Press Regulation: Sky News interviews Hamlins partner

The Royal Charter on regulation of the UK newspaper and magazine industry will be approved today by the Privy Council, unless an attempt by the industry to obtain an injunction succeeds. Christopher Hutchings, media partner, was asked by Sky News to explain the background to this major story and to anticipate how the story will develop.

Christopher explained to Sky that there are two alternative sets of proposals for regulation of the press. The first, proposed by MPs from all three main political parties, seeks to ensure regulation which is wholly independent of press influence. The newspaper industry has alternative plans which allow for greater involvement by the newspaper industry in future regulation.

The key differences between the two systems all relate to whether or not the media should have an influence on the regulator, as follows:

  • Future changes to the Royal Charter – under the MPs system, the Charter which will establish the regulatory system can be amended by Parliament but only with two-thirds majorities in both Houses. The newspaper industry’s version prevents Parliament making changes on their own and requires approval of both the regulator’s panel and of trade bodies.
  • The Recognition Panel – this body will oversee the work of the regulator itself. MPs want a ban on former editors serving on the Panel, whereas the industry’s proposals allow former editors and also require at least one member to have newspaper industry experience.
  • Appointments Process – the MPs system would prevent serving editors – and MPs – from playing a role in making appointments to the regulator; the industry’s system would include one member to represent the media’s interests.

There is a prospect, Christopher said, of two alternative regulatory bodies being set up, but he anticipated that despite the posturing, spin and at times scaremongering, the two sides to this important argument are likely to continue to seek to reach a compromise which allows the establishment of a new media regulator which is free of political interference but which is also truly independent.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised, contact Christopher Hutchings