Today we have learned that an independent regulator will be set up by royal charter with powers to impose million pound fines and demand upfront apologies from publishers. The Prime Minister has outlined to MPs the formal document, which will set out the regulator’s powers. He has said that the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour had agreed on a new system of “tough independent self-regulation that will deliver for victims and meet the principles set out in (Leveson’s) report”.
A new system will ensure apologies from the press to victims, fines and a self-regulatory body with independent appointments and funding. It will have a robust standards code, a free arbitration service for victims, and a complaints system.
This all seems a major step forward and as far as I can make out, now only needs the press to agree and sign up to it.
So does this affect us locally with the smaller press as well as the major national newspaper names? I suggest that it does and hopefully will make a difference to everyone, right down to the editorials, reports and even letters in our local papers.
(The charter defines publishers as newspapers, magazines or websites containing news-related material so bloggers I am sure are included in this ! )
A few years ago there was a free ‘newspaper’ which was circulated around Maltby, Hellaby, Wickersley and Ravenfield. For much of the time it was pot luck who received the paper and when, and at some points it was quite selective where it was delivered (a bit like the Labour Party’s leaflets) This wouldn’t have particularly mattered in usual circumstances. After all, a free newspaper is by it’s nature unpaid for, so who would be concerned whether they received it or not ?
Well, things turned political. The editor of the paper became good ‘friends’ with some of the councillors on Maltby Town Council and the ‘news’ that was published was very one sided. Even this perhaps would not have been such a concern if what was printed was always the truth. But as often happens, it wasn’t. Letters to the Editor involved me personally and my name and character – and that of a friend of mine – was defamed in print. The Editorial Comment gave an incorrect version of events on a number of occasions. When I complained to the editor and asked for apologies and the true facts to be printed in his paper, he told me to report him to the Press Complaints Commission.
So I did, or at least tried to. Unfortunately for me, at the time editors of newspapers needed to sign up to such things for them to be effective and the editor of this paper had, unsurprisingly, not done so. The situation escalated and involved another paid for, local newspaper but by then I had neither the energy nor the finances to pursue the matter further.
I am not suggesting for one moment that my experiences with the press is in any way comparable to those that brought about the Leveson Inquiry. But anything that is put in print must be the truth and the whole truth. If it is not, then the effect on people’s lives can be devastating.
Here’s hoping that the charter that is being implemented to regulate all the press brings about a change for the better in how things are reported and published. No matter how large or small.