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Labour and Liberal Democrats unveil Royal Charter on self regulation of the press

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By Ishbel Macleod, PR and social media consultant

March 15, 2013 | 3 min read

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have today published a Royal Charter on self regulation of the press.

It puts forward plans for a Board of the Recognition Panel which would be responsible for the conduct and management of the Recognition Panel’s business and affairs, and consist of between four and eight members.

Under the proposals, the board will have the power to direct appropriate remedial action for breach of standards and the publication of corrections and apologies; should not have the power to prevent publication of any material; will have authority to examine issues on its own initiative and have sufficient powers to carry out investigations both into suspected serious or systemic breaches of the code and failures to comply with directions of the Board; and will also have the power to impose appropriate and proportionate sanctions up to £1million.

The charter states that the members of the panel should not be anyone involved with publication of news, a person who is part of the governing body of a relevant publisher; or an MP or civil servant.

Unveiling it, Ed Miliband said: “Labour, together with the Liberal Democrats, believes the model that we discussed at length in those talks can work.

“The Royal Charter proposed here would create a new independent voluntary system of self-regulation for the press. It has a code setting out the high ethical standards of the best in British journalism; a complaints procedure which is easily accessible and fair; and real teeth to ensure protection and redress for citizens.

“It differs from the proposal set out by the Prime Minister in three crucial respects.

“First, this must be an enduring settlement. That means underpinning the charter with the minimum amount of legislation needed to guarantee its success and independence over time. We want to ensure that future governments cannot tamper with the new system, either by watering it down under pressure from the newspapers, or introducing new draconian measures which would threaten the freedom of the press.

“Second, the regulator should be properly independent of the press, so we would remove the industry’s power of veto over appointments.

“Finally, when wrong is done, the regulator should be able to investigate, as well as ensure a proper and prominent apology is made.

“This Royal Charter will protect vital freedoms in our democracy: the freedom of the press and the freedom of innocent people from having their lives ruined by the press. These freedoms should not be in conflict with each other: we need a press which holds to account those who abuse their power, without abusing its own.”

The charter concluded that: 'the membership of a regulatory body should be open to all publishers on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, including making membership potentially available on different terms for different types of publisher.'

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