Press regulation campaign group Hacked Off has said that it is “certain” the Privy Council will reject the newspaper industry’s Royal Charter when it meets to consider it next month.
At a media briefing this morning, Brian Cathcart, director of Hacked Off, also said the group was increasingly confident that the original Royal Charter, agreed by the three main political parties, would be adopted later in the autumn.
“The time has come and the Pressbof petition for a Royal Charter will be rejected soon,” said Cathcart, referring to the charter put together by the majority of the newspaper industry in response to the three-party submission.
“We have always believed that the petition was a delaying manoeuvre and was certain to be rejected; it was just a matter of time.”
Moves towards establishing a recognition panel to oversee a new regulator, as recommended by Lord Justice Leveson in last year’s report into press ethics, have been delayed after the Pressbof charter was submitted.
Evan Harris, associate director of Hacked Off, said this was because the Government was taking a “belt and braces” approach to protect it from legal challenges if it rejected the newspaper charter.
“There’s now no basis to believe it will not be rejected,” said Harris. “The Government is confident it has done everything. They say they don’t contemplate any longer hold-up.”
In July, the Privy Council referred the Pressbof charter to a sub-committee, led by Culture Secretary Maria Miller and chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander. The sub-committee is due to report back next month.
Harris said no such sub-committee would need to be set up to consider the three-party charter as “it is already Government policy”.
Hacked Off also said it believed that a “Leveson-compliant” self-regulator would be set up following the agreement of the Government charter. This would be in direct opposition to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) which publishers are said to be on the brink of signing up to.
The pressure group said publishers would be incentivised to join this regulator, as opposed to IPSO, because its compliance with Leveson’s recommendations would mean they would not be liable to pay claimants costs in High Court libel cases, regardless of the outcome. Conversely, non-member publishers could be forced to pay costs in cases even when they win.
“There will be substantial advantages to membership of a recognised regulator and substantial disadvantages to non-membership,” said Cathcart.
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