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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?

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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.


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Show comments
  • Roy

    It should have been the police force that had its inquiry. They above all, in the pay of the newspapers, many heads should roll here, from top to bottom, blindly burying early evidence because they had so much to hide, when all would have been revealed. Regulators on the other hand, will never get it right, choose who or what they are supposed to keep an eye on, remember it was the regulators who should have protected investors in recent debacles of unimaginable amounts of peoples savings, high street banks, the lot, all gone with the wind.

  • HooksLaw

    I think there should be a legal underpinning to David Dimbelby.
    I am about to switch of Question Time before I burst a blood vessel.
    He is regularly allowing Bryant to interrupt everybody and is himself interrupting the pro press freedom crowd.
    And I have some sympathy with Levenson, but are we likely to get a decent debate on it?

    • http://elfnhappiness.blogspot.com/ eeore

      The best day of my life was when I stopped watching or listening to the BBC.

    • HellforLeather

      Hey, for once I agree with you.

      That awful Dimbelby also allowed Charlotte Church to squeak over anyone she wished to. And he interrupted, without any relevance, whenever Patrick McGlouglin spoke.

      Unfortunately, I watched The Week after that. The BBC really released the Lefties/Murdoch haters out on that one.

      • Colonel Mustard

        The BBC are part of the leftist agenda suffocating this country with lies and distortions.

        • Andy

          Quite so. BBC should be broken up.

  • Vulture

    So at the end of the day its exactly what I predicted: much huffing and puffing and nothing whatever will be done in terms of laws. Leveson is destined for the long grass.

    Meanwhile, out in the real world, Respect will hopefully humiliate Labour in Rotherham and Ukip do the same for the Tories and Lib Dums.

    Of course Labour will still win because there are millions of Labour voting morons in the north, not knowing that their Labour is long dead and starting to smell a lot.

    • MirthaTidville

      anyone know when the results are out……should be good fun what

      • http://elfnhappiness.blogspot.com/ eeore

        Turn out very low… said to be around 1am

  • Daniel Maris

    Hands off our press.

    The only “havoc” has been that stirred up by interested parties like Hugh Grant , Charlotte Church, Max Mosley and John Prescott smarting from TRUE stories in the press.

    S&M, chippolata comparisons, peeing in the street, consorting with whores…we know why celebs don’t like a free press.

    A free press is a necessary element in a democracy. There is no need for regulation. Let anyone who has broken the law be prosecuted. But let our press speak freely without fear.

    • 2trueblue

      Agree, the law is there but was not implemented. Liebore have done very well at deflecting the whole scandal which occurred mostly on their watch. We just need competent police who will enforce the law when it is broken.

      • Noa

        They are too busy investigating spurious ‘hate’ crimes and generally exploring their fundaments.

  • http://elfnhappiness.blogspot.com/ eeore

    “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’.”

    Let me see if I have got this right?

    The regulator will be established and organised by the press (however that might be defined) but it will be independent of the press (however that might be defined) because it will be guided by the Independent Board. This independent Board will be chosen by the Appointment Panel who will ensure that the majority of the members of the Independent Board are not connected to the press (however that might be defined) but must include at least one person who is connected to the press (how ever that is defined) and one editor.

    And all of this will be done in an open and transparent way.

    • Davidh

      Too right. If it makes any sense then I’m not clever enough to work it out.

      What’s needed is clarity, not more layers of boards and panels.

      Strengthen the laws surrounding privacy and access to private information. Dedicate a police unit to make sure those laws are enforced. Job done.

  • http://twitter.com/NiceTeaParty NiceTeaParty

    Why would any self respecting journalist or publication sign up to the new regime ?

    What are the effective sanctions for not signing up beyond the threat of punitive damages after losing a court case ?

    Will this create a two tier system of state approved journalists and independent journalists ?

    What would we say if Putin tried this in Russia ?

  • Baron

    Instead of this cumbersome, opaque, costly and labyrinthine system proposed by the learned judge vacuous of common sense, we should rely on existing institutions enforcing existing laws.

    How come that without Leveson the prosecution of those who broke the law by hacking people’s phones is underway now, ha? Why wasn’t it done before? That’s the core of the disease – institutions stuffed by corruptible people, the incestuous triangle of the police, the press, those in the governance, the self interest of those charged to uphold the statutes but failing. Levenson does BA to address any of this, the outcome of implementing his recommendations would merely hide from the public the shenanigans of the powerful.

    • Swiss Bob

      What was it Leveson said of the police?

      Leveson said the inquiry had ‘not unearthed extensive evidence of police corruption’

      Oh well, that’s OK then.

      • http://elfnhappiness.blogspot.com/ eeore

        How many police officers did his inquiry interview?

        • HellforLeather

          Submit an FOI if you feel that strongly about this.

          Make your case with facts, not innuendo

          • http://elfnhappiness.blogspot.com/ eeore

            I was asking a question.

            Is that a problem?

      • 2trueblue

        Unbelievable. So it is just not important enough because they had not identified ‘extensive’? Cameron needs to pick up on details like that and play on it to back up his case. The police did not do their job and if they had the whole thing might have been cleaned up earlier.

        There is a lot of posturing now. I have little sympathy for those who place themselves in the limelight but for those who were in tragic circumstances it is unbelievable and disgusting what happened to them.

  • MikeBrighton

    Who watches the Watchmen? Makes the Brownite / Labour retiring ground quango Ofcom very powerful. No thanks Lord Leverson you should stick to appeals

  • Nicholas Hallam

    “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’.”

    That’s not an argument. It’s an assertion.

    • HooksLaw

      So?

  • Noa

    Thank you for the helpful summary, David. I doubt it will change any views though.

    • telemachus

      Seriously I cannot see how any reasonable thinker can want to continue the current system run by that we lettuce David Hunt, a man who rose without a trace.
      Unless Ofcom or similar have regulatory teeth the press will continue to behave just as they want.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Like this country is not stuffed full of gobby lefty quangocrats and politicised civil servants that have not risen without trace. The wonder is that Cameron didn’t purge the lot of them when he became PM – a big mistake.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Not a mistake… by design.

      • Noa

        A system which has seen all aggrieved parties very adequately compensated and resulted in the closure of one of the UK’s most popular papers at the bar of public trial and vengeance.
        I’m doubtful we’d ever have heard of darling’s serial flipping or Jaqui’s back bedroom rates if the current proposals had been in force.

        • 2trueblue

          How can you say that about Jaqui? She made a lovely apology in parliament? How much was it that she took from us and did not pay back? As for the flippers, well Liebore had lots of them, and the Telegraph did not do their duty in exposing them because they were too close to some of them at the Telegraph, which has now become a left wing rag.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Oh come now. If you think the DT is a left wing rag there is no help for you.

            • 2trueblue

              I was referring to the period when the expenses broke. They made a total ‘balls up’ on the flippers expose.

              In the round fair cop!

  • anyfool

    That anyone thinks being independent of newspapers is independent could not be more wrong, it will be a group of the appointed class, they whose sole reason for existence is to jump on any board or panel to spread the pernicious influence of their class, usually socialist.

    • telemachus

      In which case anyfool I am strongly in favour.
      *
      We the people will at last have a mechanism to rein back the mainly right wing media who feel they can crown king any government and even make a proud political party pursue a right wing policy agenda as Murdoch did with Blair

      • Swiss Bob

        I am strongly in favour

        Yes we know you’re a maggoty little fascist, though in your defence your opinion should serve as a guide to those fortunate enough not to have the mental acuity of a headless chicken.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Excellent response to the troll.

      • Noa

        Sums up the totalitarian case very clearly Comrade! Thank you for that.

        • telemachus

          As the people we speak for the Dowlers, The McCann’s and all those who the press have steam rollered

          To quote one of your heroes

          “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can
          play.”

          Joseph G

          • Swiss Bob

            You don’t speak for them, you just use them.

          • Daniel Maris

            The McCanns have a huge support organisation through their non-charitable Fund into which the public paid millions and they have the direct backing of multi-millionaires. They are hardly “little guys”. Tony Bennett is a little guy and they are suing him.

            • telemachus

              Dan
              That ill becomes you

          • http://elfnhappiness.blogspot.com/ eeore

            Get real. Look at the way the McCann’s have used the press to harass people, if you want to look at a steam roller in action then you need look at their conduct – the Portuguese pig farmer, the family of the Berber baby, the parents of the German girl at the service station, the Bosnian girl, the list goes on. It has been smear upon smear. The campaign against Christopher Jeffries has got nothing on the McCanns gallery of e-fit weirdos.

            • telemachus

              I am so sorry I mentioned them
              Please leave them alone

              • http://elfnhappiness.blogspot.com/ eeore

                Why? Because it exposes Leveson for the scam it is?

                Heaven for fend, that anyone should mention Gerry McCann’s connection to Mr and Mrs Balls through her father and the nuclear industry. or Gordon Brown’s use of the case to drum up support that back fired when they got arrested… one minute he’s saying he’s ringing them several times a day, and the next he claims he rung them once but can’t remember when, or what was said.

              • Andy

                The McCann’s left their children unattended while they went off to dine with mates – no matter they were x yards away. One of those children was ‘kidnapped’. The McCann’s were, no matter how you want to cut it, irresponsible and richly deserve the press they have received. Actually I think the press have been rather easy on them considering.

                • HooksLaw

                  The McCann’s deserve criticism, I criticise them, but thats not the same as saying they deserved the press they received.

                • Andy

                  They were irresponsible parents, the pair of ’em, and as a result one of their children disappeared. Had they not been so f****** selfish and self-centred that child would still in with them. Then they try turn themselves in to ‘victims’ – makes you want to puke.

          • Andy

            Didn’t the McCann’s leave their children in an unattended apartment while they went off to dine with their mates ?

            • MirthaTidville

              Sorry the Mc Canns are an odious, manipulative pair of very suspect people….There is a lot more of the truth still to come out there

              • HooksLaw

                What a load of unsubstantiated guff and prejudice. Thank goodness you are not a newspaper editor. You’re not are you??

            • Fergus Pickering

              As many of us have done, sir. Do you have children?

          • Baron

            telemachus, exactly sir,but it was a keyboard for the Nazis because the press was controlled by Joseph G and his government, exactly was Leveson opens a door to.

      • Baron

        Baron hears the North Korean dictator’s looking for a top PR man, any interest?

        • Andy

          Telemachus would iike North Korea. Not sure he would be their all that long though – I reckon Kim would have him shot in about a week. Shall we start a fund to pay for the bullets and a modest lunch for the firing squad ?

      • Fergus Pickering

        The mainly right wing media? Even if you mean the daily newspapers, what about The Daily Mirror, The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times. Of course few people READ any of these newspapers, but that’s a different thing. And if you are talking about the broadcast media, the Beeb, Channel 4 and ITV are all on the left.. Only Sky news is on the other side.

    • 2trueblue

      The law is there, why do we need anything else? If the law had been applied there would not have been a need for the posturing we saw during the Leveson enquirey.

    • Dimoto

      14 straight blog-posts on this page about Leveson, a new record, and proof again of what a self-absorbed, self-obsessed, bunch of numpties our “noble” journalists are.
      Ever heard of overkill lads (and lass) ?

  • In2minds

    Energy Bill next up?

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