher Jefferies, in addition to the families of Hillsborough and Soham victims) and the press’ role in corrupting the police. Also lost is that almost everyone believes in the vital role of robust and unfettered investigative journalism within a free press and functioning democracy.

Let us start be repeating that our national press is not free. It is owned by a narrow clique of billionaires with their own agenda, both political and economic. Secondly, corporations who also have their own commercial agenda, fund the press. It was the loss of advertiser revenue, more than public feeling, that ultimately signed the death warrant of the News of the World.

The misinformation (unintentional inaccuracy) and disinformation (intentional inaccuracy) about statistics, science, climate change and investment regularly peddled in the national press and magazines are a direct result of publisher and advertiser prejudice and agendas. We are happy to declare our own interest in promoting sustainable investment as more responsible than investing unsustainably.

The non-profit organisation Fullfact provides an exceptional service at holding the media to account mis- and disinformation.

It is our belief that the British press has lost the right to self-regulate and lacks the real freedom to do so. Simply comparing the behaviour of the unregulated News International over the phone hacking scandal (years of obfuscation and obstruction) and the regulated BBC over the Jimmy Savile scandal (heads rolled and an open inquiry was established) tells you everything you need to know about whether the British press can self-regulate.

To secure a genuinely free press, we are looking for the following in any new regulatory body:

– Genuine independence from media owners, corporate influence and politicians

Rather than being staffed and funded by media owners and editors and overseen by politicians, any regulatory body should consist of truly independent laypersons who can review journalism. In terms of funding, the press, rather than the taxpayer, should underwrite any cost, which could be a simply levy on each newspaper group based on audited audience figures, both on and offline.

– An affordable and rapid right of reply/arbitration

Libel action is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming and thus out of the reach of most people. Any new body must be able to respond to complaints and compel media owners to participate in any investigation. As an independent body, it should also be able to initiate its own investigations, rather than simply responding to complaints.

– Robust investigative powers

The challenge of many regulators is a lack of resources to effectively hold those they regulate to account. Any new body should be sufficiently resourced to undertake meaningful investigations of any alleged misbehaviour.

– Meaningful redress and sanction

The new body needs real teeth to compel the press to publish retractions equal in profile tthe original coverage, pay punitive compensation to victims and impose restrictions on regular transgressors.

– Statutory underpinning

The press has repeatedly demonstrated that if cannot self-regulate. Due to the ownership and funding structure, it cannot be free. To ensure compliance there needs to be statutory underpinning that means every national newspaper must participate and adhere to the rules and rulings of the body. The editor of The Times yesterday suggested judicial underpinning which would remove some concerns about political interference. Other than establishing the regulatory authority’s powers, politicians should have no further role in the body

At lunchtime today, the government will get the report, leading to a serious debate within Whitehall. Tomorrow we will all get to see the report and hear the government’s united or disunited response.

But before that – tonight at 8pm on Channel 4 – there is a documentary on Hugh Grant’s battle with the press.

We will be taking a considered view of what the Leveson Report recommends and how our politicians respond in our Guide to Responsible Media in December. Sign up to our newsletter to receive a copy for free.

Further reading:

Freedom of expression is not the same as a freedom to mislead

News Corporation and ethics: an oxymoron?

How to be good in the ruthless world of advertising

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Environment

How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life

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how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Rawpixel.com -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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Lifestyle

5 Things You Can Do Yourself to Improve the Value of Your House

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home renovation and improvement
Shutterstock Licensed Image - By Stock-Asso

Whether you want to own it or list it, every once in a while, a house needs a facelift. This will not only improve quality of your life but will capitalize your home’s value significantly, too.

The best way to improve home value by yourself is to upgrade only what is necessary and nothing more. For instance, why would you buy a new bathroom door when a little retouch and a coat of fresh paint will suffice? By taking this approach, you are allowing yourself to make several small improvements instead of venturing just one or bigger ones. Select projects thoughtfully and know when you should stop.

Pitch in for the kitchen

If you really want a return on investment one day, start in the kitchen. By many, the kitchen still represents the heart and the soul of the house, the central hub of a property and it will all on its own add colossal value to your home. Moreover, the kitchen can be a breaking point in selling the house, so you should not hold on to your wallet in this area.

There are many little things you can do to spruce up the overall image of your kitchen. You may paint the kitchen cabinets, replace old door handles, add additional storage space with a sliding wall or a kitchen island if there is enough room for it. In addition, you may open the living space up by taking a kitchen wall down. Possibilities for do-it-yourself are many.

Add an attic or a basement bedroom

Properties are usually valued by two things: land size and the number of bedrooms. The price range between a three to four-bedroom home is two to four hundred thousand. Since you can’t change the size of your land, you can at least increase the number of bedrooms.

If you are prepared to go full-scale, converting the attic or the basement into the bedroom is another especially favored project that will by far boost up your home’s value once you decide to put it on the market. Until you decide to list it you will enjoy in your own extra space for entertainment, living, sleeping, playing, exercising, or whatever you fancy.

Transformation with paint

If your walls have scrapes and stained paint, a vintage color or shabby wallpaper, several cans of paint can make a striking distinction. In order to increase the value of your home, it is recommended to go with neutral colors that will unify the whole house and make the space visually bigger.

transformation with paint

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Poznyakov > https://www.shutterstock.com/g/poznyakov

Bottom line, nothing can transform a home like a cast of fresh new paint. It is the number one way to beef up a property value of any budget. Additionally, painting the house is still one of the easiest, fastest and highest value drivers.

Secure with style

All of your effort and money would be wasted if you can’t protect the investments you made. A good security door costs as little as a few hundred dollars but if it saves you just once from being robbed it instantly pays itself off. People avoid putting security screens on windows because they mostly do not look stylish enough, but there are other options, such as installing shutters. There are so many elegant and cool shutter options that we found at Independent Blinds & Awnings that it’s really hard not to find something for you.

Basic maintenance for a worry-free mind

A clean house is a healthier house for you and your family. By making a clean house your number one on the list for improving, you accomplish a couple of things at once.

First, you stay on track with maintenance issues and, consequently you are able to recognize future problems before they become costly ones. Secondly, you don’t allow dirt and garbage to pile up over time. Thirdly, smudged, dirty windows can have a bad impact on the overall perception of the house. Same as eyes are windows to the soul, windows are for the home. Therefore, you need to wash them properly.

Spice up the landscaping

Big backyard is an all Australian dream and still, it is more often than not the most ignored area of the house. However, landscaping is really important as it frames a property from every corner.

Simple, low budget cosmetic changes in the front yard including installing garden beds, adding plants, pebbles or mulch, and paving or painting the front walls will positively lift the curb appeal as well as the property value. As for the backyard, you may span a lawn to create more open space for you and your family to move freely, cut and reduce unruly trees and vegetation, and fix the fence if needed.

Adding value to your home through a cosmetic or structural renovation is an actual way to quickly enhance your money invested in a property. In the end, you need to make sure that if you will continue to live in the house and renovate, that your renovations will contribute to a good lifestyle and that it will give the impression of a “ready to move in” property once you decide to list it.

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