‘Desperate and deaf’ newspaper industry goes to court to block post-Leveson regulation

By Steven Raeburn | N/A

October 25, 2013 | 5 min read

An agglomeration of senior figures from the established British press is seeking a judicial review to block the Privy Council’s planned regulation of the media industry.

The self-styled Industry Implementation Group also announced plans to set up its own regulatory system of press monitoring.

As the impasse over reform of the media continues, campaign group Hacked Off said: “The people leading this part of the newspaper industry are exposing themselves as desperate and deaf.”

The Leveson recommendations have not yet been adopted

Brian Cathcart of Hacked Off said: "Desperate, because they are now resorting to a legal challenge to something based on the findings of a public inquiry, and backed by the victims of press abuse, all parties in Parliament and the overwhelming majority of the public.

"Deaf, because they refuse to listen to the evidence that there is no threat to the free press and that this deal actually benefits the press, both financially and in terms of freedom of expression."

The newspaper industry opponents said that the proposed Royal Charter “goes to the very heart of press freedom and the right of free expression”.

“After studying the matter closely, it is the clear view of the industry’s trade associations, which submitted the Charter through the Press Standards Board of Finance, that the application was not dealt with fairly, that the press had a right to be consulted which the Government and the Privy Council failed to do, and that the procedures deployed were irrational,” the lobby group said in a statement.

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“We believe that the decision and the Order were therefore unlawful, and the industry’s associations through PressBof are applying to the High Court for judicial review and to have the decision quashed.”

Simultaneously, it floated its own proposals for a self created “Independent Press Standards Organisation,” which it said followed an extensive series of consultations across the industry, involving lawyers and senior editorial representatives covering hundreds of publications.

It said its own self regulation model would “give the regulator tough powers of investigation, enforcement and sanction.”

It said the structure would be governed by Articles of Association which would set out the governance of the regulator and “guarantee its independence.”

It said the structure could impose fines of up to £1 million.

Paul Vickers, Chairman of the Industry Implementation Group and Executive Director of Trinity Mirror plc, said: “Today’s publication is the result of almost nine months of work and consultation across our large and diverse industry. As a result of this painstaking and thorough exercise, we can now move to establish the tough, independent, effective regulator that Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report.”

He added: “I am confident that what we have produced will be the toughest regulator anywhere in the developed world – one which will guarantee the public the protection it deserves, but which will also ensure we maintain the free press on which our democracy is founded.

“The decision by the Government and the Privy Council on this matter has enormous ramifications for free speech both here in the UK, and – because of our leadership role in the Commonwealth and developing world – across the globe.

“The Government and the Privy Council should have applied the most rigorous standards of consultation and examination of the Royal Charter proposed by the industry, which would have enshrined tough regulatory standards at the same time as protecting press freedom. They singularly failed to do so, and that is why – as the issues at stake are so extraordinarily high - we are having to take this course of action.”

A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "The government is working to bring in a system of independent press self-regulation that will protect press freedom while offering real redress when mistakes are made.

"The culture secretary pushed hard for recent changes on arbitration and the standards code to be made, which will ensure the system is workable and the decision to go to court is particularly disappointing in light of these changes."


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