PRP Calls for State Press Regulation Unless Costs Sanctions Enforced

The Press Recognition Panel has blamed its failure to recognise any regulators after two years in existence on the government’s decision not to implement the costs sanctions in the Crime and Courts Act and said that, while it would be “premature to introduce statutory regulation” until after the recognition system is established, if Section 40 costs sanctions are not introduced then further action may be required.

The costs sanctions are designed to force national, regional and local newspapers and magazines into membership of a state-recognised regulator. If they don’t join they would have to pay both sides’ legal costs in a libel or privacy action, even if they win the case in court. The provisions would be crippling for local newspapers in particular and have been widely condemned by the NMA and press freedom groups around the world.

In its annual report on the recognition system published today, the PRP formally reported to Parliament today that it has not recognised any regulators in the first year it could receive applications and that the system of regulation does not cover all significant relevant publishers.

IMPRESS, a regulator funded by Max Mosley, applied for recognition in January and its application was being assessed with a decision expected on 25 October. The PRP admitted, however, that “even if IMPRESS is successful in its application, the majority of significant relevant publishers will still be outside the recognition system.”

For press freedom reasons, the vast majority of UK newspapers and magazines have joined IPSO, which will never apply for state recognition. 

The PRP said: “We are of the view that it would be premature to introduce statutory regulation. The recognition system must be established first and then properly tested. However, if the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport decides that Section 40 of the CCA 2013 should not be brought into effect, and the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive decide not to introduce measures required to create a recognition system, then Parliament, the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive may wish to consider what other or further action is required to bring about success of the kind contemplated by the Charter.”

The PRP notes that the News Media Association, which represents over 1,800 national, regional and local news media organisations in the UK, is opposed to the Charter and the recognition system and that the industry has profound objections to the system, including the establishment and role of the Press Recognition Panel. “It certainly does not ensure the freedom of the press or protect the interests of the public, rather the reverse. The industry has rejected the system of press regulation under the Royal Charter.”