With the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of the British media set to release its report this Thursday, all eyes are on what the report will say and how the government of David Cameron will respond.
The inquiry, which was set up in the wake of the phone hacking crisis, has been holding hearings and investigating the press since November of 2011. With his report, Leveson will insert his voice into an ongoing, heated debate over the future of the British media.
The main argument concerns whether or not to introduce some kind of legislation regulating the body that oversees the press. The current Press Complaints Commission, which newspapers join voluntarily, has been widely judged a failure after its slow response to the phone hacking crisis. Some, such as the group Hacked Off and the opposition Labour party, have called for new laws to back a new press body. Proponents of a statutory response say it is the only way to ensure that all publications comply with tougher rules, and dismiss concerns that any government involvement could chill free speech.
Supporters of continued self-regulation say that it is vital to maintain the independence of the press, and that new proposals -- including one backed by a series of legally binding contracts -- are tough enough to bring bad apples into line.
Nobody knows exactly what Leveson will propose in his report on Thursday, but it has been widely assumed that he will side with the legislation camp. It then falls to Cameron to make the next move: does he introduce a bill or let the press continue to legislate itself? He faces a series of challenges no matter what decides.
The Mail on Sunday reported that Cameron is "set to defy" Leveson by backing proposals for tougher self-regulation, though he could introduce legislation if he thinks that there has not been swift enough change.
Spokespeople for the prime minister tried to quash the report, saying that Cameron will wait to read Leveson's findings and is "open-minded" about what comes next.