An arrogant ‘concession’

by Brian Cathcart

Hold the front page! The newspaper bosses are making concessions – and apparently they think we should be grateful. There seems to be no limit to their vanity, and their nerve.

We have a Royal Charter that has been approved – most unusually for any political action – by every single party in Parliament. It is backed by the mass of public opinion. And it is based on the recommendations of a year-long, judge-led public inquiry of remarkable thoroughness.

And now the people who run some of our big newspaper corporations – an industry condemned by that inquiry for ‘wreaking havoc in the lives of innocent people’ – say they have made a concession towards it.

They just do not get it. They have learned nothing and they assume that they can simply con us into believing they have a right to be unaccountable, a right to mark their own homework, a right to bend British politics to their will.

And what is this concession? They have agreed not to demand a veto on who will regulate them. That’s right. They have graciously offered not to handpick the members of the independent body whose job is to ensure that – in a total breach with the past – they actually observe their own industry code of standards.

On any sensible measure this concession might get them to square one in the understanding of the idea of independence, and no further.

But it’s worse than that, because actually what they are attempting here is to assert a veto over all press regulation. They are saying that if they don’t accept it, it can’t work, and so the British public has no choice but to accept press regulation on the terms laid down by press corporations themselves – the very companies whose disgraceful activities made the Leveson inquiry necessary.

And what is their plan? Their plan is an alternative Royal Charter that will deny the public access to justice through a cheap, quick arbitration system, that will enable editors to go on making their own rules and allow them to pick and choose which complaints to consider, that will enable papers to go on burying corrections on page 94 – and above all that will not be independent, of the industry or of politicians. Unbelievably, they want to have serving politicians in charge.

In short, they want no change from the old PCC, although they may be ready to put different lipstick on the model this time.

We must call their bluff. They can not be allowed to go on abusing the British public as they have in the past, and they certainly should not be allowed to raise two fingers to the public, to Parliament and to the fair findings of the Leveson inquiry (at which their views were heard and taken account of).

The Royal Charter approved by Parliament is the way forward. Give it time, and everyone will see its great merits. It is democratic and it promises to provide effective, independent press self-regulation without any impact on freedom of expression. That is why the press barons hate it. And that is why we should all support it.

Brian Cathcart is director of Hacked Off. He tweets at @BrianCathcart.

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Harvey Rudkinreply
May 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

The press barons are ignoring the very democracy they profess to defend. A load of opinionated self interested full of their own importance. The newspapers I should report facts and not their thought up untruths to sell paper which has become their trait of late.

Robert Reynoldsreply
May 10, 2013 at 1:07 am

Yes, relative to the PCC and to the barons’ Charter, the promise of the all-party Royal Charter makes it ‘the way forward’ for now.

The very strength of the case though will raise doubts for some. The toppling of tyrants can sometimes seem easy, but truly to bring peace takes some thinking about.

Journalistic wisdom might teach, “No paper ever folded from headline hyperbole”, but when on all sides the flag of ‘democracy’ is waved, we should acknowledge the need to define, to afford confidence at least in what we mean.

The possibly should not be denied, that the all-party Royal Charter might be so abused – perhaps by all sides – truly to prove, “without any impact on freedom of speech”.

With Mammon still in charge, if fear can still as much silence, and if greed can still as much compel talk, then even Hacked Off might become nostalgic for the grand lottery of dynastic arrogance, sickened by the self-important lottery of dangerous anti-heretical cleverness.

Amongst those who would build on firm ground, on faith in the comparable existence of others, in care for others as worthwhile, and in the best freedom as shared, with rule Of, For By The Equal People, there will be agreement. The ‘next step’ is the all-party Royal Charter.

The danger here – perhaps clearer to our barons – could be adoption of the Charter without enough of shareable understanding, with vulnerability still to our use as cannon-fodder, in fanatical business and war, in the digging of our own Earth’s grave.

Let us proceed with care and humility, our standard the liberty of all, understood to be equal and enduring, otherwise a dangerous sham.

Ruth Schallerreply
May 11, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Keep up the good work. You have been amazing at handling each and every grenade the press have thrown at you, calmly, articulately, and repeatedly.

A Dacre’s Dozen: 12 fatal flaws in the press barons’ charter – Evan Harris | Inforrm's Blogreply
May 12, 2013 at 10:41 am

[…] have heard that an ‘industry veto’ on appointments to the self-regulator has been ‘conceded’. That planned veto does not even appear in the PressBoF charter and it is […]

DAVID BALDWINreply
May 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

OH FOR HEAVENS SAKE – Rally the 174.000 followers and supporters of Hacked Off and start another bill in Parliament so the MPs investigate the progress and even establish a time line – you should now impose a DEAD LINE to Cameron and then present the Royal Charter and the Alternative Charter and ask him to make a decision – I cannot even see WHY the Press has had even the opportunity to draft an ” alternative ” – where or who empowered them to do so? Who allowed them to prepare an ” alternative “?
Can you not see the con and the bluff and dragging feet – I have said this before – the newspapers are fatally wounded by Bernard Hogan Howe’s secrecy of suspect names – you should now hit them again – you have the power to get 100,000 signatures on petition – start a new petition and arm wrestle them to concede – in any even the language seemed more appropriate and more aggressive – fight fire with fire not nice words

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