History Of Press Regulation

  • The newspaper press was freed from pre-publication censorship at the end of the seventeenth century, and from restrictive economic controls such as stamp duties by the 1860s.
  • Criticisms of press standards are as old as the industry, but the competitive conditions of the mass press from the 1920s onwards led to recurrent complaints about the way it intruded into privacy, was sensationalist and inaccurate. By the 1940s plans for a system of voluntary regulation gained widespread political support, and a General Council of the Press was finally established in 1953.
  • Despite various reforms since 1953, self-regulation has failed primarily because it is funded and controlled by proprietors who are reluctant to enforce standards effectively. Politicians have been reluctant to back statutory reform for fear of provoking the hostility of the industry.
  • In the wake of the Leveson report into press standards, which itself was very historically literate, there has been a polarised debate about statutory regulation. This has ignored the complex history of the ways in which the state has continued to impose pre-publication restraint – for example, through the Official Secrets Act and contempt of court legislation – without undermining press freedom.
  • The options now available to policy makers are: to accept a new version of the status quo in the form of an industry-run regulator; support an industry-run regulator whose structure and practices would be validated by an independent recognition body established by Royal Charter and underpinned by statute; or kick the problem into the political long grass.
  • History suggests that neither the first nor the last option will solve the problem of unjustified intrusions into privacy, inaccurate reporting, and persistent breaches of the industry’s code of practice.
  • The liberty of the Press is indeed essential to the nature of a free State; but this consists in laying no previous restraints on publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published.

In 2006 Clive Goodman, News of the World’s Royal Editor, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, were arrested on suspicion of intercepting the voicemail messages of the Royal Family. They were found guilty and sentenced to jail. In court it was “revealed that Mulcaire received a total of 2,266 requests from News International journalists in the period covered by his paperwork, 2,142 of which were made by four employees.”

40.  In July 2009, The Guardian published allegations that the practice of phone hacking had been used to gain information about a number of people, in addition to the Royal Family. It stated that it included politicians as well as others in the public eye, such as sportspeople. The police decided not to revisit the 2006 inquiry. As a result, some of the alleged victims began private legal proceedings against News International (the owner of the News of the World) and Glenn Mulcaire

In 1989, following pressure from Parliament and “the era of tabloid expose”, the Government commissioned Sir David Calcutt QC to chair a committee to looks at press intrusion.

  • What does PCC stand for? Press Complaints Commission
  • Briefly explain what it was. was a voluntary regulatory body for British printed newspapers and magazines, consisting of representatives of the major publishers. The PCC closed on Monday 8 September 2014, and was replaced by the Independant press standards organisation (IPSO), chaired by Sir Alan Moses.
  • What were the ‘codes of practice’? List them.

1) Accuracy, 2) Opportunity to reply,3) Privacy 4) Harassment *, 5) Intrusion into grief or shock, 6) Children*, 7) Children in sex cases *, 8) Hospitals, 9) Reporting of Crime, 10) Clandestine devices and subterfuge , 11) Victims of sexual assault, 12) Discrimination, 13) Financial journalism, 14) Confidential sources, 15) Witness payments in criminal trials, 16 Payment to criminals

  • When did it act? 2014
  • What things did it do?
  • Choose a real life case from the archives and briefly explain what happened and what the PCC did.
  • How effective do you think the PCC was at regulation?
  • Why was it closed down?
  • What is the IPSO?
  • What can it do?

 

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