Monday 29 April 2013

Surprise surprise! The press rejects state-regulation

So the newspapers have finally rejected the politician’s proposals for press regulation enforced by the state, in favour of their own. The original proposals, hastily cobbled together during a late night meeting between all three parties and the Hacked Off campaign, are finally dead in the water. On Thursday five leading newspaper groups, and other industry associations such as the Newspaper Society, rejected the plans citing “unworkable” and instead published their own self-regulating proposals that will still be backed by Royal Charter (brief explanation of RC).

The media’s alternative plan The main difference between the politician-proposed regulations and the new one is that it prevents what the Newspaper Society call “state-sponsored” regulation. The press genuinely believe that the proposed regulations would limit the freedom of the press, making it harder for them to do their job. Some outlets were vocal early on; the Spectator wrote a big ‘NO’ on the front page while others such as News International were more diplomatic in their concerns (which is understandable given their newspapers were the biggest offenders in the Hacking Inquiry). Although it was quite clear to see at the time that the Sun wasn’t too pleased.

Hacked Off is hacked off
The demise of the state-regulation proposals has not been welcomed by all. Hacked Off is not happy and said in a blog post on Friday that the newspapers have defied the will of parliament in rejecting the proposals. They believe an industry-backed regulator would be akin to the discredited Press Complaints Commission which was far too close to the editors, making it difficult for individuals who had been abused by the press to make a complaint and receive compensation without using an expensive lawyer.

Government Response
The rejection puts top politicians such as David Cameron at risk of ridicule. He said in March “My message to the press in now very clear – we have had the debate, now it is time to get on and make this system work”. A couple of months on, he has had to backtrack, saying that he is happy to look at the alternative proposals but needs time to examine what the industry is proposing. However, others in his administration have suggested that the government is not going to scrap the plans and that the original royal charter will be sent to be sealed by the privy council on 15 May.

The Future
The problem is that if the press doesn’t believe in the regulations, how can politicians push them through? If the press had been invited to the multi-party talks, they could have had their say. It also shouldn’t have been agreed over a late night meeting in Miliband’s office without Cameron in attendance. There is no doubt going to be conflict ahead as the two powers try to come to an agreement. If you are getting a little tired of hearing about press regulation, I’m sorry. But, it’s not going away any time soon…

Richard Sowler

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