Whittingdale Welcomes Repeal Of Section 40

Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale MP said in a Queen’s Speech debate this week that he looks forward to the repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which acts as a “sword of Damocles hanging over a free press.”

Mr Whittingdale said: “I look forward to the inclusion in the Bill of the repeal of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which is a sword of Damocles hanging over a free press allowing a future government to impose punitive costs unless they sign up to the government’s version of regulation.

“The removal of that was in the Conservative manifesto and I very much hope that we will fulfil that manifesto commitment in that Bill.”

Last week the News Media Association welcomed provisions in the Media Bill to repeal Section 40. NMA chief executive Owen Meredith said: “We welcome provisions announced within the Media Bill to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 – a Conservative Party manifesto commitment. Repealing this pernicious legislation will be a very welcome step forward for press freedom in this country.”   

Mr Whittingdale also spoke of the urgency required in giving statutory backing to the Digital Markets Unit: “The third Bill is the Digital Markets and Competition Bill, which, if anything, is even more important to the freedom of the press.

“At the moment, the press are at a disadvantage in their negotiations with the big platforms such as Facebook and Google, which take their content and decide how much, if anything, they are going to pay for it.”

The NMA has repeatedly urged Government to give the Digital Markets Unit the statutory powers it so urgently needs to level the playing field between tech platforms and news publishers, and welcomed the inclusion of the draft legislation in the Queens Speech last week.

Mr Whittingdale continued: “The digital markets unit is being established to address that, but it needs to be put on a statutory basis; it needs to be underpinned by law.

“I therefore welcome the provision in the Queen’s Speech for a draft Bill but hope the government will move forward to implement that legislation as soon as possible.”