The Media Standards Trust has produced an impressive chronology and analysis of the six Royal Charters introduced since the Leveson report of 29 November 2012 in the form of a “Timeline”. This can also be viewed at Timeline JS (where the width is less constrained).
It can also be read in text form, set out below. It contains links to all the different versions of the Royal Charter including the Government’s first, unpublished, draft of 31 December 2012.
29 November 2012: Leveson report and recommendations published
On Thursday, 29th November at 1.30pm, Lord Justice Leveson published his 1,987 page report. It recommended a system of independent, voluntary self-regulation, underpinned by a statutory recognition process, and supported by legal incentives for those who participated.
Link: The Leveson Report
29 November 2012: Prime Minister accepts ‘Leveson principles’ but rejects use of legislation
“They [the Leveson principles] are the central recommendations of the report. If they can be put in place, we truly will have a regulatory system that delivers public confidence, justice for the victims, and a step change in the way the press is regulated in our country.” But, Cameron said, “I have some serious concerns and misgivings on the recommendation to legislate to provide an independent process to recognise the new self-regulatory body.”
4 December 2012: PM tells newspaper editors to ‘implement Leveson recommendations in their entirety’
Cameron said that the newspapers “have to do it [create a regulatory system] that absolutely meets the requirements of Lord Justice Leveson’s report”. Oliver Letwin reiterates this in a meeting with editors in Downing Street and suggests he has a plan to avoid legislation (though meeting not minuted).
Link: ‘Leveson report: Cameron tells editors to sort out regulator‘ (BBC News)
5 December 2012: Editors accept ’40 of 47′ Leveson recommendations at Delaunay
National newspaper editors met over breakfast at the Delaunay restaurant and agreed (according to editors) to 40 of 47 Leveson press recommendations. There were no reporters present and no minutes published. Rusbridger later claimed ‘an unseen hand’ withdrew the legitimacy of this agreement
Link: ‘Leveson report: Newspaper editors ‘back’ most proposals‘ (BBC News)
7 December 2012: ’40 of 47′ claim questioned by Media Standards Trust (MST)
A document prepared for the breakfast – and subsequently leaked – divided the recommendations into ‘Acceptable’ and ‘Unacceptable’, and sought to make changes to many. An MST analysis showed that, based on this document, the editors had agreed not 40 of 47, but 23 of 47.
10 December 2012: Labour publish draft Leveson bill
Labour publish a six clause ‘Press Freedom and Trust’ bill to show how straightforward it would be to implement Leveson in legislation
13 December 2012: Oliver Letwin to propose Royal Charter to achieve Leveson
It is first reported that Oliver Letwin is planning to use the vehicle of a Royal Charter to give authority to a recognition body, as opposed to legislation as recommended by Leveson
Link: ‘Oliver Letwin finalises plan for press regulatory enshrined in Royal Charter‘ (The Guardian)
14 December 2012: Newspaper publishers tell DCMS they, not editors, are in charge
Five publishing associations write to Maria Miller reminding them her ‘publishers are responsible for the establishment and funding of the new system, and will be the signatories to the contracts that will underpin it’, and so should lead the negotiations for a new system.
31 December 2012: DCMS distributes initial draft of Royal Charter to small group of stakeholders
This initial draft – not published – did not list the recognition criteria, but simply referred to criteria as set out by Leveson himself in the report.
Analysis of 31st December unpublished draft
Closeness to Leveson: reasonably close, though lacks detail. This initial version of the Royal Charter, only distributed to key stakeholders, gives authority to a Recognition Panel to determine, review and withdraw recognition from regulators, through a Scheme of Recognition (The Schedule). It does not detail the Leveson recommendations but refers back to the report.
4 January 2013: Peter Wright, Associated Newspapers, writes to Letwin demanding changes to draft of Charter
Peter Wright, Editor Emeritus of Associated Newspapers, writes to Oliver Letwin on behalf of parts of the press, demanding changes to the initial draft charter, and telling government about industry ‘red lines’.
6 January 2013: Hacked Off publishes a ‘Leveson Bill’
Hacked Off publishes a Leveson Bill – to put in practice Leveson’s recommendations through legislation (as Leveson proposed). The Bill includes recognition criteria (Schedule 1)
18 January 2013: Lord Pannick advises newspapers that Royal Charter could be amended by Ministers
Lord Pannick provides legal advice to newspapers on the use of a Royal Charter: ‘The fundamental defect of such a scheme would be that, in practice, Ministers would have power to amend the Charter as and when they see fit and so there would be no protection against political interference in the future’.
31 January 2013: Lord Puttnam tables Leveson amendment to defamation bill
Lord Puttnam tables an amendment to the Defamation bill, which would establish a recognition commission for regulatory bodies that provide an arbitration service
5 February 2013: Press working closely with government – Lord Black tells House of Lords
‘Since the [Leveson] report has been published,’ Lord Black tells the House of Lords, ‘the industry has been working extremely hard with the Government to finalise the details of a regulatory scheme’ (Hansard, Column 154)
5 February 2013: Lords support Puttnam amendment by 272 votes to 141
Lord Puttnam’s amendment to the defamation bill is debated. ‘These amendments’ he tells the House of Lords, ‘are designed to break that terrible silence’ of the government over its plans to institute Leveson’s recommendations.’ Puttnam’s amendment prompted Lord McNally to assure the House that a draft Royal Charter would be published the following week: ‘I can announce today that a draft royal charter proposal will be published next week’. Lords vote in favour of the amendment by 272 votes to 141
12 February 2013: First draft Royal Charter published
The first draft Royal Charter is published by Conservatives, prompted by the Puttnam amendment. The Charter is much weaker than Leveson, and diluted from 31 December. These dilutions include demands made by Peter Wright on 4th January on behalf of the industry (eg on Code Committee and group complaints). Charter also gives industry a veto on appointments to regulator, reduces power of regulator to direct corrections/apologies, limits the power of investigations, provides no check in the event of failure, and provides no flexibility to the recognition process. Nor is there anything in statute to protect the Charter from amendment by Ministers
Analysis of 12th February Conservative draft
Closeness to Leveson: not close. Unlike the 31 December version, this charter details the summary recommendations of the Leveson report but considerably weakens them. The specific aspects that have been diluted relate mainly to the recognition criteria, and correspond closely to those aspects that were objected to by Peter Wright, on behalf of the industry, in his letter to of 4th January 2013
Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 12th February Charter
13 February 2013: Press welcome draft Charter as the ‘fruit of intensive talks’ between press and politicians
‘We welcome this very constructive announcement, the fruit of two months of intensive talks involving the newspaper and magazine industry and all three main political parties’, said Chairman of the press implementation group Paul Vickers of 12 February draft charter. According to subsequent reports, the PM promised newspapers this was ‘set in stone’. None of these talks were public. No details have yet been released.
Link: ‘Press owners welcome Tory plan for independent regulatory underpinned by Royal Charter‘ (Press Gazette)
13 February 2013: Labour raise ‘substantive concerns’ that the Charter does not deliver Leveson
Harriet Harman writes to Oliver Letwin expressing her ‘substantive concerns’ with the 12 February draft. ‘We have substantive concerns’ Harman wrote, ‘that the Royal Charter as drafted fails to comply with the recommendations that the Leveson Report makes’.
14 February 2013: Cross-Party talks restart to revise 12 February Royal Charter
The three main political parties re-start talks working from the 12th February draft Royal Charter
Link: ‘Parties say Tory post-Leveson plan ‘basis for talks” (BBC News)
21 February 2013: Lord Black rejects MST calls for greater transparency
‘We have not been told’, the MST writes, ‘who is running the process, who is participating, what concerns newspapers have, what meetings are being held – between media organisations themselves or between media organisations and the government – or what is being discussed at those meetings, or where there are points of dispute with Lord Justice Leveson’s findings. Nor has there been any concerted attempt to include or consult with the public.’
3 March 2013: Could the Black/Hunt proposals for a new self-regulator pass the draft Royal Charter test? (MST Analysis)
A report published by the Media Standards Trust assesses whether the original plans put forward by the industry to Leveson, which the judge said did ‘not come close to delivering… regulation that is itself genuinely free and independent of the industry it regulates and political control’ would have to be accepted under the February 12th Charter. The report concludes that, with two changes, they would.
8 March 2013: Lord Skidelsky tables Leveson amendment to Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill report stage
Lord Skidelsky’s proposed amendment to the ERR bill (after clause 78) would create a Leveson ‘Recognition Commission’ and recognition process, along with a schedule of recognition criteria
14 March 2013: David Cameron unilaterally walks out of cross-party talks on Royal Charter
The PM, David Cameron, announced he was ending cross-party talks without an agreement being concluded. According to BBC News, the deputy prime minister said he was ‘disappointed and surprised that David Cameron has decided to walk away from the cross-party talks’ just when ‘real progress’ was being made.
Link: ‘David Cameron halts press regulation talks‘ (BBC News)
14 March 2013: Conservatives publish proposed C&C amendments
Conservatives put down amendments to the Court & Crimes bill to allow for the exemplary damages and costs Leveson incentives. Exemplary damages to apply only to relevant publishers (different to Leveson recommendation). Costs to take into account membership of a regulatory system (as Leveson recommended).
14 March 2013: LibDems/Labour publish different proposed C&C amendments
Labour & Lib Dems put down amendments to Court & Crimes bill for exemplary damages and costs. Exemplary damages to be extended to all torts (as Leveson recommended), and costs to take into account membership of a regulatory system (as Leveson recommended).
15 March 2013: Conservatives publish new version of the Royal Charter
Conservatives publish new draft of February 12th Charter. Some minor changes made to Feb 12 draft though: industry veto remains, the regulator is still unable to direct corrections or apologies, the editors’ control of code committee remains, and the very high hurdle to third party complaints remains. There is also no provision in the event of failure, no protection from interference by the Privy Council, and no leeway for the recognition commission to use its judgment.
Analysis of 14th March Conservative draft
Closeness to Leveson: closer than 12th February, but fundamental differences remain. There is less opportunity for political interference through the exclusion of Party Peers, though still no legal protection from interference by Privy Councillors. The process for appointing the Recognition Panel is more independent, though there is now an industry veto over appointments to a regulator. However, fundamental differences remain around the code, powers, third party complaints and access.
Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 14th March Conservative draft Charter
15 March 2013: Labour & LibDems publish alternative version of Royal Charter
Labour&LibDems publish separate Charter with changes to February 12 version to better reflect Leveson. Nothing in Labour&LibDem Charter goes beyond Leveson. Certain elements do not go as far as Leveson, in order to address concerns of the press (e.g. regarding the Code Committee).
Analysis of 15th March LibDem/Labour draft
Closeness to Leveson: closest to Leveson published to date. Party political peers are excluded from the Recognition Panel and regulator. There is, separate to the Charter, legal restraint on any involvement of Ministers or Privy Councillors. Responsibility for the Code of Practice is given to the industry, but only as long as editors make up a minority of the Code Committee, and journalists and public make up two thirds. Third party complaints are allowed, but with constraints and caveats.
Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 15th March LibDem/Labour draft Charter
17 March: Cameron & Clegg agree alternative version of Royal Charter at 3pm Sunday 17th
Oliver Letwin to Select Committee: ‘at 3pm on the Sunday… the Prime Minister and I met with the Deputy Prime Minister. We put to the Deputy Prime Minister a proposal about the Charter and you can tell what proposal we put because it is the Charter you have before you. That is literally what we proposed to the Deputy Prime Minister at that time. From that point onwards, there was no further substantive discussion about the terms of the Charter. We merely waited for a response from the other two parties to that proposed Charter’
17 March: Clegg seeks response from Miliband and Hacked Off to Charter, Letwin present
Clegg meets Miliband and representatives for Hacked Off for response to agreed Royal Charter and associated legislation for Leveson incentives. Oliver Letwin invited to discuss specific elements
18 March: Cross-party Royal Charter published
Cross-party Royal Charter published – Lab/LibDem version with only four changes, none substantive.
Analysis of 18th March cross-party Charter
Closeness to Leveson: virtually as close as LibDem/Labour 15 March draft. This charter is virtually identical to the LibDem/Labour version published as an alternative to the Conservative version on 15th March. The only differences from that version are; qualification of the clause regarding composition of the Code committee, responsibility for reporting the budgets of the recognition panel, and clarification of the general recognition clause.
Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 18th March cross-party Charter
18 March 2013: The Commons votes on Royal Charter motion and Courts & Crimes amendments
The three main Party leaders support the Royal Charter in the House of Commons. MPs vote on the motion: ‘the Speaker put the Questions necessary to bring proceedings on consideration of new Clauses and new Schedules standing in the name of the Prime Minister and relating to press conduct and remaining new Clauses and new Schedules relating to press conduct to a conclusion’. Voted through by 530 votes to 13.
18 March 2013: The Lords agree amendment to Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill
New clause added to ERR bill to prevent interference in the cross-party Royal Charter by Privy Councillors (Ministers). Agreed by the upper House
16 April 2013: Oliver Letwin & Maria Miller give evidence to Select Committee, to correct misleading accounts of the ‘Leveson deal’
Oliver Letwin tells Select Committee that, contrary to reports, he and Miller had many meetings with the press. “We were accused of various terrible malfeasances as a result of our intensive discussions with the press” Letwin says to Committee. Not reported in national press.
25 April 2013: Newspaper groups propose alternative Royal Charter
News International, Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph Group announce the forthcoming publication of an alternative Charter, to be sought by the Press Standards Board of Finance, on behalf of major newspaper publishers.
Analysis of 25th April PressBoF Charter
Closeness to Leveson: further from Leveson than anything previous. The recognition process is owned by the press’ funding body, PressBoF. The bar on the appointment of Party Political Peers has been removed from all regulatory levels. The legal protection from Ministerial influence would no longer be valid under this Charter. The powers of the regulator are diluted. Editors retain control of the Code. Investigations could be unfunded and impractical. Arbitration would be made optional.
Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 25th April PressBoF Charter
3 May: Government announces consultation on PressBoF Charter
The government commits to considering the PressBoF Charter before putting the cross-party Charter before the Privy Council. The consultation deadline is set for 24th May. DCMS then to consider responses, and the PressBoF Charter itself, and make a recommendation to the Privy Council as to whether press Charter should progress.
Link: ‘Press regulation royal charter delayed by ministers‘ (BBC News)
Comparison of cross-party Charter with PressBoF Charter
Comparison – by Media Standards Trust – of the cross-party Royal Charter agreed by Parliament on 18th March with the alternative PressBoF Royal Charter submitted to the Privy Council on 30th April
24th May 2013: Consultation on PressBoF Charter ends
The DCMS consultation on the PressBoF charter finishes. DCMS to make a recommendation to the Privy Council whether PressBoF Charter should progress to next stage
Link: ‘Phone-hacking victims reject newspapers’ charter proposal‘ (The Guardian)