Over the last few weeks it’s been interesting to watch the press attack the proposed Royal Charter which will provide the framework for press regulation in the UK. I was going to write a rambling post on how the Charter doesn’t restrict press freedom, but realised I don’t need to because it boils down to some key points as follows (in no particular order):
- It requires a two thirds majority vote in Parliament to change the charter (Point 9.4 or the Charter). This is more than it takes to pass a normal law, which requires a simple majority. I.e. it will be easier to implement a new law curtailing press freedom than to change the Charter to permit it.
- The Charter explicitly states that any recognised regulator “should not have the power to prevent publication of any material, by anyone, at any time” (Schedule 3, Critera 17). This means that any regulator will not have the authority to prevent the press publishing anything. The press can print anything they like, the Charter simply ensures that people have a cheap way to challenge it afterwards via a regulator.
- The Royal Charter explicitly prevents politicians from choosing the people on the recognition body (Schedule 1, Clause 2), from being on the recognition body (Schedule 1, Clause 3.3), and from being on a regulator. (Schedule 3, Criteria 5).
- Given the above, politicians will have no more power or influence over the press than they do now. Of course, like anyone else in the country, politicians will be able to complain to the regulator after publication, and as with every other case, the regulator will have to judge each case on its merits.
If you are concerned about how the Royal Charter will affect Press Freedom, go and read it (here). It’s reasonably easy to understand, but a bit dry.
Edit: Added reference to specific criteria which protects right to publish.