When the Sun newspaper starts quoting Churchill, it is time to sniff the air on press freedom. According to Roy Greenslade the use of a Royal Charter gets the three parties at Westminster off the hook:
By passing a law that affects the nature of all royal charters, rather than one specifically devoted to a press regulator, they have found a compromise where none seemed possible.
In effect, what Harman has called “a small piece of legislation” can be said to be the very “dab of statute” that Hacked Off campaigners have been demanding since the publication of the Leveson report.
But there is a long way yet to go in this affair because, despite this political fix, the industry has still to decide on the details of the regulator. [emphasis added]
Guido’s asking whether this is statutory, or not. Mark Ferguson on Labour List thinks it is. But whilst he thinks that dealing with powerful well resourced and independent proprietors is one thing, the draft Charter may have other implications:
…-an “opt-in” system for blogs and online publications could very soon become compulsory as news media increasingly moves online. That’s likely to come with a great deal of expense and bureaucracy involved. A small organisation like LabourList might just be able to deal with that, but other (smaller) blogs possibly couldn’t.
And if you’re regulating blogs, why not Twitter? Facebook? Google +? What is “news-related material’? (Because I get most of my news from Twitter, so that presumably counts.
The case for press regulation has been made conclusively, not just as a result of the phone hacking scandal, but as a result of media intrusion like that which the Dunblane victims suffered. But what is the national scandal that has led political parties to believe that they can shackle the internet?
Yeah? Well, we’ll see. Lord Leveson stayed clear of much mention of the Internet for good reason. Let’s see what passes scrutiny in the Commons before we start panicking…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty