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.

Analysis

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
    +4

    Comment number 101.

    Whilst I AM concerned about a 'Bulldozer' effect, the behaviour of the NOTW in particular has severely damaged the Press' self-imposed reputation as moral 'adjudicators', and many papers haven't even noticed.

    It is quite telling how, had this been a third party, the moral indignation and demands for resignations and arrests would probably still be flying across the pages of those same papers.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 100.

    If we had a free press I might have some sympathy.

    But we don't. Our national newspapers, from the Guardian to the Telegraph, are nothing more than mouthpieces for the political philosphies & personal crusades of their proprietors.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 99.

    Frankly this kind of regulation is long overdue.

    The papers have only ever had the interests of their respective owners at heart and strive to skew figures and facts or divert attention to encourage people to vote, en masse, against their own better interests. The areas of policy that benefit the man on the street AND the multi-millionaire owners of a newspaper have very little, if any, overlap.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 98.

    The MPs eyes are lighting up like a fruit machine here as they try to prevent the press from reporting on all of the underhand and despicable things that they get up to.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 97.

    If any other sector had behaved as the press has done, the media would be howling for blood. They have shown themselves incapable of self-regulation and this is the regrettable but necessary alternative.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 96.

    Dark day for the UK. A truly free press is at the heart of an open society. Where would we be without the fake sheikh or the expenses scandal. This will just allow the rich and powerful to get away with whatever they want.

    For me, as long as its true, the press can print whatever they want. If you don't like what a paper has to say don't buy the paper, it is as simple as that.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 95.

    71.Doghouse
    "it's still another small slice of our freedom being whittled away"

    ==

    As freedoms go, that to tell lies en masse to the public without fear of redress isn't high on normal people's priorities, rightly.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 94.

    Sad to read the Times comment "The idea that somehow a deal stitched up between a few politicians over pizzas and a handful of lobbyists..... is the thing that now controls the press" Similar comments could be said about many laws brought in by parliament. Why should the press be allowed to make up its own laws when the rest of us have to abide by the will of parliament?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 93.

    Good

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 92.

    I presume some of you were the same people getting very excited about how great it was that the Guardian could publish the Snowden revelations. Do you think under this new regime, they could get away with doing the same thing now? When you use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, you tend to lose the lot. Be careful what powers you give politicians, freedoms once lost, rarely come back.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 91.

    I think it's amazing that the executive editor of The Times seeks to make his case by describing the Charter was "a deal stitched up between a few politicians over pizzas and a handful of lobbyists". "A few", "over pizzas" and "handful" are completely made-up embellishments to the story. His whole point is that we should trust the press to regulate itself but he can't even regulate his own mouth.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 90.

    "Some in the media claim this could let governments encroach on press freedom."

    So that'll be the freedom to make up stories and ruin innocent peoples lives then? Encroach, please feel free...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 89.

    Greta shame that our Judges made a judgement so quickly. At the very least I would have expected them to reserve their judgment. Now we will have increased lobbying by the people who form the Hacked Off group for Parliament to bring in laws that will almost neuter the press. Letwin and the other lot that agreed the way with a Royal Charter should have at a stroke destroyed history. No Honour

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 88.

    Will there be any reporting on the vast number of 'bent' coppers who leaked information to journo's for money or the 'honest booby' who covered up and lied in the Hillsborough disaster.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 87.

    Let's put estate agents in charge of press regulation. After all, they're marginally more trustworthy than Journalists or Politicians

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 86.

    Please explain?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 85.

    As usual our government doesn't like something so they ban it. Why they didn't put a tax on top of it surprises me. That's usually the other solution our government has. This has nothing to do with the public being protected, this has everything to do with the government wanting to shut up people who ask uncomfortable questions or report about something they would rather not talk about.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 84.

    I'm not able to express my sentiments towards the press in this forum as they wouldn't be published.
    What is it with Media people who think all the sheeple are awaiting their views with baited breath.
    They contribute absolutely nothing to society if you stand back and think about it.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 83.

    The papers have brought it on their selves. They have regulations on newspapers in Europe and they still print the dirt on politicians with no problems so why should it be different here?.No sympathy with the papers.Only wish it was the Leverson report brought into law and not just a Royal Charter. This should have happened years ago.

  • rate this
    -26

    Comment number 82.

    Does this mean page 3 been banned or are they still free to show that? Does anybody know this.

    My wife hates but I like, especially in morning.

 

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