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back to article Is UK web speech regulated? No.10: Er. We’ll get back to you

As plastered all over the news yesterday, politicians and anti-tabloid campaigners finally hatched a plan to form a publishing regulator, by royal charter, with the ability to fine misbehaving organs and demand corrections to articles. The letter of the law underpinning the watchdog states it will cover websites; government spin …

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I can think of few people

...less suited to deciding on press regulation than the thieves, bunglers, incompetents and liars that comprise the Houses of Westminster.

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Facepalm

Re: I can think of few people

I can: the bungling, incompetent, thieving (stolen data), liars in the press. Oh, and the PCC.

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Facepalm

Re: I can think of few people

> I can think of few people less suited to deciding on press regulation than [politicians].

Apart from the editors and owners of the biggest selling papers in the country who have proven themselves fundamentally incapable over decades of providing an acceptable framework and many of whom presided over a catalogs of unacceptable conduct in their own papers.

I'm not saying that the current proposal is necessarily the right answer, I think a proper thought out law setting out the framework would have been better but Cameron blocked that so that he could try (and fail) to argue on a technicality that this wasn't statutory underpinning etc.

The whole Royal Charter controlled by the Privy Council without Parliamentary oversight would have been FAR worse as effectively the government of the day would be able to meddle without Parliament and public review.

I would be in favour of a particular scale or theshold of the normal reach or circulation of a website or publication before it came under this law. It is particularly the abuse by those with the biggest platforms that should be addressed and therefore those with large platforms should fall under it. Maybe under this definition Stephen Fry's tweets would fall under it but I don't see why they shouldn't if they reach millions of people he needs to use that platform responsibly.

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Unhappy

Re: I can think of few people@Joseph Lord

I think you miss the point, which is that the current lot are adding more new, ill thought through regulation to make up for failure to enforce a range of existing privacy, security and defamation laws, and that they can be relied upon so serve themselves, not you or me.

In my view, carefully considered changes to those extant defamation, communication interception, privacy laws accompanied by proper, resolute and effective enforcement would be a better solution, rather than faffing around trying to come up with some (undoubtedly well paid) regulatory body that conjurs up rules that it applies to some people and organisations and not others. The only notable change that I can see needed would be to make directors and editors jointly liable for the crimes of their staff, even if they plead ignorance. Some bleater will be along soon to say that's not fair, but it is - it is the responsibility of directors and editors to know what their staff are doing, and to set the moral tone of the organisation.

And going forward, this new press regulator will be handing out penalties it sees fit. The record of effectivness of extra-judicial penalties is not a good one. Take the ICO, a major doler-out of "civil monetary penalties", you call that a success? Or on a lower level, the penalties handed out by private companies enforcing decriminalised parking restrictions? But never mind, we'll let the clowns dream up a 2:30am compromise that suits the main political parties. That'll work out well, won't it?

Looking at the number of downvotes, it is clear that most readers actually think that Cameron, Clegg, and Milliband are suitable people to decide on this matter (or that the matter is of such urgency and importance that it must be addressed now by somebody, even somebodies of meagre talent and notable vested interest). And that saddens me a lot. We have no energy policy, our public finances are ruined, our politcians have been repeatedly caught with their hand in the till, treating the law with contempt, the health and education sectors are unproductive messes, red tape makes real business exceptionally difficult in this country, we have no credible defence strategy, we make nothing of our skills and heritage in the technology and industrial sectors .........and yet those responsible for the mess are apparently ideally placed to take on the regulation of the one estate that might hold them to account.

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Re: I can think of few people@Joseph Lord

Some fair points, and quite a number that I agree with. It is being rushed for no good reason*, serious reform of defamation and privacy laws that included opportunities for the poorest to make use of them may be a better alternative but there are still areas that probably wouldn't cover such as unfair comment about groups rather than individuals. Your second paragraph I mostly agree with.

Looking at the downvotes you received my guess (I didn't cast one) is that they resulted from the appearance of siding with with the newspaper editors against the democratically elected representatives of the people (described in a way to talk them up to slightly compensate for your original description although the truth is probably somewhere between). I don't agree with quite a few parts of your last paragraph but a particular releveant point to make is that another estate that holds the government to account is lawyers and judiciary and despite being overseen by a statutory regulatory body you don't see lawyers not bringing judicial reviews.

* The rush appears to have been caused by Cameron throwing his toys out of the pram to bring this to a head and then having to find a face saving solution to avoid being beaten. Labour pushed the process threatening to attach changes to all sorts of bills but at that point Cameron was dead against any statute. Had he agreed to a properly thought through bill I think they would have stopped that.

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Unhappy

Who

Who will be the appointed regulators?

I expect that prat by the name of Hugh Grant will have his hand in the air screaming 'pick me, pick me!'

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who

I find it sad that we jettison our free press for what was a failure in policing.

Let's say, that the police decided instead of arresting burglars they instead said "well, if you buy us a pint at the local, we'll call it even" what do we think would happen? I recon those burglars would go on stealing in bigger and more exciting ways while the plod had a lot of beer. Of course one day a burglar kills the residents of a house he was robbing and it's all "oh shit!"

This is basically what happened with the papers. Everyone knew the papers were doing it, but the police turned a blind eye, and joe public was of the opinion "well they're famous aren't they, they don't deserve privacy" and here you are.

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Anonymous Coward

The worst thing

about censorship is <redacted> <redacted> <redacted>

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The worst thing

Maybe headline should have been

"IS UK WEB SPEECH REGULATED? NO.10: ER. WE CAN'T SAY"

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FAIL

RIPA abuse all over again....

Here we go again. Just like RIPA is abused on a daily basis by councils up and down the land, this fucked up monstrosity WILL get used against individuals, you can bet on it.

All so the "great and the good" can carry on troughing/stealing/getting dildos shoved up their arse at Nazi-themed parties/getting sucked off by whores in alleys knowing full well nobody will dare publish.

When the next political scandal hits (like expenses) who's going to publish?

Fuck you Hacked Off, well done for helping us further along the road of a police state.

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Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

"When the next political scandal hits (like expenses) who's going to publish?"

News organisations could probably base themselves in the USA for this purpose, the First Amendment being relied upon to stop interference at the border.

There is also the option of publishing on a .onion website, or similar. You could legitimately question whether anyone would ever read it though.

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Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

Since when was doing anything with dildos at a party 'in the public interest'?

Its that sort of 'news' that caused this problem.

Redtop, Broadsheet, blogger, twitterer, whatever can GTF about what goes on between consenting adults behind closed doors. (or anywhere that needs a long lens from the top of a step ladder).

Report the NEWS, not some clickbaiting who gives a toss gossip article.

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Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

All so the "great and the good" can carry on troughing/stealing/getting dildos shoved up their arse at Nazi-themed parties/getting sucked off by whores in alleys knowing full well nobody will dare publish.

I'd argue that yout first two examples are things that should be revealed as being in the public interest, and the remainder are personal matters, and therefore none of your business. It is quite right that such things should not be published by the gutter press. What has anyone's private life got to do with anything in their public life, whoever they are?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

Publishing from another country isn't going to work either unless you have zero UK assets and aren't resident here - not with the clause about publication mainly for UK consumption.

You'll simply get sued in London and get hit with full costs whether you win or lose - something many of the commentards here fail to realise. If you don't defend the case, you'll get hit with exemplary damages but win or lose you ARE going to be paying the costs unless you sign up to be a LibLabCon lapdog.

It's coming to something when Russia Today is taking the piss out of the UK for having more restrictive laws than Russia.

Nice to see the OECD taking an interest though - that will be intensely embarrassing for all these Hon and Rt Hon people claiming we're one of the "free" countries of the world. Then again they just passed a law permitting secret trials so they have fuck all shame or conscience. Self-serving venal scum one and all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

"What has anyone's private life got to do with anything in their public life, whoever they are?"

Nothing at all provided they're :

a) not a politician or involved in any sort of law-making. Not going to go into specific instances but but there are plenty of examples of nepotism where without someone working out who was screwing who - obviously the taxpayers get screwed anyway - it would never have been exposed;

b) a celebrity who uses a publicist to regularly plant "news articles" (AKA complete bullshit) to boost your client's income with the full knowledge of the client. Live by the sword then die by the sword.

I'm not arguing people deserve a private life even when they are in public life but do you want us to be like France where the press are shit-scared of politicians?

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Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

Actually, if you look at the record, the House of Lords does far more to protect the "common people" (freedoms in general actually) than the House of Commons does.

That is why the vested interests in the House of Commons want to replace the Lords with an elected House which will kowtow to the same interests that control the Commons.

This is just the latest in a very long line of (the cynical would say, deliberately) poorly conceived legislation designed to reverse the situation in the UK where everything which is not specifically banned is allowed. The general theme is for sweeping bans and then add exceptions ("Oh but we wouldn't use the law to do that, to those people.") by ministerial or quango fiat.

Add that to the law lords admitting that they can't keep with the avalanche of laws coming out of Brussels (around 5000/year) you have to wonder exactly what chance of keeping the law most people have. I'm pretty sure most of this is not what people vote for when they elect a government.

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Re: RIPA abuse all over again....

It depends on who's doing what to whom and who is paying for the occasion. If someone in a position of power and influence is indulging in such practices in such a way that it lays them open to having their decision making compromised then its in the public interest.

If its someone in the entertainment business then, unless they are doing something illegal, then it doesn't matter. The actual act isn't important it all depends on context.

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FAIL

What about forums on news related web sites?

Are forum comments subject to the same restrictions as the news-related websites they may be part of?

I'm glad to see that this has all been done in a well thought out, methodical and concerned manner and not in a knee-jerk, hasty, ill-conceived mash-up at 2 in the morning when everyone is tired and wants to go home.

Oh wait...

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

According to the amendments, comments on articles are not "subject to editorial control" and thus not covered by the regulator. But I could be wrong, or a lawyer could argue it past a judge and make it so anyway. A huge number of comments are not moderated an go live straight away, but some are, ironically, for legal reasons.

This is going to end up as an expensive exercise for some, IMHO. It's a minefield.

C.

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Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

The problem with moderating online comments is that the website assumes editorial control of comments posted on the site.

It's been touched on in court before but websites are setting themselves up for terrible liabilities in the future if they moderate comments. Sooner rather than later the sharks will start to feed on these sites.

The biggest problem is when a site has the 'at our discretion' caveat that allows editorial staff to shoot down or accept comments based on their opinions. By doing this they endorse all comments they publish them. That's insanely risky & I certainly wouldn't want to be the site proving the editorial endorsement case in court.

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Black Helicopters

Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

It would most likely be covered by personal tort law... which is another minefield... Not to forget that, insulting was taken out of the public disorder legislation.

Whilst I believe news should have a line, for which it should not cross (and I hope a big corp. doesnt come at me with a lawsuit)... it would become interesting if they try to make it apply to what has occured prior to their legislation... which may bring a whole new meaning to 'public interest' which could then, probably, be likened to a "witch hunting" exercise?

Security is no doubt, still a sore subject... i.e. if it's a hypervisor device, your own device is supposedly included... Where is the line between utilising legislation for detecting/preventing crime and hindering technical/expressive/creative and sometimes even productive ability.

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Rob
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Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

Sadly it was always going to be a minefield, how else can we keep solicitors employed when we're not quite as litigious as the US. Also probably doesn't help that a few lawyers are well and truly embedded in our political system one way or another and help to influence these things (sorry hadn't used my tinfoil hat for awhile and it needed dusting off).

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Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

OK - so some moderated forum comments may or may not be subject to this regulation, as it would depend on what legal definition could be argued by a lawyer. OK, I am fine with that loose definition, as I don't usually post too many insulting swipes.

However, in the past I may of posted some things that were not true and may deeply offend people (Murdoch, I'm thinking of you, you bloody weasel) Would the regulation be in force for the past comments or is everything before just fine as long as you don't do it again?

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Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

in the amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill, there are some relevant definitions:

"A person who is the operator of a website is not to be taken as having editorial or equivalent responsibility for the decision to publish any material on the site, or for content of the material, if the person did not post the material on the site"

and

"The fact that the operator of the website may moderate statements posted on it by others does not matter for the purposes of subsection (3)."

There is also:

"Special interest titles

4 A person who publishes a title that—

(a) relates to a particular pastime, hobby, trade, business, industry or

profession, and

(b) only contains news-related material on an incidental basis that is

relevant to the main content of the title."

in the exemptions.

so things like The Register are probably safe - IF that amendment goes through without being changed at the behest of people who don't know how to change a PIN number.

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Joke

Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

So the evidence is all in the framing of the HTTP POST... ? what about passthrough techniques? I'm just thinking of origin source, and authenticity.

relevant to the main content of the title... What if it's untitled document?

This is interesting steering of ones ship!

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IT Angle

Re: What about forums on news related web sites?

Does this mean El Reg will have to stop publishing non IT-related news to avoid losing that exemption?

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Mushroom

Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

Bloggers will not be classified as news organisations, that is just a load of rubbish being put forward by a press desperate to avoid being held to account for their actions. Bloggers, like any other idiot on the web, can be taken to court for committing libel. The regulator is not going to bother getting involved. Granted, the law will have to get decent wording to clearly define what is an online news publication like El Reg, and what is just a site or blog for the online ravings of an enlighted/fruitcase individual or small group. This should not be difficult as long as the idiots are kept away from doing the defining.

I also take exception to this inflammatory statement "Yesterday Parliament voted to end over 300 years of freedom from political interference in the published word" No yesterday Parliament fudged a way to try and stop big newspapers from excercising uncontrolled power with no accountability, no understanding of their responsibilities in a demoncratic society and no recourse for the victims of their excesses. The law already exists to stop hacking etc, but the law does not stop newspapers from persuing a political vendetta, printing a load of garbage as news and causing distress and hardship to innocents under the label of "in the public interest". Causing hardship to politicians and doing investigative journalism can be easily defended as in the public interest so the whinges of the press about these reforms is a threat to lazy journalism rather than a genuine grievance. They are trying to scare the small outlets and bloggers by making up a load of threats that don't exist to those not in the 'big news provider' category.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

"Parliament fudged a way to try and stop big newspapers from excercising uncontrolled power"

And completely cocking everything up for the hundreds of national, regional and online outlets that haven't done anything wrong and were well aware of existing laws, which have been used to prosecute tabloid wrongdoing. IMHO.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

How's it going to cock things up? You're not going to be subject to exemplary damages unless you're first subject to, err, damages. The flip side of the royal charter approach is the defamation boll can finally pass. Journos should be throwing a party.

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Devil

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

DJ, you just got yourself a +1 for the new term...

"Demoncratic society"

Someone will most certainly be demonised for this.

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Meh

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

I am baffled why you have been downvoted for this, Chris. It is exactly the case that a few individuals have ruined the existing status quo for the vast majority of sensible, law-abiding publications whether big or small.

The real question is why these select few publications got away with it for so long. The answer to that question has never been 'lack of legislation' - moreover the existing legislation has not been applied. And that is the biggest WTF about the whole sordid affair.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

"How's it going to cock things up?"

Because it will be down to a state-crafted regulator to decide what is true and what isn't. This isn't hyperbole. Putting aside defamation for a second, if you assert a fact or opinion that a PR or politician disagrees with, they'll take it to the regulator. That regulator will then decide what the truth is. Good luck doing that if the fact is based on protected but trusted sources who cannot be disclosed, or if the opinion is contrary to the panel's sensibilities.

We like to call the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport the "Ministry of Fun", and scientists "boffins". I can imagine the corrections on that. And this is the TRIVIAL stuff, let alone proper reporting. Every day we get PRs asking for headlines to be changed, and we resist because it's freedom of speech.

Yet now, the regulator decides what is truth and what is allowable opinion; it's state-licensed publishing by the backdoor. The watchdog will order you to run a correction and an apology if it deems so, and fine you up to £1m or 1% of your revenue.

Now, imagine struggling regional papers being bombarded with complaints from sniping PRs and pushy councillors who want the news told in their way. Imagine online outlets coming under fire from corporations who are already pissed off that you didn't just run the press release as written.

Ironically, the big boys - the media moguls this law was supposed to slap down - can easily afford this and may stick to soft celeb stuff more than they do now just in case. If you hate the press now for being lazy and ineffectual, you're really going to see some serious shit.

It's not automatically the end of the world; I don't think the publishing sector will collapse overnight. The regulator may roll over like the PCC. Everyone may boycott it and take up the ridiculous libel penalties to the ECHR. Paying all court costs even if you win doesn't sound like a fair trial to me.

But even so, yes, it will cock everything up. It will cock up complaints, apologies, legal bills, revenue, revenge, truth, facts, opinion, the works. Because this law is so vague and there are plenty of people with an axe to grind.

All IMHO. Views do not necessarily represent my employers'.

C.

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Childcatcher

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

Whilst I would agree with the sentiment that the politicians are cocking everything up, my response is that they have not done so 'yet'! The devil is in the details and so when the dust settles a bit, the smaller outlets will need to put representatives forward who will scrutinise the wording and make sure the idiots do not write something completely contradictory or stifling.

Just because something may be done badly, does not mean you should not do it at all. And while it would be unfair to punish the smaller outlets for the sins of the bigger ones, they still have to obey the rules. As they pretty much do so anyway, it should not be hard to keep them 'within compliance' as long as they make sure they are represented when drafting the legislation. That is democracy these days.

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@diodesign

>Because it will be down to a state-crafted regulator to decide what it true and what isn't.

Er, that already happens when people make a formal complaint about the media doing something unlawful. The place is known as a court and the person who mades the decision is usually referred to as a judge. The judge is appointed by the government.

It's just that complaining has gotten easier. That's the route of your actual complaint- all of this hyperbole about how there's been a fundamental change to free speech is misconceived.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: @diodesign

"The place is known as a court and the person who mades the decision is usually referred to as a judge"

No, you're confusing defamation with non-defamatory reporting. There's no law* that enforces accuracy in articles beyond defamatory statements precisely because outside of defamation, deciding what is true and what isn't is a nightmare. Show me the act of Parliament that makes saying something incorrect but not defamatory unlawful.

Let's say we describe a company's decision as a U-turn. That's not a serious libel. But the company's PR doesn't want it described that way. It's a strategic stroke of genius, they'll say. We'll quote them in the story to that effect. But they want the headline and the copy changed. We refuse. They can't go to court. There's nothing to sue for.

So they go to the regulator. The regulator then decides the truth, the narrative and what can and can't be said. Isn't that chilling? Or will you wait until your free speech is taken away?

(All IMVHO)

C.

* Actually, Contempt of Court Act slaps down inaccurate reporting of an ongoing case if there's a chance of prejudicing a jury. I'll grant you that.

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Re: @diodesign

IANAL but unfortunately I have some experience with tribunals. And the judges in tribunal do indeed adjudicate on the truth ("matters of fact"). I understand that to be a general principle, except in a jury trial where the jury becomes the judges of fact. So your assertion that we don't have people deciding the truth, is wrong. So I guess the question would be "would a reasonable person see it as a U-turn?" And, based on my reading of El Reg, you'll be safe.

In my experience, most judges are pretty sharp. (And for the rest, there is the appeals process.) The quality of the regulator remains an open question. And the general sloppiness of the wording there will no doubt be an initial splurge of cases of the sort you outline, until precedent is settled. But regulation doesn't seem to have stymied the broadcast media who, for example, exposed Saville, problems in care homes, etc... I have no vote in the matter, but I don't see much to be concerned about.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: @diodesign

My understanding is that defamation (a person saying something that lowers another's reputation in the eyes of a reasonable third person) through libel is actionable per se in the UK- i.e. you don't need to prove any actual damage to bring it to court (slander you do, which is why people are so keen to have internet forum rants seen as slander). Truth is a defence to a libellous comment (i.e. it gets you out of paying damages and costs), it doesn't stop the comment from being libellous and you have to go to the expense of proving in court that your comment was true. Opinion is similar.

The upshot of this is that your U-turn example would be something that a vexatious person could bring to Court under the present system. Even if it was a flimsy case, you could easily be bullied into changing your headline by an angry letter and the thought of all the legal fees. I don't think you're losing anything.

This is especially so as, having (albeit quickly) read the legislation, it doesn't seem that there is anything in there (malicious falsehood is already a tort) that you can sue for under the charter than you can't sue for already in the Courts. The Royal Charter for the press hasn't yet been finalised as parliament will doubtlessly amend it, so that's not for certain but then again, it could conceivably also contain a requirement for El Reg to keep a gibbon on the premises at all times (I would support this amendment).

The two main flashing lights of the Charter don't seem to be being addressed by anyone are:

1) Parliament isn't constitutionally supposed to be able to bind itself- the whole 2/3 majority thing can technically be overturned by a simple majority and

2) We just don't know- nor do we know what other Royal Charters the government will sign in (that's the *real* scary thing, not regulation of the printed word to a miniscule extent compared to the broadcasted word).

*Contempt of Court not only slaps down inaccurate reporting, it also slaps down anything prejudicial to the case, e.g. if someone had a history of unrelated offences, you wouldn't be able to report them before the verdict came in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

"All IMHO"

And it's a humble opinion you're welcome to, but it's one that is wrong.

Your point is contingent on one key line of your post.

"Because it will be down to a state-crafted regulator to decide what is true and what isn't"

This simply isn't the case, and it's a point that it is important to clarify, lest one be drawn into the torygraph/mail/index on censorship hyperbole on the issue. The regulator differs in a few ways from what you're implying.

1) The form of the regulator is entirely up to the press. The press will write the code it enforces and set the rules it enforces them by. The rules will be recognised by a largely non-press body (1 representative from the press) independent of political actors and the enforcement itself will be done by another similarly independent non-press body. It is not state crafted in any way, and indeed stands as one of only two bills in history to have an entrenchment clause designed to prevent parliament from exerting control.

2) The regulator is entirely voluntary. You don't have to join it. It is there to provide additional protections for those who wish to mark themselves as willing to play by the rules the rest of us want them to play by. If you want to carry on just working within the frameworks of legislation and justice, you are entirely free to do so, but you do run the risk of higher costs should any "reasonable" cases be brought against you. Your examples of things like "Ministry of Fun" or "Boffins" would not constitute "reasonable" defamation even under our current archaic framework.

3) The legislation that was passed serves to enforce the carrot/stick systems of arbitration under the regulator or exemplary damages outside of the regulator. I can understand why independent publications, particularly ones like dear ol' aunty reg, might hate this, but the simple fact is this kind of regulation of the press is something the public really, really want. [http://yougov.co.uk/news/2012/11/28/leveson-what-public-really-want/] It does not constitute "state crafting" of the rules, or even the regulator that is going to uphold those rules.

4) The regulator will not be concerned with "truth", but conduct. In this element it actually stands to provide strong protection from, for example, defamation cases for those willing to submit to its rules. Cases will be handled in arbitration, concerned with practice in good faith, rather than in court, where truth matters regardless of conduct and costs are inevitably higher for all involved. This is a simple trade off and one that in no way compromises the free press. It may, as you suggested earlier, incur higher costs, but it will only do so if you A) refuse to join the regulator and B) engage in defamatory conduct to the satisfaction of the courts. If you run a clean operation but don't join the regulator, you'll continue to operate as before. If you run a borderline operation (think Private Eye) and regularly fall foul of the courts without malice or poor practice, the arbitration process and protection from heavy damages will serve to reduce costs for all involved. If you both refuse to join the regulator and continue to flout the rules of common decency, well, basically, fuck you.

There are plenty of reasons to criticise this plan, plenty of ways to fight for its improvement. Anyone paying attention will, for example, have noted that the entire middle section of this article has changed. It originally referred to a definition in the Charter, rather than the Act, concerned with defining "the press" for the means of constructing the recognition, drafting and enforcement panels of the regulator. It now [correctly] refers to definitions concerned with who would be subject to exemplary damages. The point is that these rules and structures will be crafted by the press and it is up to them whether they join them. If you think that puts the press at risk, engage with the process, join the panel as journalists [remember journalists had no input to the PCC], write the rules, form your industry's future. Lobby your MPs, ensure proper protections for journalism pass with the new defamation bill. Do not sit on an ivory tower pretending this is state licensing of the press.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

"The form of the regulator is entirely up to the press"

We'll see how that works out. As I understand it, members of the press are excluded right from the start in organising the regulator.

"The regulator is entirely voluntary"

And if you don't sign up, it's pay all costs if you successfully defend a libel case, and face huge damages if you lose. Now that's making an offer you can't refuse.

"the entire middle section of this article has changed"

No, that's overstating the mark somewhat. The first pull-out par in bold quoted the charter when it should have quoted the law; this was fixed up very soon after publication. The point being made wasn't derailed by this accident, but it's obviously a good idea to refer to the correct document.

C.

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Re: Rikkeh

[ this post won't have my Reg badge for various boring reasons ]

"My understanding is that defamation..."

Yes, brilliant. But I'm not talking about defamation. We already have a law for that. It may be harsh but at least it's more or less stable. I'm talking about non-defamatory, non-prejudicial reporting that is suddenly being controlled outside of a court room.

"A vexatious person could bring to Court under the present system"

Yes, indeed. It's a risk we take whenever we publish. But at least courts know when to throw things out for being frivolous; a CFA lawyer will know that too. But this, again, is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about a regulator that's wildly emerged with the powers to really cock things up as I've previously described.

And, as you say and as Andrew touched upon in the story, the watchdog can grant its own powers. There are many things wrong with all of this, all for the sake of putting Murdoch in a bad mood for a couple of hours.

C.

(PS: you're right about CoCA, although it doesn't negate my point)

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Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

We hear a lot about how the only way to preserve good investigative journalism is through the free action of an unregulated press.

I guess an example of that would be how little investigative journalism ever gets done through highly regulated media outlets such as television.

Of course, if television is managing to have solid investigative journalism then the racket that News International and the Daily Hatemail group are making can be considered the mindless moaning and wailing of wild beasts, devoid of thought or meaning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

"I guess an example of that would be how little investigative journalism ever gets done through highly regulated media outlets such as television."

I'd have to contest this. Most recently, the Jimmy Savile affair began with a TV investigation and the BBC's failure to broadcast their investigation was uncovered by another TV investigation, and prior to that we had the Winterbourne View abuse. If the idea that no regulation led to better investigative journalism held true, the best investigations would be coming from the entirely unregulated world of the internet. The dominance of the print press in investigative work is primarily a matter of resources. TV is expensive to produce, it's difficult to peel off half a dozen news staff to a three month project that, at best, is going to fill a single 60 minute episode of Panorama or Dispatches. That's particularly true when the details of the stories they produce are often data heavy. It's difficult to turn something like an analysis of MP's expenses claims into compelling television.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pile of c**p being disseminated by the media

"We'll see how that works out. As I understand it, members of the press are excluded right from the start in organising the regulator."

The image you've linked contradicts that. The code committee, which is the one that will actually be setting the rules, will be two thirds drawn from the press, one third each editors and journalists, with the final third a panel of independents intended to moderate the process. As the boards will operate on a principle of majority, principle, this gives the press effective powers of self-regulation, introducing proper oversight of the enforcement of that regulation. They will set their own rules, and as long as they meet the fairly low bar set in the legislation, those rules will be recognised under the royal charter and anyone signing up to them will be granted significant protections from the law. In the other two key arms, the main board and the appointing board, the press will hold a slight minority of seats. They're not being "excluded" in any way, they're being involved at every stage, and have control of the most important stage - setting the regulations.

"And if you don't sign up, it's pay all costs if you successfully defend a libel case, and face huge damages if you lose. Now that's making an offer you can't refuse."

And how often are small publications like the register sued for defamation? There is a test in place in legislation for this, and it's the judge's old favourite of "reasonable cases". While exposure is increased (at the end of the day, that's kind of the point), the risk of frivolous cases being brought by the defamation equivalent of ambulance chasers is low - those who bring unreasonable cases tend to be saddled with the entire legal costs themselves. This risk will be further mitigated with the assent of the Defamation Bill, which will bring into statute a range of measures aimed at eliminating frivolous cases, including a requirement for the claimant to prove they have suffered "serious harm" before the case can be heard.

"No, that's overstating the mark somewhat."

True, but what would the register be without a daily dose of hyperbole?

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Re: Having to publish corrections.

I'd suggest doing so in a manner just on the legal side of facetiousness.

"The Rt Hon. Gentleman has submitted a court order compelling us to publish the following...:" (insert bullhit here)

"...end court-ordered publication. Normal service resumed."

Or "we said this.." "...the court order has compelled us to correct it to this..."

I'm sure the Reg hacks have plenty of imagination. As do most of the press.

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Re: Rikkeh

Should probably start by saying that I appreciate you taking the time to do a substantive reply and go "off badge" to do so.

The Civil Procedure Rules (the laws governing how litigation in the English Court is conducted) already have a provision that hammers people for costs where they unreasonably refuse to engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In many cases tried in this country, judges will pause claims for weeks and send the parties out to try and solve their dispute through mediation or another form of ADR, sometimes without either of the parties really wanting that.

My point is that laws just like the Royal Charter being proposed have been here for years and the sky hasn't fallen in (nor have the UK press complained about them nearly as vigourously). The point I made in my previous comments is that (barring crazy amendments- but one runs that risk with every bit of legislation every day) nothing will be unlawful that wasn't unlawful before.

You're just being pushed into ADR, in the same way that UK litigants generally are pushed into ADR every day, how is that a change to how you will operate day to day? The costs consequences I talk about above aren't the same as exemplary damages admittedly, but that's more a feature of who wrote the law, rather than the law's effect (and, I suspect that if the lawyers in parliament get a good grip on the Bill, costs consequences will replace exemplary damages).

I (and I don't think I'm alone here) think the press is blowing the issue out of all proportion because it doesn't want to be regulated, regardless of the actual merits of arguments for or against that regulation. This is causing them to reach for old school "freedom of the press" and "stalinist" dog whistles that look ridiculous when (as many others have pointed out) broadcast journalism has done amazing work in a much more tightly regulated environment.

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Black Helicopters

Oh dear. Here we go again.

Remember those anti-terror laws? The ones intended for terrorist? You know, the ones your local council used to check you were putting your bins out on time? Yes, those ones.

When you hear a politician say "Oh, don't worry. Maybe the language could have been a little clearer, but I promise this won't be abused" you can safely assume that either:

a) they are stupid

b) they think you are stupid

c) they are lying through their teeth

d) any combination of the above

Because as sure a shit stinks a blogger is going to end up in a court sometime soon.

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Re: Oh dear. Here we go again.

Yes, we all saw how well those anti-terror laws worked out for Paul Chambers, didn't we? Common sense prevailed in the end but my god he had to work for it.

FWIW, I don't condone what he said - it was a stupid, crass, knee-jerk comment. But he didn't deserve the stupidity shitstorm which landed on him as a result.

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Stop

Re: Oh dear. Here we go again.

Whilst I broadly agree with your concerns, I am pretty damn sure that my local council hasn't been using anti-terror laws to check if I have been putting my bins out on time.

Yes, these laws may be poorly worded, vague, unnecessary, and may have been abused in specific circumstances, but such hyperbolic rhetoric does nothing to aid the case against them. If anything, it undermines the argument, when it gets called out as bullshit.

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