Government makes last-minute changes to Royal Charter in fraught race to the wire

Last minute changes have been made to the Royal Charter on press regulation in a bid to get the press industry on board, according to reports.

Regulation: Last-minute changes have been made

Parliament will have powers to alter the legislation with a two-thirds majority in a bid to ease fears of political influence, while the government has agreed that no changes will be made without the agreement of the new press regulator's recognition panel.

The news follows the earlier rejection of an injunction request at the High Court when PressBof attempted to stop the Royal Charter being signed off this afternoon. In a race against time, the industry body said it would appeal the decision this afternoon.

Publishers reportedly agreed to drop the appeal bid on the injunction but still plan to appeal the refusal of a judicial review.

Earlier in the day, culture secretary Maria Miller warned that there would be consequences for publications that did not sign up to the Royal Charter.

“Those consequences for newspapers would be that if they’d been successfully sued for libel then the court could award exemplary damages against the newspaper if they are not a party to the Royal Charter,” explained Niri Shan, media law expert and partner at international law firm Taylor Wessing.

Shan went on to say that such a measure may not be compliant with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, leaving the potential for further legal challenges from the press industry. While the legislation is separate from the Royal Charter, the possibility of exemplary charges consequences for publications that do not sign up the Charter has been one of the main concerns for publishers.

Previously, the industry had been outspoken in its opposition to the legislation, which was drawn up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and subsequent Leveson Inquiry, calling it a threat to freedom of the press.

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