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New Regulations Threaten Freedom of the Press in UK

If Britain throws away 300 years of press freedom, the American left will be casting envious glances across the Atlantic.

by
Mike McNally

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October 26, 2013 - 12:04 am
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In a move that would be unthinkable to most Americans, politicians in Britain are on the brink of introducing statutory regulation of the press in a bid to curb what they see as the excesses of the nation’s newspapers. Those behind the proposals are taking advantage of the lack of explicit free speech or press freedom protections in the UK’s piecemeal constitution, which is partly written and partly based on convention. At the end of the day, what Parliament says, goes. Liberals in the U.S. would kill for a similar arrangement.

The politicians have rejected the newspaper industry’s own plans to beef up its current system of self-regulation. And while they insist the press has nothing to fear from their proposals, newspapers argue  that, once the principle of state regulation has been established, future governments could abuse it. Under the proposals, the regulator would have the power to demand prominent corrections and apologies from publishers and impose £1million fines. Newspaper publishers that refuse to submit to the regulator’s fines and rulings could face punitive damages in the courts, and could be made to pay the full costs of court cases even if they win.

The push for state regulation began in 2011, following a public inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal, in which reporters and private investigators working for the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid The News of the World accessed the voicemail of celebrities, politicians and members of the royal family, among others, over several years. The NoW was eventually closed down after it emerged that investigators had hacked the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old girl who was abducted in 2002 and was later found murdered.

The inquiry recommended the establishment of a new regulatory body to replace the industry-run Press Complaints Commission. While the industry would ostensibly continue to be self-regulated, the regulator’s powers to levy fines and costs would be “underpinned” by legislation. Seizing on the chance to muzzle a press that’s predominantly right-of-centre, particularly at the tabloid end of the market, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives’ center-left coalition partners, campaigned for the full implementation of the proposals. They were supported by Hacked Off, a group of left-wing academics and activists, establishment figures, and celebrities who’ve been the victims of press intrusion.

However, this isn’t a straightforward left versus right issue. MPs of all parties are keen to exact revenge on a newspaper industry with whom they’ve endured a stormy relationship, not least during the 2009 expenses scandal, when the Daily Telegraph and other papers published details of how politicians were fraudulently claiming allowances for everything from accommodation and travel to floating duck islands, leading to criminal charges against several MPs, and a wave of demotions.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron initially rejected any notion of state regulation as “fundamentally wrong in principle.” While pledging to implement the inquiry’s proposals as long as they were not “bonkers,” he warned that passing legislation to establish a new regulator could pave the way for politicians to impose stricter controls in the future.

After several months of stalemate, a cross-party deal was agreed on in March. To the consternation of the newspaper industry, the deal was done in the House of Commons office of Labour leader Ed Miliband, at a meeting attended by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and representatives of Hacked Off. No one from the newspaper industry was present and Cameron didn’t attend, instead sending along a senior aide who found himself outnumbered and outgunned.

The proposed new regulator will be set up by royal charter, an archaic instrument issued by the sitting monarch, which is used to incorporate a body as a legal entity, and set out its rights and powers. The charter will therefore be granted by Queen Elizabeth rather than the government. This is thought to be the first time that a monarch has been asked to sign a charter imposing a system of regulation on an unwilling industry, and the charter could be amended by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, creating an opportunity for further political interference.

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All Comments   (26)
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The answer is to take advantage of the Internet. Every UK paper should establish an off-shore website and make sure their readers know about it. And set up off-shore mail servers that readers can sign up for. Then if the government censors a story, a million plus emails go out and readers get the story anyway.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why is this a surprise? Since when has total control of all media NOT been part of the Leftist (liberal/progressive) plan???
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a remedy for this: Pirate Media. Today's posting from Drudge describes a Google facility floating in SanFran Bay. British radio stations bagan broadcasting as "Pirate Radio" to circumvent the BBC's staid control of music decades ago.

There is no reason why the Daily Mail needs to publish in the UK. It is the most read newspaper with an online American readership. News is fungible.

Yo ho ho!

Hoist the flag!
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is what happens when you do not have a written constitution. Now, that being said, sometimes written constitutions are meaningless as evidenced in most of the countries in central and south america. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights really reflects the genius of the founding fathers. Britain on the other hand, has only a "gentleman's agreement" for a constitution. This agreeement can be abrogated at any time.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...sometimes written constitutions are meaningless as evidenced in most of the countries in central and south america...."

And in the United States, I might add, where decades of deconstructionist judges have rendered the "living" document increasingly feeble. What of Justice Harry Blackmun's famous statement that "the Constitution is whatever five of us say it is?" What of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's openly stated belief that decisions should be made according to "enlightened world opinion" rather than according to the text of the US Constitution, which she deems outdated? What about our own POTUS's statements about how our Constitution is "not so good" because it impedes the march of left-wing righteousness?

And by the way, when Honduras was trying to follow it's constitution; when President Zendaya was trying to seize another term, which is explicitly illegal; and when the supreme court and national assembly, including most of Zendaya's own party, told him to desist and step down; when, as he refused, he was forcibly ousted from office; what did the US do? They sided with Zendaya, a would-be Hugo Chavez.

I agree that the US Constitution reflects great genius. It is indeed a shining light. But as the ruling cronies of America increasingly corrupt and ignore it, how will that light save the US---- or reach others?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
They're already doing it...

As just one example of many...

http://www.whiteoutpress.com/articles/q42013/america-s-free-press-hangs-on-barrett-brown/

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, let's see, slowly but surely our MSM is going broke as more and more people get their news from the internet. So, at what point will it be decided that some will be determined to be "too big to fail" and the government needs to bail them out? Just like Government Motors, this will give the politicians control of the biggest networks of the MSM. Anybody want to bet it couldn't happen?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
A political faction that does not support the entire Bill of Rights will eventually seek to overturn all of the Bill of Rights. The left abhors the First Amendment more than the Second. An anti-Liberty thug like Bloomberg reinforces his violation of the Second Amendment by eviscerating the the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
" The charter will therefore be granted by Queen Elizabeth rather than the government. "

I wonder if there's any chance the queen would refuse?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment

Cowards that they are, the MSM would sing with the leftist chorus even more reliably if there was any kind of threat of retaliation by the progressives. We would effectively have a one party state with opposition parties too weak and isolated to matter.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"and could be made to pay the full costs of court cases even if they win."

This is a pretty shocking provision if true. It means even if you win, you lose. I'm sure the government's portion of the costs will be egregiously expensive.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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