“Sajid Javid’s first move as Culture Secretary has been to defend press freedom” proclaimed the editor of the Spectator yesterday. The incoming Culture Secretary had said “It is now a decision for the press what they want to do next. I don’t see any further role for government in this”. This was held to endorse anyone not going along with seeking recognition of a self-regulator under the Royal Charter.
“To Javid, it seems, the issue has already been ‘put to bed’. The government set up a club, looking for members. No one has joined. Oliver Letwin’s brain fart has finally cleared the room – and the idea of a Royal Charter has been put to one side. And, most importantly, the ancient freedom of the British press has been protected”. I have immense respect for Nelson. But this is just tosh.
The Royal Charter provides for a recognition panel for any press self-regulator that seeks recognition. The Government set up no club, and looked for no members. It was left to the press to decide what it would do next. No compulsion would be involved, there would be no arm-twisting, no “state licensing”, no censorship. And the Royal Charter has not been “put to one side”.
Moreover, what Nelson cannot get his brain around is that what Javid said is no different to what Maria Miller said last November, and the transcript of her interview on The Andy Marr Show (tm) can be read HERE. “I think the most important thing that happens now, and is happening I think very well, is for the press to go forward with their own self-regulatory body and to establish that” she said.
Javid and Ms Miller effectively said the same thing. But Nelson – plus, it has to be said, a number of other authors, with both The Week and Conservative Home being taken in before stopping to think what was actually being said – has seen something, the apparent setting aside of the Royal Charter, that has not been done. Javid said he saw no further role for Government.
And, indeed, Government need have no more involvement: what was enacted in the Royal Charter was a recognition panel for voluntary self-regulation. Nelson and his fellow refuseniks have been so convinced by their own propaganda – the talk of “statutory regulation”, “state licensing”, and “state censorship”, that they really believe that the Leveson recommendations mean just that. They don’t.
If Javid had “set aside” the Royal Charter, why was Lord Black of Brentwood reported only the previous day by Press Gazette as saying “It's vital that all the institutions which represent our industry continue to fight our corner with vigour”, and that the Royal Charter was a “menace”, representing an “unacceptable infringement of press freedom and freedom of expression”, if it had been “set aside”?
Fraser Nelson has been conned by his own empty rhetoric. What a star.