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 161.

    I don't agree with the "if you don't like it, don't buy it" argument. There will always be some who enjoy reading salacious, made-up stories which deliberately victimise innocent people, and that type of reader is not going to stop buying newspapers. The victoms of press abuses deserve better than this unrealistic notion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.


    Yeah here's hoping indeed, simulations I agree with you can not be taken as fact but it certainly looks like this one may very well be right. If you look back over the past twenty years just you can already see the cloak of complete control slowly being pulled over everyone's eyes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.

    Albert Camus

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    What a sad comment.
    I'll stick with Jefferson's advice over a Press Tsar from the Ministry of Truth telling me what's true. You should too.

    "The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty..."

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    112.Sally the Rothbardian
    So much for Freedom of the Press in the UK. Today is another dagger in the heart of liberty.
    If you mean the liberty for super-wealthy owners (who often don't even live in the UK) to influence government policy by printing lies and profit by smearing innocent people, then yes it is. And hurrah for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Why are news consumers still buying newspapers?

    No really, Why?

    I haven't bought any rag for over 5years now and none the worse for being informed. In fact, I might even be better informed in current affairs now that no single editor chooses what story I read/hear/watch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    The press have always been a law unto themselves, hell bent on distorting the truth to suit their own gains. This action is long over due but let us not forget how political parties of the past have used the press to their own advantage, none more than the last Labour government under Tony Blaire, aided by Alistar Campbell, so for politicians to act in such a manner appears a little odd.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    145 - 100% agreement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    I can't believe how short sighted you all are. Today's the day that the vested interests that control us got their way. Press freedom was abolished and you are all cheering for it.

    Yes, our press is mostly reprehensible but this is the end of proper investigative journalism. The media is now regulated by a body independent of them, but not of the people they should be holding to account.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    The sad thing is here that if the Daily Mail, Telegraph and others spewed out the same version of the Truth that the BBC like there would be not complaints. Viva la difference I say and support diversity of thinking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.


    Ian Hislop (Private Eye Editor) made the point.He said “You don’t ban something, you don’t buy it".


    Much as I enjoy PE I think IH makes a false opposition here. No one's proposing a ban on any publication.

    I'm sure a few anagrams will get them off the hook where needed anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    If this goes through the Tabloids might actually have to print something worthwhile instead of their usual scandals, lies, obsessions with non celebrities and those who sleep with Non Celebrities. A responsible press regulation doesn't mean freedoms will be curbed, just that certain papers won't be able to act like monsters tearing lives or reputations apart at their bidding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Whilst I am glad characters like Paul Dacre are not getting their own way, I am slightly sympathetic to the papers and journalists who have abided by the rules all along.

    I would rather see those who broke the law, prosecuted properly, rather than wide spread press regulation. The actions of some journalists was appaling, but that shouldn't hinder the moral and good journalists out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    No more needs be said

    The reason why we got here in the first place isn't because of political interference with the free press it is because of the interference simply to make money by the press into normal peoples lives and tragedies and to push their own owners agenda.

    If you remove the word politician and replace it with the public's elected representatives their case falls apart

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    The corrupt and the criminal, the fraudsters and hypocrites, the paedophile and the serial sex offenders will no doubt sleep sounder in their beds tonight. As no doubt will a few MPs, or did I already mention them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    The newspapers cannot be trusted nor behave responsibly, so I am fully behind this. It's disturbing that these parasites use 'freedom' as an excuse to encroach of others' private lives and publish horribly provocative and manipulative material. Neutrality and impartiality are like gold dust in the papers these days.

    About time they faced hard regulation. Hoping parliament keep the momentum going.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    With Rights come Responsibilities.

    Our feral press appear to have forgotten the second part of that bargain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.


    Sadly, there are plenty of political theorists who surmise that an eventual descent into totalitarianism in the long term future is an inevitable conclusion for humanity. I recall hearing of simulation work that yielded such suggestions, but I never put much faith in those.

    here's hoping they got it wrong on that one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    55. Praise Him - needs not worry unless if Christian Aid Magazine is planning to join the less reputable press and get involved in phone hacking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    It makes me laugh when with one breath the Sun is boasting about having won general elections for their preferred party whilst in the next they are whining about groups like 'hacked off' having undue political influence.


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