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Number 10 coy on Royal Charter proposal for press regulation

7 December 2012

Newspaper editors are under pressure to come up with a new system of press regulation that works, and the Prime Minister is under pressure to show that he is taking the need for a new system seriously, rather than just bowing down to media bosses. So is a Royal Charter the solution that would ensure the new press watchdog would remain independent of and tough on the newspapers? Reports have surfaced in the press that Oliver Letwin is mulling over the idea as a way of avoiding statutory underpinning while giving assurances about the new regime. The Economist reports:

‘Oliver Letwin, the minister in charge of squaring this awkward circle, has suggested that another upstanding body could verify the new set-up, without resorting to statute. One option might be a trust, consisting of worthies gathered mainly from outside Fleet Street, or even a Royal Charter of the sort that underpins the BBC.’

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman wouldn’t be drawn on whether this is something on the table when grilled on the matter this morning. He said:

‘We are digesting the Leveson report and considering a range of options. That’s what the Prime Minister said in his statement just a week ago. What we want to achieve is a proper independent regulator which commands the confidence of the public.’


He added:

‘We are not in a position to say anything more about that now. You know what the objective is: it’s that we have proper, independent regulation of the press.’

At what point did Leveson start to think statute would be necessary? Charles Moore’s column in this week’s magazine says it was when Hugh Grant received a drubbing in the Mail for suggesting the newspaper hacked his phone. He writes:

‘When the history of the Leveson report comes to be written (which I hope it won’t, because press regulation is the most tedious of all subjects), the evidence of Hugh Grant will be seen as the turning point. Grant accused the Daily Mail of hacking his phone. The explosive reaction of the Mail, with great headlines yelling about his mendacity, was the moment, I gather, when the iron entered the soul of Lord Leveson. He and his panel felt that, since every witness was on oath, none should be trashed. When the Mail decided to assassinate Grant’s character in print, it seemed to Leveson to confirm everything about the behaviour of the press which worried him. His recommendation of statute-backed regulation was the result. So Paul Dacre’s fight for press freedom may turn out like Arthur Scargill’s fight to save pits.’


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  • Curnonsky

    So under the new regulatory regime, all references to Hugh Grant will need to be vetted by a higher authority first?

  • Magnolia

    The Daily Mail used to be a quality paper but it’s moved down market and is now quite
    If you look at today’s Home Page on its internet site then you will see links to actresses and the like in ‘mesmerising see-through lace dress’ and ‘sizzles as she poses for sexy high fashion shoot’. This kind of stuff is slightly offset with exposes of plastic surgery ghastlies like pillow face etc. but it’s still trashy celeb c**p which is unfit for children.
    It would not be a shock to know that they went to town on Hugh because that would just be more of the same. It’s a vicious circle of hatred now. Hugh has the zeal and eloquence of a rich, brainy victim and he wears his victimhood well despite his age. The Mail sees the usurper of their power and goes for him where it hurts.

    I don’t want to be governed by Ed’s victimhood and I hope that society raises its overall intellectual standard in time to prevent that from happening. I still think Dave will cave. I hope Fraser is physically brave.

  • Charlie the Chump

    … and the BBC is so well regulated, great example.
    What this country need is guaranteed free speech in the US model not interfering regulators most of who will have some bias or other.
    It’s the failure of the police to investigate clear criminality that was the problem, not regulation – though the PCC was clearly a nonsense.

  • Matthew Wilson

    Any chance of a British Bill of Rights guaranteeing freedom of expression first?

  • ben corde

    Personally I’ve no sympathy whatsoever with these so called celebrities. While I wouldn’t condone illegal methods to publicise their private lives, when it suits them to be in the limelight it’s a totally different story. I’m no lover of David Cameron but I agree with him that underpinning press regulation by statute is unnecessary and against hundreds of years of traditional free press. Providing the regulatory body is completely independent and has the teeth to prevent this tiny minority of rogue journalists from indulging in this sort of behaviour again, particularly in respect of cases like the Dowlers, then I don’t see the problem. On a lighter note but still to do with journalism have you read this?

    Jobson Of The Star

    Within a pub that’s off the Strand and handy to the bar,
    With pipe in mouth and mug in hand sat Jobson of the Star.
    “Come, sit ye down, ye wond’ring wight, and have a yarn,” says he.
    “I can’t,” says I, “because to-night I’m off to Tripoli;
    To Tripoli and Trebizond and Timbuctoo mayhap,
    Or any magic name beyond I find upon the map.
    I go the errant trail to try, to clutch the skirts of Chance,
    To make once more before I die the gesture of Romance.”
    Then Jobson yawned above his jug, and rumbled: “Is that so?
    Well, anyway, sit down, you mug, and have a drink before you go.”

    Now Jobson is a chum of mine, and in a dusty den,
    Within the street that’s known as Fleet, he wields a wicked pen.
    And every night it’s his delight, above the fleeting show,
    To castigate the living Great, and keep the lowly low.
    And all there is to know he knows, for unto him is spurred
    The knowledge of the knowledge of the Thing That Has Occurred.
    And all that is to hear he hears, for to his ear is whirled
    The echo of the echo of the Sound That Shocks The World.
    Let Revolutions rage and rend, and Kingdoms rise and fall,
    There Jobson sits and smokes and spits, and writes about it all.

    And so we jawed a little while on matters small and great;
    He told me with his cynic smile of grave affairs of state.
    Of princes, peers and presidents, and folks beyond my ken,
    He spoke as you and I might speak of ordinary men.
    For Jobson is a scribe of worth, and has respect for none,
    And all the mighty ones of earth are targets for his fun.
    So when I said good-bye, says he, with his satyric leer:
    “Too bad to go, when life is so damned interesting here.
    The Government rides for a fall, and things are getting hot.
    You’d better stick around, old pal; you’ll miss an awful lot.”

    Yet still I went and wandered far, by secret ways and wide.
    Adventure was the shining star I took to be my guide.
    For fifty moons I followed on, and every moon was sweet,
    And lit as if for me alone the trail before my feet.
    From cities desolate with doom my moons swam up and set,
    On tower and temple, tent and tomb, on mosque and minaret.
    To heights that hailed the dawn I scaled, by cliff and chasm sheer;
    To far Cathay I found my way, and fabulous Kashmir.
    From camel-back I traced the track that bars the barren bled,
    And leads to hell-and-blazes, and I followed where it led.
    Like emeralds in sapphire set, and ripe for human rape,
    I passed with passionate regret the Islands of Escape.
    With death I clinched a time or two, and gave the brute a fall.
    Hunger and cold and thirst I knew, yet…how I loved it all!
    Then suddenly I seemed to tire of trecking up and town,
    And longed for some domestic fire, and sailed for London Town.

    And in a pub that’s off the Strand, and handy to the bar,
    With pipe in mouth and mug in hand sat Jobson of the Star.
    “Hullo!” says he, “come, take a pew, and tell me where you’ve been.
    It seems to me that lately you have vanished from the scene.”
    “I’ve been,” says I, “to Kordovan and Kong and Calabar,
    To Sarawak and Samarkand, to Ghat and Bolivar;
    To Caracas and Guayaquil, to Lhasa and Pekin,
    To Brahmapurta and Brazil, to Bagdad and Benin.
    I’ve sailed the Black Sea and the White, The Yellow and the Red,
    The Sula and the Celebes, the Bering and the Dead.
    I’ve climbed on Chimborazo, and I’ve wandered in Peru;
    I’ve camped on Kinchinjunga, and I’ve crossed the Great Karoo.
    I’ve drifted on the Hoang-ho, the Nile and Amazon;
    I’ve swam the Tiber and the Po..” thus I was going on,
    When Jobson yawned above his beer, and rumbled: “Is that so?…
    It’s been so damned exciting here, too bad you had to go.
    We’ve had the devil of a slump; the market’s gone to pot;
    You should have stuck around, you chump, you’ve missed an awful lot.”

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    In haggard lands where ages brood, on plains burnt out and dim,
    I broke the bread of brotherhood with ruthless men and grim.
    By ways untrod I walked with God, by parched and bitter path;
    In deserts dim I talked with Him, and learned to know His Wrath.
    But in a pub that’s off the Strand, sits Jobson every night,
    And tells me what a fool I am, and maybe he is right.
    For Jobson is a man of stamp, and proud of him am I;
    And I am just a bloody tramp, and will be till I die.

    Robert William Service

    • HooksLaw

      Well thanks for all that. Basically I would agree that I have no time for the weadling of celebrities. However even for these people its wriong to intrude on privacy, the Mail seems to get by with endless public gawping in order to belittle them.
      The issue of ‘ordinary’ people however remains.

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