Cameron’s Royal Charter gives the press everything they want

Posted: February 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hacked Off has been told by David Cameron that his Royal Charter proposal would deliver ‘the whole of Leveson’ – in other words all the elements of the judge’s proposals for the regulation of the press. The judge’s scheme is generous to the press and carefully balanced: we call it the minimum acceptable compromise.

Today the draft Charter is published and we have seen it. We measured the draft Royal Charter against the judge’s proposals and you can see the full comparison here. Contrary to the prime minister’s assertion, his charter falls a long way short. Here are the top 5 reasons why.

1 – The Royal Charter would allow politicians to interfere in press regulation.
Under this Royal Charter politicians would be able to interfere with the regulation system, either to undermine press freedom or to help their friends in the press escape accountability. A chartered organisation is one that is overseen by ministers, and the efforts made by ministers to alter that in this case are simply insufficient.

In addition, ministers have taken to themselves the power to appoint the chair of the panel that will pick the members of the chartered body. This self-evidently reduces the independence of the body, and is a clear breach of Leveson’s recommendations.

2 – The Royal Charter would allow the press to be their own judge again.
Again in clear breach of the Leveson recommendations, ministers want to give the press a role in choosing the members of the recognition panel. This is the body that judges whether the press self-regulator is sufficiently effective, and not just another Press Complaints Commission. It is a body that must represent the interests of the public and not the industry, because its real job is to ensure the public is protected from press abuses.

3 – The Royal Charter would allow the press to get away with a new self-regulator that was little different from the discredited PCC.
Leveson made 30 specific recommendations that set out the minimum requirements for a new press self-regulator. These ‘recognition criteria‘ were designed to ensure that the self-regulator would always put the interests of the public before those of the press. Of those 30, the draft Royal Charter breaches well over half, and ministers admit that all of them are in response to representations from the press – in other words, they have given editors what they demanded.

4 – The Royal Charter would make victims pay for redress.
Where Leveson said the new arbitration service should be free for members of the public, the charter says it should be ‘inexpensive’. This means that a regulator will be allowed to charge victims for using an arbitration service.

5 – The Royal Charter would allow the press to pick and choose which complaints it responds to.
Key recommendations on complaints, complaints handling and what the press have to do when they are found to have breached their code of practice have been breached or altered.

A lack of transparency
The Royal Charter is a surrender to press pressure. It proposes ditching or watering down every one of the Leveson recommendations that is inconvenient to editors and proprietors.

Six weeks ago ministers shared with Hacked Off their plans for the charter at that time. While these were far from being fully Leveson-complaint, they appeared to show an intention to create something that would work in the public interest. Then ministers stopped speaking to us. Now, weeks alter, we see a document that is not so much Leveson-compliant as Leveson-defiant.

We call on ministers to comply at least with Leveson’s recommendations 82-84, which require complete and up-to-date transparency of dealings they have with the press industry. They must come clean and reveal the record of their meetings with and correspondence with proprietors and editors – and with the executives and lawyers lobbying on their behalf.

A crucial element of the Leveson Inquiry and the Leveson Report was the problem of relations between the press and politicians. The public should be told what has happened in this case.

Support Leveson’s recommendations by adding your name to the Hacked Off petition now, and encourage your friends to do the same.

9 comments

  1. Geoff - reply

    please keep up the fight for public interests

  2. Jed Bland - reply

    THe press is in the position where it can print anything it likes about anyone it ikes and only the wealthy have any defence.

    The last straw for me came when Madeline McCann disappeared the police would not release any information so the papers invented all sorts of fantasticakl stories.

  3. Julia walker - reply

    Another piece of evidence showing how conservatives snuggle up to the ones with a shred of power or influence.

    • Michael Grange - reply

      I’d be very surprised if the other major political parties hadn’t, in some way, been consulted. The press can be a useful tool for all parties, and that’s why the charter needs to be independent of ministerial & political control. This isn’t a ‘Tory problem’, it’s a ‘cross-party’ problem!

  4. Margaret Watson - reply

    How much pain and heartache must innocent families of crime have to endure at the hands of unscrupulous journalist and their editors before our political leaders get some backbone and stand up to press barons?

    How many more innocent victims of illegal press intrusion will it take before our politicians do the job they were elected to do – represent their constituents who have made their views on the urgent need to regulate the press very clear?

    In our so-called civilised society we are all accountable for our actions in life, all that is except the printed press who have been given carte blanche to publish false information with impunity about murdered victims.

    We are all for a freedom of the press, but that freedom must not be abused by irresponsible journalist and editors. Whatever happened to professional ethics and journalistic integrity?

  5. Carol Gardiner - reply

    The Media/Government relationship will still be too close. There are already signs of crucial information being ignored and not reported. The NHS is being dismantled and gradually sold off with very little coverage. This is a major “Ace” for the media to hold up it’s sleeve until it’s needed.

  6. Malcolm McPheat - reply

    This whole situation has arisen because the Condems know that they will be insitu until 2015. They are doing everything they can to hoodwink the public and they connive at every step to spin their way out of trouble.

  7. Pingback: Opinion: It is the press bosses, Mrs Miller, who are being destructive – Brian Cathcart | Inforrm's Blog

  8. Bayowolf - reply

    The UK should have adopted the 1st Amendment a long time ago.

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