Evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, currently underway, has exposed the unscrupulousness of the press as it tries to win circulation by debasing news to the level of malicious village gossip.
Even when the victims of phone-hacking and concocted revelations are rich and powerful, the debasement hurts us all, as pseudo-gossip drives out real news.
Does the press have a right to hack people's phones and print personal details about people? Should there be controls on what the press can print?
The question is whether controls motivated by privacy could then be used to suppress investigation of real scandals. The main check at present is super-injunctions, injunctions which prevent any confidential and private information about the applicant, or even the fact that the injunction exists, being published. If a paper ignores that, it can be prosecuted for contempt of court.
The Inquiry's stated aim is to maintain freedom of speech for the press but also try to improve the moral standard of the press.
Beyond its remit is the issue of the media being owned and controlled by profit-greedy billionaires, whose only concern is to get more circulation and advertising, and who suppress important investigations or inflate salacious tittle-tattle with that purpose.
They cultivate a dumbed-down readership anxious for tittle-tattle rather than a critical-minded readership anxious for information because tittle-tattle is cheaper to provide, and, bar the odd super-injunction, causes less trouble.
The media should be taken out of the hands of the billionaires and its printing presses and communication networks put under public ownership, with legal guarantees of the right of every body of opinion to use those assets to express itself.