Press regulation: Privy Council grants royal charter

Newspapers Publishers fear the royal charter will allow governments to encroach on press freedom

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A new cross-party royal charter on press regulation has been granted by the Privy Council, the government says, after the newspaper industry lost a last-minute court challenge.

Court of Appeal judges refused newspaper publishers an urgent injunction to stop ministers seeking the Queen's approval for the charter.

Editors had argued their alternative proposals were not properly considered.

The charter will create a watchdog to oversee a new press regulator.

Media organisations will be free to sign up or stay outside the new system of regulation.

The matter of press regulation emerged following the phone-hacking affair and subsequent Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of newspapers.

Publishers had until 17:30 GMT on Wednesday to try to stop the politicians' charter being approved, which they argue could allow governments to encroach on press freedom.

Earlier on Wednesday, High Court judges refused publishers an injunction ahead of the Privy Council meeting and said there were no grounds for a judicial review.

'Deeply illiberal proposal'

Hours later publishers made a second attempt to gain an injunction through the Court of Appeal, pending a planned appeal against the High Court's ruling.


It sounds like the end of the story: the Privy Council has granted a royal charter.

Many in the newspaper industry think it a grave threat to their independence from politicians. But they lost the argument in Westminster, and a court bid to delay the charter.

So you might think the debate is over. No chance.

The government admits a question remains about how it will work in practice. Newspaper groups are setting up their own regulator by their own rules.

So - even now - it remains unclear by whose standards the press will be regulated in the future.

However, Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, sitting with Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Lord Justice Elias, refused to grant an interim order.

In a joint statement, the newspapers said the newspaper and magazine industry had been denied the right properly to make their case that the Privy Council's decision to reject their charter was "unfair and unlawful".

The newspapers learned their alternative proposals had been rejected by the Privy Council earlier this month because they did not comply with certain principles from the Leveson report, such as independence and access to arbitration.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture Media and Sport said: "Acting on the advice of the government, the Privy Council has granted the cross-party royal charter.

"Both the industry and the government agree independent self-regulation of the press is the way forward and that a royal charter is the best framework.

"The question that remains is how it will work in practice; we will continue to work with the industry, as we always have.

Labour's Harriet Harman: "It really is time for a new press complaints system"

"A royal charter will protect freedom of the press whilst offering real redress when mistakes are made.

"Importantly, it is the best way of resisting full statutory regulation that others have tried to impose."

The executive editor of the Times, Roger Alton, said: "It's extraordinarily depressing and very, very alarming that in one short spell a hundred-year-old tradition of the press of this country, that's independent, free of political interference, has been cast aside."

Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator newspaper, said: "Now it's down to the newspapers to decide if they are going to sign up to this deeply illiberal proposal or whether they should stand up for press freedom."

He said his industry was creating its own regulator - the toughest regulator in the western world - which did almost everything Lord Leveson asked for but not at the behest of politicians.

He said he would be surprised if any newspapers sign up to the new system of regulation.

Editor of the Daily Telegraph Tony Gallagher tweeted: "Chances of us signing up for state interference: zero."

The Privy Council, whose active members must be government ministers, meets in private to formally advise the Queen to approve "Orders" which have already been agreed by ministers.

This latest Privy Council meeting, held at Buckingham Palace, was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Culture Secretary Maria Miller and the Liberal Democrat Justice minister, Lord McNally of Blackpool.

Both politicians and the press agreed there should be a "recognition panel" to oversee a press self-regulation committee with powers to impose fines of up to £1m on newspapers for wrongdoing.

How the royal charter system could work: Independent appointments panel chooses 4-8 members for a recognition panel. No editors, publishers or politicians can be selected. The Recognition Panel oversees the Regulator, which consists of a number of independent and industry members. The main powers of the Regulator will be to deal with complaints, oversee a code committee and deal with arbitration. It can order the press to make corrections and stipulate where and how these appear. It can impose fines of up to £1 million. The code committee will work to establish and industry-wide code of conduct. The arbitration arm will deal with press complaints outside court. with the proviso that if complainants bypass arbitration they may have to pay press costs. Some parts of the system have been omitted for clarity

However, the press charter required industry-wide approval for any amendments, while the politicians' version - backed by the three mainstream parties - can be changed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Hacked Off, the lobby group which has led the campaign for tighter regulation, said: "News publishers now have a great opportunity to join a scheme that will not only give the public better protection from press abuses but will also uphold freedom of expression, protect investigative journalism and benefit papers financially.

Hacked Off's Brian Cathcart: "The royal charter is good for press freedom and will give protection to the public"

"The press should seize the chance to show the public they do not fear being held to decent ethical standards, and that they are proud to be accountable to the people they write for and about."

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said of the royal charter's approval: "This is disappointing and it is a pity the Queen has been brought into controversy.

"Royal charters are usually granted to those who ask for one - not forced upon an industry or group that doesn't want it.

"Those who seem to want to neuter the press forget that there are 20 national papers, 1,100 regional and local papers and hundreds of magazines who have not done any wrong but they are willing to submit themselves to the scrutiny of the most powerful regulator in the Western world, so long as it is independent of politicians now and in the future."

Standards code

Under the royal charter, the Press Complaints Commission will be replaced by a new regulator with greater powers, and a watchdog - the recognition panel - which will check the regulator remains independent.

The regulator, set up by the press but without any editors on the board, will draw up a standards code and will be able to impose fines of up to £1m.

It will also provide a speedy arbitration service to deal with complaints.

The recognition panel will be made up of between four and eight members, none of whom can be journalists, civil servants or MPs.

Newspapers and magazines can chose whether to sign up to the new system of regulation, but those who do not, risk exemplary damages if they lose a libel case and may also be liable to pay the complainant's costs, whether they win or lose.

By contrast, under the royal charter system, news organisations will first go through an arbitration system with any complainant. Any complainants who want to go to court without arbitration may be expected to pay the media organisation's costs.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    #67 Semistanic. Cameron will side with America because his phoned wasn't monitored so that makes it OK.

    Seems to me our politicians still have an awful lot to learn about the real world. You can bet your bottom dollar Cameron would have been leaping up and down if he had been involoved in this scandal but it's easier to cuddle up to Obama and keep his mouth shut.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    If every other business is govern by a set of rules and regulations, so should be the news papers. These thuggery newspaper owners are not saints that should be above the rest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Yeah, this is pretty much what Hitler did in the 30s. We don't like what you've to jail you go.
    Way to go! Profoundly inaccurate hyperbole AND invoking Godwin's Law. Top trolling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Well this is [REDACTED] not a sign of corruption. Our [REDACTED] leaders will clearly use this for our benefit and [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED]


  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Thank goodness we have (at least for the time being) an independent judiciary. Lewisham Hospital, work for nothing, press regulation - our judges are more sensible than our politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    when the redtops start real journalism, rather than be kiss and tell about stories feed to them by publicists or tv gurus, and try to force there politics onto the masses, they often print opinion rather than fact, and when a great story is put in front of them they have to use every unethical trick in the book to get an edge. its now time we set the rules for them to follow,

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    @38 You ignored the Labour supporting Daily Mirror, can't think why. Blinkers maybe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    About time the press was brought under legal constraints. It was shameful the way they behaved towards the McCanns, the Miliband's, Royal Phone Hacking and Milly Dowler's family to name but a few. They have proved that they are not capable to police themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The Press case in the court was pretty feeble. After 6 months of Leveson inquiry, and another 12 months of negotiations after, they claimed that they had not been properly consulted! What?

  • Comment number 72.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    So many idiots celebrating that the press is "getting its comeuppance". The trouble is that, however understandable that reaction may be in context, it's still another small slice of our freedom being whittled away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    What about the BBC..........why was there no report yesterday on the main news concerning the Health Minister. He lost a court ruling,allowing a hospital A and E to stay open.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Excellent. The EU will now be able to demand action on the consistent lies told about it in many papers.

    (There's no recourse under any law at present, as there would be for libelling someone).

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Legal liability is what was required, not regulation.

    Regulation is a real sign of the corrupt state protecting its self from exposure and criticism. AKA totalitarianism.

    We wouldn't have known about the expences scandal or the abuse of privacy without the press. I know that they publish all manner of rubbish but also things we do need to know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I don't like politicians or the press but i cannot see how our government is pushing for this and Rebecca Brooks can be in court the same week Cameron is aggressively protecting and supporting America for doing the exact same things.
    I agree with a royal charter but we also need one for our politicians so we can hold them to account too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    @55 "I am an occasional contributor to Christian Aid magazine and wholesome well meaning journals such as this will also be subject to regulation."

    I doubt wholesome well meaning journals will suffer too much. My copy of "Trainspotting monthly" with a pull out special on Crewe Station (in every issue) will be unaffected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.


  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Why do we need the new regulator?

    Just make it an aggravating factor if a crime is committed seeking a story, make publishers and editors accessories to the crime and make the penalties severe enough to make so-called journalists and publishers think twice. A £1,000,000 fine is a drop in the ocean for a $6bn business

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    32. FishOnTwoWheels

    Politicians have already been sanction for the expenses scandal but whether or not you think that the politicians are doing this for revenge ( and certainly the Conservatives were dragged kicking and screaming to criticise News International), the Press have demonstrated that Self Regulation doesn't work! Just like the banks demonstrated light regulation doesn't work in 2008

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Yeah, this is pretty much what Hitler did in the 30s. We don't like what you've to jail you go. So now the politicians and the rich are effectively determining what is acceptable? And you trust these people? In lieu of any credible opposition, a vigorous, robust press is needed. As an earlier poster pointed out, there are already laws for when the press overstep the mark.


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