Hacked Off calls for all non-profit publishers to be excluded from press self-regulation scheme

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.

We rely on people like you to make a difference.

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Colin Wilesreply
March 22, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Desperate business. You see, once you start on legislation to censor the press it becomes a never-ending process. Once the laws are in place, they can be amended and tightened by
future Parliaments. What did Nick Cohen call you again?

March 22, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Colin, it wasn’t “useless idiots”, I know that much.


Watching Them, Watching Usreply
March 22, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Publish the detailed text of exactly what you are proposing, or else you will be rightly condemned, again, for secret backroom deals with politicians, without any public consultation.

How are “non-profit” bloggers meant to prove this ? Will they have to submit full accounts and receipts to the snooping bureaucracy of the Regulator ?

If you abuse the word “profit” in law, then even a few pence from Google AdWords will change a bloggers status from “non-profit” to the same dual costs and exemplary damages as a major newspaper

March 23, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I do not believe that there should be any exceptions to the new rules. The moment you create exceptions, they will be exploited and if/when it gets to court, you will have created a loophole.

No, the rules should stand just as they are, in my opinion.

Why a spade is “Heathrow Hell” | A Dad At Largereply
March 24, 2013 at 10:05 am

[…] Hacked Off calls for non-profit publishers’ exemption frpress self-regulation-scheme/ […]

Simon Carnereply
March 24, 2013 at 10:33 am

You (Hacked Off) make the very good point that any publisher will be able to opt in.

There may be additional benefits from an arrangement whereby, in the case of very small publishers (eg bloggers), there was an option to agree to use the regulator’s arbitration system once a claim had been made? This would avoid the need for the regulator to process thousands of membership applications from those who want protection “just in case”, whilst still providing all the benefits and protections of the regulator’s arbitration system if and when actually needed.

If the regulator is to be funded by the industry, the option to join post-claim can’t be left open to all publishers. But the Charter already allows for membership to be “available on different terms for different types of publisher” – see Schedule 3, paragraph 23. The clause was presumably intended to permit different charging mechanisms, but there is no reason why it couldn’t be applied (or, if necessary, extended) to permit some classes of members to join for the purposes of an arbitration. It would be much less costly all round.

Carl Gardnerreply
March 24, 2013 at 11:44 am

I’m a lone, currently non-profit blogger – and I very much want the benefit of self-regulation.

The biggest threat to me by far is the threat of costs in a libel case, which is real – someone only needs a plausible libel complain and a solicitor to be able to “chill” me. Being regulated would basically lift this threat.

In contrast, I’m not at all worried about the “threat” of exemplary damages: first, because a court can already award exemplary damages against me in a libel case if it wants to, and will remain able to even if I’m excluded from the new system; and second, because although I might unintentionally libel someone, I’m pretty confident I won’t recklessly disregard people’s rights in an outrageous way – which will be the first part of the exemplary damages test.

In other words, the benefits of signing up to self-regulation clearly outweigh the hugely exaggerated risks.

I can see that you want me to be able to sign up – good. I want that choice. But if you must support this drive to exclude bloggers, please put your emphasis on keeping them safe from exemplary damages but *keeping the benefits of regulation open to them*.

I’m afraid this is being lost, that bloggers are going to be kept out of regulation altogether, and that any of the press who have the sense to self-regulate will end up at an advantage over bloggers.

Don’t clobber bloggers with Leveson | Owen Blackerreply
March 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm

[…] These corporate litigants don’t have to be right and, as is so often the case, an issue doesn’t even need to go to court to have a chilling effect. If a complaint were to go to court, the “exemplary damages” provisions would mean that even a successful blogger could still be forced to bear the complainant’s costs. With such high stakes, most bloggers would just fold rather than risk such enormous penalties. As drafted, the amendments create new weapons for corporate litigants that worry me and others greatly. Even the Hacked Off campaign have accepted that the current drafting is poor: https://hackinginquiry.org/news/hacked-off-calls-for-all-non-profit-publishers-to-be-excluded-from-pr… […]

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