Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Press regulation ~ Further inquiry?

Remember the Leveson Inquiry?  Its website was archived in 2014 - HERE.   The 4 Volume Report (29th November 2012) is HERE.

Eseentially, the Leveson Report recommended a system of self-regulation for the press underpinned by legislation.

The outcome of the events that followed was the creation - by Royal Charter - of the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) and the enactment of some sections in the Crime and Courts Act 2013 - notably section 40. Section 40 has not been brought into force.

In March 2018 it was announced that the government had decided not to reconvene the Leveson Inquiry even though a second stage had been envisaged to examine relationships between journalists and the Police.  - The Guardian 1st March.  The Conservative Party Manifesto - published for the 2017 general election - stated that the second part of the Leveson Inquiry would not take place and also that section 40 would be repealed - BBC 18th May 2017.

Earlier this month, the House of Commons voted (304 to 295) against holding a further inquiry - BBC 9th May.  The vote took place in the context of the Data Protection Bill 2017-19  which commenced its parliamentary progress in the Lords.  The actual clause voted on may be seen at Hansard Online 9th May.  The proposed investigation would have a much broader scope than Leveson and would include topics such as fake news and the misuse of data by social media companies, potentially causing headaches for the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

The Bill returned to the Lords and , on 14th May, the House voted (252 to 213) to reverse the Commons vote - see the Debate 14th May.

In moving the successful amendment in the Lords, crossbench peer Baroness Hollins said - "Holding an inquiry will not restrict freedom; rather, it will support it by shining a spotlight on what has been done illegally and unethically to the detriment of hundreds of ordinary people, including my daughter and my family before I became a Member of your Lordships’ House. As explained by my noble friend Lord Kerslake regarding his findings after the Manchester Arena bombing, there is no evidence that enough lessons have been learned by all sections of the media or that there is adequate accountability. I do not consider that the review by the Information Commissioner is in any way a substitute for completing the inquiry. The job has not been done, and with respect to IPSO, I believe I am right in saying that so far only around 12 of more than 90 of Sir Brian Leveson’s recommendations have been implemented. In formally moving my amendment, I wish to test the opinion of the House."

Against this view, the News Media Association comments that - "Legislation aimed at making our data protection laws fit for the digital age must not be used to enforce state-backed press regulation and obstruct investigative journalism.  Setting up a costly and unnecessary, taxpayer-funded public inquiry into the whole media industry and introducing another punitive version of Section 40 costs sanctions against newspapers and magazines, would inflict huge damage on a free press" - see  The Threat to Press Freedom

On 15th May, the matter returned for a further vote in the House of Commons.  The Commons voted 301 to 289 to disagree with the Lords amendment to the Data Protection Bill relating to personal data for the purposes of journalism.  Read the amendment (62B).

A useful summary of the situation regarding press regulation is Research Briefing 07576 - Press Regulation after Leveson - unfinished businesss?

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