The UK newspaper industry has today announced that it is rejecting the government plans for press regulations, and has published its own proposal.
Releasing the proposal, the newspaper society said: “The draft Royal Charter published by the government on 18 March – which has been condemned by a range of international press freedom organisations, including in the Commonwealth - has no support within the press. A number of its recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press.
“This initiative by the UK’s national, regional and magazine publishers completely accepts the need for a new regulator to be recognised by a genuinely independent body – which was a central conclusion of the Leveson Inquiry - and aims to help move the debate about the future regulation of the press to a constructive conclusion. Importantly, there will be a public consultation on the industry’s proposals giving newspaper and magazine readers the chance to have their say – a consultation that the Government has refused for its state-sponsored scheme.
“The industry’s proposal is closely based on the draft Royal Charter published on 12 February which had been painstakingly negotiated with national and local newspapers and magazines, and accepted by Ministers. It is a workable, practical way swiftly to deliver the Leveson recommendations, which the industry accepts, without any form of state-sponsored regulation that would endanger freedom of speech. It has widespread backing across the industry."
The draft puts forward the proposal of a self-regulatory body which should be governed by an independent Board.
What are the main differences between the draft Royal Charters?
Who should be on the Board?One of the main differences between the two charters is the make-up of both the appointments committee and the Board of the Recognition Panel: the government draft suggested the appointments panel should be chaired by a public appointments assessor, while the newspaper society charter suggests the chair should be a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, and that the other three members should be someone who represents the interests of the public; someone who represents the interests of relevant publishers; and a public appointments assessor.
The charter put forward by the newspapers also suggests that the Board should have experience and understanding of the newspaper and magazine industry - something the government's charter does not mention.
While the government charter suggests members should provide service for five years with a further three-year eligibility, the newspapers suggest that the period should be only two years, with a chance for extension. The newspapers also suggest that members of the Board should be reviewed if there are 'exceptional circumstances' or if it is in the public interest.
What the Board can do While the majority of the charter, including the fact that papers could pay out up to £1m, is the same, there are a few differences.
In the government charter, it suggests the Board should provide an arbitral process for civil legal claims against subscribers, while the newspaper charter ammends this to 'may', and adds: "The Board of the self-regulatory body may consider operating a pilot scheme to test the fairness, effectiveness and sustainability of the arbitral process."
The newspaper charter does, however, leave out the government suggestion of a 'whistleblowing hotline for those who feel that they are being asked to do things which are contrary to the standards code'.