PRP Calls For ‘Alternative Incentives’ to S40

The Press Recognition Panel has called on Parliament to consider “alternative incentives” to force news media publishers to join its regulatory regime which has been universally rejected by the local, regional and national press because of press freedom concerns. 

In its 45-page Annual Report on the Recognition System 2017 published yesterday, the PRP said that statutory regulation of the press should be considered as an alternative means to regulate the press if the Royal Charter regime was considered to have failed. 

The local, regional and national press remains vehemently opposed to the state-sponsored regime for regulation of the press embodied by the PRP.  

The PRP said: “The Royal Charter encourages industry-wide self-regulation, and the court confirmed that the recognition system was not intended to operate only if publishers agreed to it. Publishers cannot boycott the system in order to veto reform. Doing this would go against the system of effective regulation sought by Leveson and deny the benefits of the system to others.”

The PRP said: “It is clear that incentives are needed. If the Government does not intend to commence section 40, Parliament may wish to consider alternative incentives to encourage recognition and provide protection for the public as Leveson recommended.

“Leveson also recommended that if (but only if) the new system of regulation were considered to have failed then Parliament should consider statutory action. The Press Recognition Panel is of the view that it would be premature to consider introducing statutory regulation. The recognition system must be established first and properly tested.” 

Referring to calls by the News Media Associaton and others to instigate an ad hoc review into IMPRESS’ status as a recognised regulator following tweets shared by its board members and chief executive strongly criticising prominent newspapers and journalists, the PRP said that it “did not consider that the Charter requirements for such a review were made out in either case.”

Last week, it emerged that the Caerphilly Observer, a founder member of IMPRESS, had issued a resignation notice to the regulator on 6 October and its editor said he had withdrawn from membership because of a range of concerns including its lack of transparency and its inability to deal with major news publishers. 

In the annual report, the PRP also suggested that social media platforms could be brought into its regulatory regime but the courts would have to decide whether or not they qualify as “relevant publishers.”

“It appears to the Press Recognition Panel that several social media platforms may well fall within the Crime and Courts Act 2013 definition of ‘relevant publisher’. If this is the case, then a framework for regulating them already exists in the form of the recognition system,” the PRP said.  

“Social media platforms that are relevant publishers should be subject to the same domestic legal structures as all other relevant publishers. It will ultimately be for the courts to decide whether such social media platforms are indeed relevant publishers.”