Are we signing off press regulation to politicians?


Whether you are a pro or anti Leveson it is in the Sun’s words: D-Day. The three main parties came to an agreement on a “Royal Charter plus” last night that is currently being debated in parliament. The agreement allowed the culture secretary and the shadow culture secretary to contradict each other with (I’m sure) a straight face this morning on Radio 4’s Today program.

As Greenslade wrote: “culture secretary Harriet Harman was able to say that it means the press regulator will be enshrined by statute. And it also allowed culture secretary Maria Miller to say that the regulator is not enshrined by statute.”

We are told this Royal Charter will be protected from any meddling from future governments as any changes will require a two-third majority in both houses.

Still Index on Censorship has expressed its concerns today over politicians being handed the power to establish and modify the press regulator.  Kirsty Hughes, the CEO of the charity, said the Royal Charter will introduce political involvement in press regulation.

This tends to worry me, especially as Mrs Hughes goes on to say that both houses can come to a consensus, like today as they introduce the document.

Another quote from Neil Wallis comes to mind. At a panel discussion at City University he said: “I don’t trust politicians to decide what the statutory legislation should be. Statutory regulation will mean precisely that.”

Giving politicians the power to control press regulation seems to me a very dangerous path.

We do need a new regulatory body with teeth to protect victims from unethical and illegal practices and to stop groups like Northern & Shell from being able to opt out when they feel like it. But giving politicians the power to meddle with press regulation seems to me a very dangerous path.

There are other worrying aspects of the charter. Political blogger Guido Fawkes raised the issue of blogs. Will bloggers be covered by the Royal Charter? Will they have to pay exemplary damages if they don’t adhere to the regulating body?

Following live blogs on the debate, it looks like I am not the only one left with questions and concerns.

What do you think? Should the regulating body be enshrined by statute law? Do you trust our politicians?


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