And so it came to pass that the Press Recognition Panel met yesterday to consider the application for recognition, under the terms of the cross-party approved Royal Charter on press regulation, by a wholly independent regulator, IMPRESS. Thus the end of a long journey for Jonathan Heawood and his team that began with not much more than optimism back in 2014.
That didn't happen, and as it became clear that IMPRESS was a serious proposition, with serious backing, the abuse and smears began. Most of these have homed in on donations from the Alexander Mosley charitable trust, which have been swiftly translated into papers telling their readers that the new regulator was a weapon for Max Mosley to wreak vengeance on poor unfortunate journalists.
But, despite attempts from that part of the press that has backed sham regulator IPSO, which claims not to be toothless while being, er, toothless, there was no stopping IMPRESS gaining recognition yesterday. As the Guardian - which has declined to join IPSO - has reported, "The PRP's six-person board agreed unanimously that IMPRESS met each of the 23 criteria set out under the Royal Charter". A giant hurdle had been cleared.
However, and here we encounter a significantly-sized however, the next task for those wanting to see a system of press regulation that gives the 99% plus of the population who cannot afford to take the press to court - IPSO does little more than wipe the newspapers' collective backsides, so cannot be taken seriously as a means for progressing complaints - is a greater one still, and that is to persuade the Government to commence Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson, who has been an unswerving supporter of independent press regulation, and who gave the Hacked Off Leveson lecture in 2014, has challenged Culture Secretary Karen Bradley to say what course she will take on Section 40, telling "The Culture Secretary must now urgently clarify her position on Section 40 and tell us whether she will enact the legislation that would allow independent press regulation to succeed". Got it in one.
Ms Bradley, who as I've previously told gives every impression of being a weak minister being manipulated by her SpAd Craig Woodhouse - a former Sun journalist - now has to make the decision. Either she carries out the will of Parliament, and fulfils the promises made to all those victims of press misbehaviour, or caves in to the newspaper establishment and allows the Press Barons to carry on marking their own homework and giving the finger to the little people.
And I have bad news for Ms Bradley: there is no easy option here. No pressure, then.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016
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