X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Coffee House

Leveson Report – your guide to the regulatory recommendations

29 November 2012

6:19 PM

29 November 2012

6:19 PM

Here is a six-point guide to the regulatory system proposed by Lord Justice Leveson:

1) The creation of a genuinely independent regulator

Leveson agrees with the view, expressed by Baroness O’Neill and others, that ‘independent regulation’ does not mean ‘self-regulation’. The existing system of self-regulation should be wound up. In its place should emerge a regulator that is both independent of the government, parliament and the industry. It should be ‘established and organised by the industry’ in order to provide ‘effective regulation of its members’. Leveson does not rule out the emergence of multiple regulatory bodies, and indeed allows for it, but he does not advocate such an outcome.

2) How will it actually be independent?

The body will be independent of government and the legislature because it has been ‘established and organised by the industry’. It will be operationally independent of the industry thanks to the governance provided by an Independent Board, appointed in a ‘genuinely open, transparent and independent way, without any influence from industry or Government’. The appointment panel, which will choose both the Board’s members and its chairman, will be appointed transparently. A ‘substantial majority of its members’ should be ‘demonstrably independent of the press’; and it ‘should include at least one person with a current understanding and experience of the press’; and it should include ‘no more than one current editor of a publication that could be a member of the body’. Funding for the independent body should be agreed to between the industry and the Board.

3) What will the body do?

[Alt-Text]


It will be responsible for a standards code, which will be drawn up by a committee of serving editors and independent figures. The code must consider issues surrounding freedom of speech, accurate reporting, public interest (including the action required to uncover criminal offences and impropriety) and individual rights to privacy. Leveson recommends that the press become more transparent in the way it researches and reports stories, and also that editors should publish evidence of their compliance with the new system to reassure readers and the public. Complaints will be handled by the Board independently of the press.

In order to ensure that the body and Board fulfil their functions and maintain standards, it is necessary, Leveson argues, that ‘the law must identify those legitimate requirements and provide a mechanism to recognise and certify that a new body meets them’. This is partly an obtuse way of saying that the industry will establish the independent body, which will then draw up the code, complaints mechanism and so forth, and then that will be validated by legislation.

4) What’s on offer for those who object to a newspaper report?

Leveson says that no-one, not even the Board, will have the power to prevent publication. But the Board will have the power to investigate allegations and it should have the power to direct appropriate remedial action for a breach of standards and direct the publication of corrections and apologies. Beyond that, the Board will have the power to impose financial sanctions (of 1 per cent of turnover with a maximum of £1million) on systemic transgressions.

5) Is Leveson’s arbitration carrot actually a stick?

As I noted in this earlier post, the carrot of arbitration is in fact a very hefty stick in the form of court costs, because Leveson recommends that:

‘If, by declining to be part of a regulatory system, a publisher has deprived a claimant of access to a quick, fair, low cost arbitration of the type I have proposed, the Civil Procedure Rules (governing civil litigation) could permit the court (ie, at the court’s discretion) to deprive that publisher of its costs of litigation in privacy in defamation, privacy and other media cases, even if it had been successful.’              

The same discretionary rules apply for those who use the expensive courts rather than the cheap arbitration system in order to frighten press defendants into submission.

The proposals amount to a significant expansion in the power of the civil courts and judicial discretion. Leveson even goes so far as to say that it:

‘would be appropriate for it to be open to a court to award aggravated or exemplary damages (ie, punitive charges on the defendant rather restorative damages for the victim) against an unsuccessful defendant who has not only failed to demonstrate a proactive commitment to high journalistic standards but also deprived a complainant of access to fast, fair and inexpensive arbitral mechanism by refusing to join an independent regulatory body.’

As Lord Justice Leveson humbly submits, ‘this would require a change in the law’.

6) Will anyone be regulating the regulator?

In a word, yes. As we have seen, Leveson recommends that parliament ‘provide a mechanism to recognise and certify’ that the body and Board are fulfilling their functions. Leveson recommends that Ofcom is best placed to perform the task of the ‘recognition body’. He goes on to say that Ofcom should have means of reviewing the body and the Board, and Ofcom’s competences should be defined in the legislation that validates the independent body and the Board. As the legislation will ‘provide for a process of recognition and review’ of the body by another regulatory agency, Leveson insists that the law must ‘place an explicit duty on the Government to uphold and protect the freedom of the press’.

But that is not all. Lord Leveson suggests that, should the industry fail to establish a sufficiently respected regulator, Ofcom might be appointed a ‘backstop regulator’. He sees no problem with it performing a ‘dual role’; though he states that he isn’t advocating that himself.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close