Skip to main content

Will UK press regulation charter prevents abuses or damage journalism?

By CNN Staff
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
British lawmakers and publishers are divided over how best to regulate the press in light of the phone hacking scandal.
British lawmakers and publishers are divided over how best to regulate the press in light of the phone hacking scandal.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Court in Britain denies newspapers' attempt to block royal charter regulating press
  • Charter establishes government-backed plan to regulate UK press
  • Pro-government regulation activist: Plan will give public better protection from press abuse
  • Media commentator for Guardian: Publishers will simply ignore charter

(CNN) -- British newspaper publishers have failed in their bid to block a new government-backed royal charter on press regulation, clearing the way for a new system of regulation proposed by UK lawmakers but opposed by news publishing companies.

The royal charter is lawmakers' attempt to implement the recommendations of the 2012 Leveson Inquiry into press ethics, which was set up after outrage over claims of widespread phone hacking and other abuses by elements of the UK press.

Supporters of the charter say it provides the legal framework and sufficient penalties to ensure effective self-regulation by a press which, they believe, has failed to do so in the past.

Phone hacking trial begins

Detractors say the government should never have a role, however remote, in regulating the press, and that the proposed charter is an attack on journalism and on press freedom.

At Hacked Off, a campaign group which fought for the changes and was set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, a spokesman said: "News publishers now have a great opportunity to join a scheme that will not only give the public better protection from press abuses, but will also uphold freedom of expression, protect investigative journalism and benefit papers financially...

"The time has come for the newspaper companies to listen to all of those voices, including the vast majority of their readers, and to distance themselves from a past marred by bullying, fabrication and intrusion."

But Roy Greenslade, a former editor who is now a media commentator, said in his Guardian column: "It means, now that the Queen has approved it, that we face the existence of a royal charter to set up a system of press regulation that no publisher will sign up for. They will simply ignore its existence."

"Instead, the publishers will create their own system, having already advanced concrete plans for a new regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso)."

In the UK Press Gazette, Tim Crook, a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, went further. He said the government's royal charter "prescribes an unwanted, untried, untested, under-researched system of arbitration for media law disputes mostly paid for by the media whether they win or lose, taking place in secret, and leaving those who opt out with the future burden of punitive legal costs for open justice high court litigation."

At the UK Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport, a spokesperson said: "A Royal Charter will protect freedom of the press whilst offering real redress when mistakes are made. Importantly, it is the best way of resisting full statutory regulation that others have tried to impose. We will continue to work with the Industry, as we always have, and recent changes secured by the Culture Secretary, to arbitration, the standards code and the parliamentary lock will ensure the system is workable."

But Tony Gallagher, editor of the Daily Telegraph, tweeted: "Well done everyone involved in the Royal Charter. Chances of us signing up for state interference: zero."

And Tim Luckhurst, a CNN contributor and University of Kent journalism professor tweeted: "The Royal Charter is bad for journalism, bad for freedom of speech, and - vitally -appalling for the British public."

He added: "Today Britain squandered a precious freedom.I fear that those who welcome press regulation now will regret it profoundly but too late."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
This looks like a ghost ship, but it's actually the site of a tense international standoff between the Philippines and China.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
The reported firing of artillery from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle, says CNN's military analyst Rick Francona.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 0846 GMT (1646 HKT)
The young boy stops, stares, throws ammunition casings at the reporter's feet without a word.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
A picture taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighbouring nations, but insisted that travel bans were not the answer.
The worst ebola outbreak in history spreads out of control in West Africa. CNN's Michael Holmes reports.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
Sure, Fido is a brown Lab. But inside, he may also be a little green.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Photograph of an undisclosed location by Patrycja Makowska
Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT