Participation in Royal Charter optional for bloggers, tweeters and community journalists, with no penalties for those who remain outside.
Hacked Off has written to the three main political parties proposing a new amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill to exclude all non-profit publishers from the statute underpinning the Royal Charter for press self-regulation. Provisions in the existing amendments, tabled as part of the cross-party agreement reached on Monday, already exclude individual bloggers and special interest titles, defined as those relating to a particular pastime, trade, business, industry or profession.
Taken together, these provisions will exclude tweeters, bloggers, community websites and other small publishers from the statute. In addition, there is also a ‘failsafe’ mechanism in the statute, which means that the penalties do not apply where it would not be reasonable to expect a publisher to join an approved regulator.
The position under the Royal Charter is different as the Charter does not compel anyone to join any regulatory scheme, but instead provides a mechanism whereby a regulator can be approved by a Recognition Body. Such a regulator will be voluntary. It is designed to cover as wide a range of publishers as possible, so that any publisher can “opt in” to a self-regulator, if it chooses to do so and get the benefits if another amendment is approved.
Lord Justice Leveson envisaged that the new self-regulator would provide advantageous terms for small publishers to allow them to have the benefits of membership. But if small publishers – who are not within the terms of the legislation – decide not to opt in, they will not be subject to any penalties.
Hacked Off believes that the new system – combining Royal Charter and supporting legislation – can provide independent and effective regulation, without imposing any new burdens on non-profit journalism.
Executive Director, Professor Brian Cathcart said:
We believe this is an unforeseen problem that resulted from some bad government drafting and we can see no reason why the main political parties will not take the remaining opportunity in Parliament to put it right. We have made suggestions for the necessary changes and understand that we are not the only ones to have done so. It is up to the politicians to act now.