Leveson inquiry and press regulation

  • Looked into the culture, practices and ethics of the Press – “who guards the guardians?”
  • Announced by Prime Minister in July 2011 following criminal activity – phone hacking at NoTW. Aimed at national press.
  • Aimed to draw recommendations for future, with particular regards to press regulation and governance
  • Run by Lord Justice Leveson, assisted by six independent assessors with expertise in key issues
  • Part 1 examined the culture, practices and ethics of press
  • Relationship between press, public, police and politicians
  • It emerged thousands of people had been victims of press intrusion.
  • Many gave evidence to the inquiry – from celebrities such as comic actor Steve Coogan and singer Charlotte Church, to ordinary people hit by tragedy, including Gerry McCann, father of missing girl Madeleine, and the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
  • The report produced by Lord Justice Leveson in November 2012 found the press had “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people”. It made a number of recommendations.

 

  • At the time the press was self-regulated voluntarily through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). An independent body, who dealt with complaints framed within the editor’s code of practice (and the conduct of journalists). It held editors to account and protected rights of individuals while preserving freedom of expression.
  • It negotiated remedial action for complainants, issued rulings on complaints, guided newsroom practice and publicly censured editors for breaching code.
  • The inquiry brought down the PCC
  • His recommendations were both broad and complex:
  • Newspapers should continue to be self-regulated – and the government should have no power over what they publish.
  • There had to be a new press standards body created by the industry, with a new code of conduct.
  • That body should be backed by legislation, which would create a means to ensure the regulation was independent and effective.
  • The arrangement would provide the public with confidence that their complaints would be seriously dealt with – and ensure the press are protected from interference.
  • The body would have a range of sanctions available to it, including multi-million pound fines and direction of the prominence of apologies and corrections.
  • Leveson rejected the characterisation of his proposal as “statutory regulation of the press”.
  • David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband decided that an independent regulator with powers to demand prominent corrections and apologies from UK news publishers and impose £1m fines would be established by royal charter.
  • They said the charter, which defined news publishers as newspapers, magazines or websites containing news-related material, could be amended only if there was a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament.
  • A free arbitration service for victims and a fast complaints system would be established to ensure all individuals could afford to pursue action against publishers.
  • Hacked Off campaign, which represents many alleged victims of phone-hacking, said voluntary self-regulation has failed and said that the Leveson proposals are the way forward.
  • Leveson made it clear that any press self-regulator would need to be subjected to regular inspection over the years to ensure standards didn’t decline.
  • Leveson didn’t want to replicate PCC, which some saw as toothless and too closely controlled by the major publishers (specifically News UK, Telegraph Media Group and the Mail titles).
  • Royal Charter could be amended by Parliament, but only if there was a two-thirds majority in both houses. Should politicians be allowed?
  • According to the DCMS, charter ‘will protect freedom of the press whilst offering real redress when mistakes are made’
  • Under the royal charter, the Press Complaints Commission will be replaced by a new regulator with greater powers, and a watchdog – the recognition panel – which will check the regulator remains independent.
  • The regulator, set up by the press but without any editors on the board, will draw up a standards code and will be able to impose fines of up to £1m.
  • It will also provide a speedy arbitration service to deal with complaints.
  • Newspapers and magazines can chose whether to sign up to the new system of regulation, but those who do not, risk exemplary damages if they lose a libel case and may also be liable to pay the complainant’s costs, whether they win or lose.

 

IPSO –

  • The industry has ignored the royal charter-backed regulatory route and set up its own new body, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
  • IPSO replaced PCC in early September – IPSO says that more than 90 per cent of the UK’s national press and the majority of regional press and major magazine publishers have elected to be subject to its regulation.
  • a new, tough, independent organisation to regulate UK’s newspapers and magazines.
  • All of the major news publishers are signing up to Ipso – apart from the Guardian and Levedev’s Independent titles, and the Financial Times, which will go it alone
  • Guardian in August said signing up to a regulator which does not have the support of either Parliament or the victims of past media excesses would be “futile”.
  • Guardian fears IPSO will be controlled by Telegraph, Mail and News UK
  • differs from the proposed regulator backed by Parliament and set out in a rival Royal Charter which has yet to go to the Privy Council for approval.

 

Impress –

  • a rival regulator is also setting itself up –Impress (independent Monitor for the Press) – which has had financial backing from author JK Rowling.
  • They say could provide a better way of fulfilling Lord Justice Leveson’s blueprint for self-regulation within the industry, at the same time as protecting press freedom.
  • Would be more independent of publishers but equally independent of politicans

 

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