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Stop the Press? UK papers react to new regulation

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Stop the Press? UK papers react to new regulation


Some UK newspapers are resisting the new Royal Charter for independent regulation of the press.

Newspapers across the country are split in reaction to the all-party deal forged yesterday. The Daily Mail, the Sun, the Times, the Telegraph, the Daily Star and the Daily Express are currently taking legal advice about whether or not to boycott the deal.

The new system means that the UK press will no longer be self-regulated. Instead, a new independent regulator will hold the power to enforce fines, corrections and apologies.

The charter will also be difficult to amend, with a two-thirds majority needed to change any of the terms.

The new arrangement comes after a phone hacking scandal which came to light in 2011 when members of the public, including politicians, celebrities and victims of crimes had their phones hacked by newspapers. At present, prosecutors have identified 600 alleged victims but the BBC puts the figure at more than 4,000 victims.

The Royal Charter was agreed in the early hours of Monday morning with politicians and members of Hacked Off, a campaign group for press reform that was present at the negotiations.

What is a Royal Charter?
A Royal Charter is an official document granted by the Queen but not passed as a law through parliament. It is used for establishing significant organisations or bodies such as a university, charity or the BBC. As a charter is not passed through parliament, it is not technically ‘underpinned’ by any law. Also, a new clause says it can only be changed upon meeting certain requirements. In the case of the press regulation charter, the clause can only be amended if two-thirds of the parliament agrees.

What did the newspapers want?
In general, some major newspaper groups had wanted to form a new self-regulating system based on the findings of the Leveson inquiry. Although some, including the Times, the Financial Times and the Independent had expressed doubt over this proposal.

’Underpinned’ by law?
The use of a Royal Charter avoids the need for a statutory law to ‘underpin’ the new regulatory body and thus sidesteps a controversial ‘press law’. However some have argued that the Charter is, effectively, a type of statutory regulation because changing it would require a two-thirds ‘super-majority’ in Parliament.

Associated Newspapers, News International, the Telegraph Media group and Northern & Shell issued a joint statement saying:

“No representative of the newspaper and magazine industry had any involvement in, or indeed any knowledge of, the cross-party talks on press regulation that took place on Sunday night.”

“We have only late this afternoon seen the Royal Charter that the political parties have agreed between themselves and, more pertinently, the recognition criteria, early drafts of which contained several deeply contentious issues which have not yet been resolved with the industry.”

Hacked Off released the following statement on their website:

“Hacked Off welcomes the cross-party agreement on implementing the Leveson recommendations on press self-regulation that was reached last night…They have acted despite the scaremongering of powerful newspaper groups which had their say at the inquiry and didn’t like the outcome. Some papers have grossly misrepresented the Leveson Report and continue to do so.”

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