Whenever there is a run of bad news, the Fourth Estate and its obedient supporters can be relied upon to bring a little unintended hilarity to proceedings. So forget for a moment the miserable GDP figures as we laugh along to the Rival Royal Charter. This will be superior to the already agreed Royal Charter, because the papers have had it written and their pundits bloody well say so.
So that’s it, is it? Ah well. What all those crowing that the Hacked Off campaign has been sidelined have not realised is that the Royal Charter they don’t like has been agreed by all political parties and is well on its way to getting Brenda’s signature. The rival Royal Charter, devised on behalf of the Murdoch, Rothermere and Barclay Brothers’ titles, has yet to be taken forward.
Moreover, the press setting up the system of self-regulation, far from being a snub to Lord Justice Leveson, is exactly what he envisaged. But let’s look at what is proposed. Proof against political interference? Er, that’s what happened with the now discredited PCC. The recognition panel looks similar to the original. But then comes the Board, and here is the blatant stitch-up.
There will be a “press guarantee” on appointments to the board. This sounds suitably grand. But what it means is that the likes of Paul Dacre can veto anyone they don’t want, for instance, oh I dunno, Brian Cathcart, Evan Harris, Hugh Grant, and anyone else who has expressed any sympathy for the Hacked Off campaign. This is just a souped-up PCC, and the press is having a laugh.
And, as the man said, there’s more: it seems no third party complaints will be accepted. Put directly, that means Jan Moir can get away with another hatchet job like the one she did on Stephen Gately, while the Mail can continue to manufacture complaints against broadcasters. Corrections will apparently be given “due prominence”, which means Dacre and his pals can keep them off the front page.
As for the low-cost arbitration service provided by the new regulator, to no surprise this is being downgraded to “optional”, with the distinct possibility that it will be quietly dropped. So it’s back to papers dishing out routine defamation, only backing down to those who have the means to sue them, and even then only yielding at the door of the court – which is what happened with the PCC.
Not surprisingly, the obedient attack doggies of the Fourth Estate, and those who have sold out to it, think this is A Very Good Thing. Tim Luckhurst has gone further: “the press fights back ... democracy protected” he Tweeted. Yes, refusing to accept the will of our democratically elected Parliament is, in his mind, a protection of democracy. And he wonders why some think he’s a clueless meathead.
This is a sham. It’s a thinly veiled reheating of the PCC. And it’s not good enough.