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Media and Law Review of the Year, 2013: Part 1, Press Regulation, Leveson and Royal Charters

2013 Year in ReviewThe last year was dominated by the continuing fall out of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.  The main media and law story of the year concerned the question of what to do about Report of the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press.

The Leveson report was published on 29 November 2012 and the politicians and the press spent much of the next twelve months trying to work out what to do about it.  The scene was set by David Cameron’s refusal to accept the recommendations of the report in full.

On the day of the launch he said he had  “serious concerns and misgivings” in principle to any statutory interference in the media. He said “It would mean for the first time we have crossed the Rubicon of writing elements of press regulation into law of the land.

Instead, Conservative ministers came up with the suggestion of a “Royal Charter” on press regulation.  Hacked Off and a number of pro-Leveson politicians complained that this arcane mechanism was undemocratic and unnecessary but it appeared to be a compromise which would assuage press paranoia about political interference.  And it was meant to provide a quick and effective way to set up a self-regulator.

Rather predictably, the process turned out to be painfully slow and ultimately failed in its main aim of providing a Leveson compliant mechanism which would be acceptable to the Mail, the Sun and the Telegraph. The year ended with David Cameron warning the press of the risk of future statutory controls if it did not cooperate with the Royal Charter recognition process.

But the year was dominated by the debate over the implementation of Leveson and, in particular, over the terms of a proposed Royal Charter on the Self-Regulation of the Press.  Between 31 December 2012 and 11 October 2013 no less than seven draft Royal Charters were prepared – three by Conservative ministers, one by Labour and the Lib Dems, one by PressBoF and two “Cross Party” drafts.  The Media Standards Trust produced a full analysis of the first six in June 2013.

These were some of the important “press regulation milestones” in 2013:

In short, the position at the end of 2013 – 13 months after the publication of the Leveson Report – was that the appointment of the Recognition Panel was beginning but the press were, apparently, refusing to use it.  Two rival self-regulators were on the horizon – the PressBoF version, PCC Mark 2, IPSO and the independent but as yet embryonic IMPRESS. There seems little doubt that the struggle over Leveson implementation will continue well into 2014.

In Media and Law Review of the Year, Part 2: Phone Hacking: Elveden, Pinetree and the Old Bailey Trial

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