As the debate over press regulation rumbles on, last week’s “Leveson Declaration” signed by scores of public figures continues to generate knocking copy from those looking to score brownie points with those opposed to such horrid prospects as a regulator totally independent of politicians or proprietors. This brings us to a singularly desperate rant from Mick Hume at Spiked.
“Liberal UK Signs Its Own Death Warrant” he declares, in a style typical of the genre: say something preposterous, as it means more clicks. Then he quotes Orwell, because this, as any fule kno, means he is A Really Serious And Learned Pundit. And then comes the usual dishonest drivel: Hacked Off is an “elitist little lobby group fronted by Hugh Grant to tame the popular press”.
The declaration is an “illiberal demand”. Hacked Off’s campaign is for “tighter regulation of the press”. And there’s more: it’s “the liberal and left-wing intelligentsia and media that have driven the crusade to curb the popular press ... sometimes called the chattering classes”. If only Hume had bothered to read up on his subject beforehand. Like, oh I dunno, that Royal Charter.
“The Royal Charter deal ... seeks to impose a regulator using the ancient anti-democratic instruments of the Crown, the royal prerogative and the Her Majesty’s Privy Council”. And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, the Charter does not impose anything on anyone. And two, if this is such a bad thing, how come the press also went down that route?
“It evokes grim shadows of the old system of Crown licensing of the press, started by Henry VIII in 1529”. They sup some strong stuff chez Hume. And he’s not finished yet: “the Royal Charter is backed by a new law which threatens those who do not sign up to the politicians’ system with the prospect of suffering ‘exemplary damages’ in court”. The Royal Charter is not backed by any law.
“Now we are faced with the shameful spectacle of those who claim to be liberal-minded intellectuals openly demanding that the press accept a system of state-backed regulation via the Royal Charter”. Supporting does not equal demanding, an independent press regulator would not be backed by the state, and no signatory to the declaration has claimed to be of any particular mindset.
Apart from that, Hume is correct: the signatories are supporting independent press regulation. What most of the press are supporting is the PCC piss in a re-labelled bottle. “They are fully signed-up supporters of an unfree press by order of the Crown” fumes Hume. Very good Mick, you can join the queue for a commission from the Daily Mail over there. But don’t expect anyone to take your guff seriously.
There’s a good reason it’s called Spiked: it certainly should have been.
"The Royal Charter is not backed by any law"
Not true. The exemplary damages risk proceeding from non-membership of the Charter is explicitly itemised in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, section 34.
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