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October 21, 2013

Cabinet minister says ‘perfectly acceptable’ for press to ignore politicians’ press regulation Royal Charter

By Darren Boyle

A senior Government minister has said the press are free to establish their own regulator if they wish instead of signing up the politically backed Royal Charter.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said he wasn’t fearful about the proposed Royal Charter, unlike his junior colleague Nick Boles. Planning minister Boles last week said he thought it was reasonable for publishers to challenge the Parliament-backed Royal Charter in the courts and said: "There’s nothing we’ve done that troubles me as much as this.”

Pickles was appearing on the BBC Sunday Politics show.

He said: "I accept the compromised agreement that we've put together.

“We've got two sets. If the press want to have an additional protection that the Royal Charter operates, then they can move into the system, but if they want to continue independently, that's perfectly acceptable."

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Pickles said there was a real need to allow the media to operate without undue restriction.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller published a compromise agreement on a Royal Charter earlier this month. However it is expected that most major newspaper groups both national and regional have rejected the plans.

The newspapers announced their own regulation system with fines of up to £1 million for malpractice.

This system was not acceptable to the Privy Council who want to introduce their own modified plan.

The Privy Council will meet again on 30 October where they are expected to sign off on their Royal Charter plan which will be enshrined in law. 

If publisherts choose to ignore the cross-party Royal Charter and set up a regulator which fails to secure official recognition then they will be left open to the threat of exemplary damages in libel and privacy actions.

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