Academics from Goldsmiths, University of London claim “press power” may have intruded on press regulation over the alleged decision by newspapers not to publish a story about the private life of Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.
Experts from the Department of Media and Communications said that serious questions needed to be asked about why a Government Minister decided to suspend a key element of the Royal Charter system of press regulation while knowing that the press were holding an “embarrassing” story about him.
They said that it is precisely these sorts of entanglements between press and politicians that the Leveson enquiry exposed and attempted to put right under the Royal Charter.
The story was eventually broken by the BBC.
Professor Des Freedman questioned why the story was allegedly “pursued and dropped” by newspapers.
Professor Freedman said: “There is no contradiction between the wish to protect privacy and the desire for effective independent press regulation.
"The real story here is not what the culture secretary did in his private life but why news organisations, that have time and again showed little hesitation in covering 'sex scandals' without any associated public interest, were apparently so reluctant to publish this particular story.
“Why was the story pursued and then dropped? The culture secretary's private life should indeed remain private.
“But what is at stake here is that we have the appearance that press power might well have intruded on the press regulation process and that is a legitimate public interest story.”
Last year it was reported that Mr Whittingdale is planning to shelve “Leveson 2” – the second part of the press regulation investigation which is due to look at phone hacking.
Professor Natalie Fenton said: "We need the press to hold power to account - that is their job.
“But when the press have an embarrassing story about a Minister in charge of press regulation that they seemngly choose not to run, and that Minister then decides not to commence a key element of press regulation, it raises serious questions that are in the public interest to address.
“This is the story, it is not about privacy, it is about a government minister being compromised in his job."