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 121.

    98. John Fish
    '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.'

    If only! Sadly they tend to spend their time paying policemen, hacking murdered girls phones, slagging of peoples dead Dads and being run by old Aussies intent on destroying the BBC. Great crusading journalists!

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    70.What about the BBC..why was there no report on the main news concerning the Health Minister. He lost a court ruling
    One would be _tempted_ to say that Mr Hunt making a complete hash of something is hardly news, and in any case his SpAd will no doubt fall on his sword and accept all the blame.
    But one wouldn't say that, as the Mods are in denial that this ever happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    As Eleanor Roosevelt said "Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility".

    Seems to me the papers just wanted the freedom.... and the High Court has just said "TOUGH!"

    A good day for all of us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    "For me, as long as its true, the press can print whatever they want"


    Then you are in complete agreement with the proposed regulation.

  • Comment number 117.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    I would rather see journalistic articles that shed positive light on people rather than the endless gossip and scandal, especially when its found out to be fabricated.

    The hounding of the Royal Family is one example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    The press is reaping the inevitable results of its arrogant disregard for truth and accuracy. Newspapers should be obliged to carry health warnings about the veracity of their contents. People like Murdoch and Dacre don't care in the slightest about who they hurt with the lies their titles print - they need to be hit where it hurts, with really draconian financial penalties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Funny how our press omit the nasty goings on of those that run them. You have to read continental press to find out about UK's elite paedo rings, drug barons etc.
    Yet it's ours that mercilessly smears harmless individuals! Usually for trivia or crimes they haven't done.
    Rest of Europe, press is accountable; and bankers, bureaucrats, MPs. It works. Time our MPs backed us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    If Instead of muckraking around celebs, our fearless free press had been pursuing back handers in politics, the energy market, banking and pensions. The reckless waste in major government procurement projects. The fact that the same companies follow each other around the NHS doing rescue plan after rescue plan and collecting millions in fees and achieving nothing..... This wouldn't have happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    So much for Freedom of the Press in the UK. Today is another dagger in the heart of liberty.

    We now face a future of state regulated media, joining the ranks China, North Korea, Fiji Saudi Arabia, and other "enlightened" societies.

    The problem of a regulated press is people are less sceptical, and more trusting, of what is reported. This is not conducive to a well informed public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I hate the very idea of 'press regulation' as most of the deplorable activities of the press are already illegal or if justifiable (e.g. MPs expenses) can be defended in court with a 'public interest' defence. But it is equally deplorable that the press should continue to want to regulate itself, having singularly failed so to do at every opportunity. Sadly we end up with the lesser of two evils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    92. "Do you think under this new regime, they could get away with doing the same thing now?"

    Probably, but the majority of papers objecting to regulation were screaming for the Guardian to be gagged over this.

    It seems that what they really want from press regulation is freedom of unfettered intrusion into people's personal lives to boost sales figures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I'm really sorry but a free press is one of the tenets of a democracy. It is a really important issue and wars are fought to maintain it. The fact that a few B-grade celebs have had their phone tapped does not mean that a free press should be tethered to a politically correct committee set up by the government. We are straying into dangerous territory here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Freedom- better protect it!
    Remember KGB-Stasi-Gestapo and other freedom loving organisation claiming to protect us - the people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    True journalism should always be motivated by genuine public interest. If a child-molester, corrupt official or criminal mastermind is uncovered by investigative reporting, few would question the methods used. Hacking phones for gossip to sell more newspapers, believe it or not, is never in the public interest. The line has been drawn. Please don't compare this to anything fascistic or Stalinist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.


    98.John Fish - "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."

    Please explain how the Royal Charter would allow that?

    Oh, you can't can you - because it will not do that, but rather just make them apologise if they get their claims wrong....


  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    It is surprising how freely people on this HYS are willing to give regulation to the politicians. When the politics changes, and history has shown that it does, you will not be so happy about a gagged press. Still it must give followers of the Ministry of Truth to bash the likes of the Daily Mail, Telegraph etc as they outsell all the Total Liberal papers combined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    @92 - but some of us view Snowden as the traitorous little creep that he is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Does it matter? The press have already shown they have no interest is honouring for any rules or laws regardless of who makes them. We're simply arguing over whose rules they'll break next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    We have newspapers in the UK which are owned by a handful of powerful businessmen, who use these to pursue their business objectives (think of all the EU bashing that goes on in the Murdoch press). They were given enough rope to hang themselves and that is exactly what they they are moaning about it...


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