A rather lightweight report on the regulation of the press in Scotland has recommended statutory controls underpinned by law which applies to all news media no matter how small.
John McCluskey was invited to chair a committee by First Minister Alex Salmond after the Leveson Report. The McCluskey report concluded that a voluntary code was unlikely to work, but opposition parties at Holyrood described the proposals as draconian
The former high court judge and solicitor general chaired a group set up to recommend press regulation reforms in Scotland.
His report recommended the creation of an independent, non-statutory, regulatory body of a character to be proposed by the press , alongside an independent body with responsibility for ensuring that the independent regulatory body complies at
all times with the Leveson principles .
The expert group said that if Westminster fails to create a UK-wide press regulator, Holyrood should create one.
The regulator could have the power to censor newspapers, magazines and websites, including gossip sites, while the expert group said further regulation of social media may also be required.
The co-convener of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, said his party supported the implementation of the Leveson proposals. But he added:
The McCluskey report appears to go much further than anyone had expected.
To include every source of news coverage would result in a torrent of complaints about every website, every blog, even every single tweet. I cannot see how this is remotely practical, even if it was desirable.
If the will exists in Scotland to see the Leveson proposals implemented, it should not be beyond our ability to ensure that professional, commercial media organisations are properly regulated, but individual citizens are not caught up in the same system.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said:
We agreed with the first minister that this group should look solely at the technicalities of implementing Leveson in Scots law. We did not agree to the Leveson recommendations being re-written or built upon.
While Lord McCluskey and his fellow panel members are not to be criticised, rather than pursue the original agreed objective they were asked to rework Leveson on a ridiculously short timescale.
That in itself appears to be bad faith on the first minister's part. We hope he will take forward the recommendation that Scotland would be best served by having a UK-wide solution.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the first minister of trying to shackle a free press at a time of the utmost political sensitivity .
A shellshocked newspaper industry was struggling to come to terms with a sudden all-party agreement to create a
powerful new press censor.
The nominally independent censor seems be subject to state approval and will have powers to impose fines and demand prominent corrections. Courts will be allowed to impose exemplary damages on newspapers that fail to join the body.
All three party leaders hailed the historic deal, sealed in extraordinary late-night talks on Sunday in the office of the Labour leader Ed Miliband after months of wrangling, but many of the country's leading newspaper publishers were ominously
Under the deal, the newspaper industry has lost its power to veto appointments to the body that will replace the Press Complaints Commission.
In a statement, Associated Newspapers, News International, the Telegraph Media Group and the Express's publishers, Northern & Shell, said they would be taking high-level legal advice before deciding if they could join the new watchdog. The
deal, they said, raised several deeply contentious issues.
No representative of the newspaper and magazine industry had any involvement in, or indeed any knowledge of, the cross-party talks on press regulation that took place on Sunday night, they said. We have only late this afternoon seen the royal charter
that the political parties have agreed between themselves and, more pertinently, the recognition criteria, early drafts of which contained several deeply contentious issues which have not yet been resolved with the industry.
Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's editor-in-chief, gave a cautious welcome to the deal. He said:
We welcome the fact that there has been cross-party agreement. The regulatory settlement is by and large a fair one, with compromises on all sides. We retain grave reservations about the proposed legislation on exemplary damages. The agreed terms are not
ideal but after two years of inquiry and debate we finally have the prospect of what the public wants - a robust regulator that is independent of both press and politics. It's a big improvement on what went before.
Downing Street sought to reassure small-scale web-based news providers and blogs that they would not be required to co-operate with the new regulatory system. No 10 said bloggers, tweeters, news aggregators and social networking sites such as Facebook or
Twitter, as well as special interest titles, would be excluded, but there was concern that a workable definition of these would be difficult to come up with.
The British Government Has Decided To Censor The Entire World's Press And Media
They've agreed a law which effectively censors the entire world's media. And they've done this simply because they are ignorant of the very laws they're trying to change. Which is, I think you'll agree, a little disturbing, that politicians would
casually negate press freedom just because they don't know what they're doing.
The problem is the particular restrictions that they've decided to bring in. Essentially, to be a news or current affairs publisher then you must be registered as such with some regulatory body. That this is a despicable idea goes without saying: it's a
reversal of the past three hundred years of liberty where we've been allowed to say or print whatever we damn well want to subject only to the laws of libel, incitement to immediate violence and pressing concerns of national security (and even that last
was a voluntary matter). If there's a complaint about something you've published then that regulatory body can get you to correct it, apologise, pay damages and so on. And of course we all worry that this will then morph into more direct control of the
The basis of the English legal system is that yes, of course, you can bring a case against anyone you like for whatever you want to allege. But the limit on people doing so is that if they lose said case then they've got to pay the legal costs of the
defendant. This is how we prevent most (but sadly not all) frivolous cases from ever making it to court. You have to take a risk in bringing a case.
Note that, if you're a publisher who is not regulated, then you won't get your defense costs paid even if you do win. Therefore there will be costs associated with being complained about: whether that complaint has any justification or none. This does
rather leave all press outlets open to shakedowns from anyone and everyone.
Bloggers could face high fines for libel under the new Leveson deal with exemplary damages imposed if they don't sign up to the new regulator, it was claimed on Tuesday.
Under clause 29 introduced to the crime and courts bill in the Commons on Monday night, the definition of relevant bloggers or websites includes any that generate news material where there is an editorial structure giving someone control over
Bloggers would not be at risk of exemplary damages for comments posted by readers. There is also a schedule that excludes certain publishers such as scientific journals, student publications and not-for-profit community newspapers. Websites are
guaranteed exclusion from exemplary damages if they can get on this list.
Kirsty Hughes, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, which campaigns for press freedom around the world, said it was a sad day for British democracy. This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on everyday people's web use, she said.
She said she feared thousands of websites could fall under the definition of a relevant publisher in clause 29. Hughes said:
Bloggers could find themselves subject to exemplary damages, due to the fact that they were not part of a regulator that was not intended for them in the first place.
There does seem to be two exclusions to signing up for censorship. Solo bloggers seem to be excluded as the law only applies to websites with multiple (presumably two) authors. There is also an exclusion for single interest publications, but definition
are vague enough that this will be worthless when courts get involved and interpret the rules to suit the authorities.
Offsite: An in-depth examination of the bill's clauses about liability to news censorship
The Leveson-inspired draft bill deals with the past, not the future, of the press in failing to address the myriad ways we now receive news' What Miller seems to want to define is a news business , which fails to admit any complexity at all
in the news ecosystem as it is presently constructed.
The press is melting before our very eyes, and the public it served is trickling away in a thousand different streams. The impact a story has now is as much dependent on the network it travels through as on the news brand that presents it.
The sole blogger , or even a person in possession of a microblogging Twitter account, can have as devastating effect on any number of lives as the front page of a tabloid newspaper. Under Miller's definition of press , the richest
and most powerful publishers of all, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are arguably exempt because they do not seek to exercise editorial control or indeed report news as part of a business model. It would be interesting to know whether Miller views
an algorithm as editorial control . I suspect not, even though by most definitions it is just that. It was once the case that to reach a broad audience you needed an industrial publishing complex behind you, whereas now, you just need a mobile
As the bell tolls for press freedom, the realisation that a whole host of tiny websites, including Big Brother Watch, would be covered by the provisions of the new press regulator is dawning on Westminster.
On Monday, the Lords will vote on the legislation underpinning the Royal Charter on press-self regulation. They will determine who is to be a relevant publisher and at present risks catching broadly any site that is has more than one
author, carries news or information about current affairs, or gossip about celebrities, and has some kind of editorial control.
We are urgently trying to garner support for the below amendment to exclude small organisations from the provisions of what is already becoming an unwieldy and unpredictable piece of legislative horse trading.
This is not an ideal situation -- as with most things formulated in meetings at 2am -- and it would make much more sense for this to be handled rationally and thought through properly. This amendment protects a few, but the principle has already gone.
We are still looking for a peer to table this amendment -- any help is appreciated -- please call the office on 0207 3406030.
Insert into New Schedule 5 of the Crime and Courts Bill Exclusions from definition of "relevant publisher"
9) "A publisher who does not exceed the definition of a small or medium-sized enterprise as defined in Section 382 and 465 Companies Act 2006."
Let us be clear
The manner in which this has been brought to bear, in 2am meetings with lobbyists, no civil society input, rushed drafting and ill-considered consequences should not be the way to make law. Indeed, we cannot think of a worse way to make law.
The explosive revelations that websites will be included in the post-Leveson press regulation arrangements this weekend led to a flurry of analysis --- and a meeting between Hacked Off, bloggers and free speech groups yesterday.
Half-Hearted Implementation of Leveson Recommendations is Missed Opportunity for Fair and Equal Representation of Women in the Media
Equality Now, Eaves, Object and the End Violence Against Women Coalition welcome the decision by the government to implement at least the majority of Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations -- particularly in relation to permitting third-party complaints.
However, we consider the currently proposed plan of implementation to be a missed opportunity.
Holly Dustin of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
The much-compromised plan does not provide any guidance about women's equality in the new code; it does not propose that any representative of the equality sector might be part of the new body, and it has made no attempt to bring consistency between the
broadcast watershed and print media in terms of sexually explicit material.
We have highlighted that the current drafting of relevant publisher for the purposes of the Leveson law risks capturing blogs and organisations like Big Brother Watch in a system of regulation never intended for them.
The Government's amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill exempts a person who publishes a small-scale blog from the definition of relevant publisher is an attempt to deal with growing concern, as demonstrated by the 20 person signatory
letter in Saturday's Guardian.
Sadly the amendment offers no definition of what is small scale or how it relates to an organisation who publishes the blog in question, so the compromise arguably makes the situation worse. The first time an organisation is sued as being a
relevant publisher would have to fight in court to prove they are not -- or risk facing exemplary damages. That could be a hefty legal bill and for small organisations a fight they might not be able to even consider, let alone see to the end.
However the Government stills seems keen to only exclude the tiniest of the tiny
The government has moved to exclude small-scale bloggers from the threat of media regulation, and will hold a mini-consultation with the newspaper industry on how best to construct a workable definition of the bloggers that need to be protected.
Ministers concede that the definitions offered so far may have loopholes, and will attempt to put in place a clear watertight amendment after Easter when the crown and courts bill returns to the Commons.
Lord McNally, the justice minister, said the government's aim was to bring under the ambit of the regulator only the main elements of the press as well as what he defined as press-like activity online. He said:
I have seen over the past week some concerns voiced regarding the extent to which bloggers and tweeters may be caught.
Clearly, the online version of the national press or their regional counterparts, or indeed an online press-like news site, carry with them very different public expectations when compared with a small-scale blog or for that matter a tweet.
Bloggers will be offered a three-week mini-consultation period, a senior source from the Labour party has
told Liberal Conspiracy, to help draft the legislation on web regulation.
The controversial legislation on press and web regulation is likely to be finalised in mid-April. The currently drafted rules exclude various types of publishers including the BBC and other broadcasters, special interest magazines and political
A senior source from the shadow media team said the three political parties were looking for the right definition of a small blog.
This [definition] has to steer a path between exempting blogs that are really small and not providing a legal loophole so that newspapers get exemption on all their online activity or are encouraged to avoid the law by restructuring themselves into a
series of small bodies.
We also need to future-proof the law so that as papers gradually move online, we don't see a slide back into the old world.
The aim of the consultation is to determine how to measure size: whether by company turnover, readership, number of staff or some combination.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up to address the culture, practices and ethics of the press, including contacts between the press and politicians and the press and the police . Our views diverge on whether the outcome of the Leveson process -- and
the plans for a new regulator -- are the best way forward. But where we all agree is that current attempts at regulating blogs and other small independent news websites are critically flawed.
The government has defined a relevant publisher for the purposes of press regulation in a way that seeks to draft campaign groups and community-run websites covering neighbourhood planning applications and local council affairs into a regulator
designed for the Guardian, Sun and Daily Mail.
Even the smallest of websites will be threatened with the stick of punitive exemplary damages if they fall foul of a broad range of torts, encompassing everything from libel to breach of confidence . The authors of these proposals should
reflect on their remarkable achievement of uniting both Tom Watson and Rupert Murdoch in opposition.
This appears to be the outcome of a botched late-night drafting process and complete lack of consultation with bloggers, online journalists and social media users, who may now be caught in regulations which trample on grassroots democratic activity and
Britain's emerging digital economy.
Leveson was meant to be focused on the impact of big media . In the end it may come to be seen as a damaging attack on Britain's blogosphere, which rather than being a weakness in British politics, has proved time and time again that it is a real
We will all continue to write, campaign, cajole, amuse and irritate online. But we consider the current proposals a fundamental threat to doing just that.
The Media Reform Coalition has launched a consultation for small publishers, online bloggers and
journalists to speak up on the new press regulation deal.
On April 15 the House of Commons will return from Easter recess, and soon after that will consider the Crime and Courts Bill -- a crucial part of the statutory backing to the new Royal Charter which provides for independent media self-regulation.
But the Bill as currently drafted has
some big problems : it doesn't adequately protect small publishers from punishments intended for media moguls and it doesn't provide the legal backing for them to join or form a regulator further down the line.
The House of Lords has shown clear intention to solve these issues by adding a holding amendment excluding "small-scale bloggers", but we need to lobby the Commons to transform this into something clear, versatile and workable. That's why we
want your input.
Maria Miller, the relevant Secretary of State, has made noises about consulting with the 'newspaper industry' over the Easter recess. She has said nothing about engaging with other kinds of news organisations -- hence this consultation.
We hope to rally small publishers, online news sites and bloggers behind a set of proposal so that we can collectively lobby all three parties to make sure the C&C Bill does the job it should.
The survey focuses primarily on who you think should be liable for exemplary damages and cost penalties, and who you think should get the benefits It lists several options for the protection of small publishers, such as excluding non-profit organisations
or setting an income threshold for inclusion as a "relevant publisher".
It also asks whether the costs benefits of joining a recognised self-regulator should be available to anyone who joins, regardless of whether they are a "relevant publisher" -- and whether respondents would join an affordable regulator if it
made costs protection available to them.
The responses to the consultation will be used to provide the political parties with input on the clauses going through Parliament after the Easter recess that will affect small news organisations.
If you are a small publisher, online writer, or blogger of any kind, we want to hear from you. Please do look over our documents and take our survey -- and spread it around to as many people as you can!
The Government writes about the need for bloggers and small media companies having to sign up to the proposed news censor:
Following the initial debate in Parliament, we have refined the clauses to make it absolutely clear that small blogs are outside of the scheme.
The amendments, which have cross-party agreement, make clear that small blogs will not be classed as relevant publishers , and be considered by the House of Commons on Monday April 22.
The provisions in the Crime and Courts Bill clauses detail the four tests that must be met to be considered a relevant publisher, which are:
publish news-related material
publish in the course of a business
written by different authors
subject to editorial controls
The amendments clarify the government's position on small blogs by further defining the exemption for blogs that are classed as micro-businesses - business with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover below £
2 million. This is the definition used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Despite not falling under the definition of relevant publisher, any publication that is exempt as a micro-business as a result of these amendments could still choose to join a regulator and receive the legal benefits otherwise only available to relevant
publishers in the regulator. That means protection from exemplary damages. It also means that use of the arbitral arm in the regulator will be taken into account by the court when awarding costs.
The clauses also list certain categories of publications which are exempt, even when those tests are met. These exemptions include special interest titles, scientific or academic journals, broadcasters and book publishers as as well as a public body,
charity or company that publishes news about their activities.
The majority of the newspaper industry, made up of five of the country's largest press groups, have rejected cross-party plans for
newspaper censorship and launched a bid to set up their own royal charter-backed body.
News International, the publisher of the Sun and Times, the Telegraph Media Group, the Daily Mail's publisher Associated Newspapers, Trinity Mirror and Express Newspapers published a draft royal charter saying they rejected the stitch-up put
together by the three political parties.
The newspapers said the original government royal charter unveiled on 15 March and endorsed by parliament:
Has no support within the press. A number of its recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press.
David Cameron said he was very happy to look at the proposals and his aides said he needed time to examine the gaps between what the parties had agreed and the industry was proposing.
But a spokesman for the culture department stood firm by the original plans endorsed by the Commons and Lords:
We want to see a tough, independent self-regulator implemented swiftly. The royal charter published on 18 March followed 21 weeks of discussion and has cross-party agreement.
The Government's proposal for a Royal Charter on the future of news censorship has been put on hold after newspaper editors put forward an alternative plan.
The Royal Charter was due to be signed by the Queen when she chaired the next meeting of the Privy Council on May 15, but it has now been taken off the agenda for the meeting so the Government can hold more talks with editors.
Editors are unhappy with an element of statutory underpinning in the Government's proposal, and last month they published their own proposal for a Royal Charter, which would remove Parliament's proposed power to make changes to the regulatory system
without the agreement of the industry.
A news censor for the press with very real teeth could be established within three or four months to break the political
impasse over royal charters, according to a Trinity Mirror executive involved with the project.
Paul Vickers, the legal director of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, said the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) was being fast-tracked in an attempt to kill off accusations that big newspaper groups are conspiring to delay the
introduction of a new censor backed by royal charter. Vickers told BBC Radio 4's The World at One:
What were doing today is setting up a mechanism for creating a self-regulatory system. It's not dependent on a royal charter.
It will take some months to set up because we are following proper public appointment processes. It will be three or four months at the shortest before it's set up.
Draft proposals for setting up Ipso were announced in a joint statement by companies including Rupert Murdoch's News UK, the Daily Mail publisher, Associated Newspapers, and Telegraph Media Group. They said Ipso would be a complete break with the past
and would deliver all the key Leveson recommendations for reform of press regulation.
Vickers said Ipso would have an investigative arm and would impose tough sanctions on errant publishers, including fines of up to £ 1m for systemic wrongdoing, giving it absolute teeth, very real teeth .
Ipso will also offer a whistleblowers' hotline to allow journalists to object to editors who ask them to do anything they believe is unethical.
Victor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, has been condemned by world leaders for introducing the most terrifying press laws since the Cold War . But not a mention by David Cameron
The prime minister's failure to confront Orban is the first evidence of warnings by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, that introducing statutory regulation in Britain will undermine Britain's ability to promote free speech.
Cameron and his government are now at loggerheads with the British newspapers over plans to impose a press censorship regime.
Earlier this week Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, rejected proposals by newspapers to establish a system of self-regulation backed by fines of up to £ 1million for those who breach the code.
Index on Censorship, which campaigns for greater press freedom, described Cameron's failure to confront Mr Orban as a great shame . A spokesman said:
They have introduced some of the most terrifying press and media ownership laws since the Cold War. It is really at the front line of censorship in Europe at the moment. It seems a great shame that the Prime Minister would not even raise this.
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, has announced that the main political parties had agreed rules for the new news censor who will police journalists' conduct and deal with complaints.
MPs have proposed a system underpinned by statute, compelling newspapers to submit to the new regime. Those that refuse to participate would face deliberately unfair trials in the event of libel cases.
The latest plan was drawn up in talks between Miller for the Conservatives, Harriet Harman for Labour and Lord Wallace of Tankerness for the Liberal Democrats. It is expected to be approved by the Privy Council on Oct 30.
Following criticism from the industry, politicians agreed that people filing complaints against newspapers could face a fee under the new regulatory regime, to deter speculative or frivolous claims. They also agreed that editors could be involved in
drawing up a new code of conduct for the press, which would be approved by the news censor.
Offsite Comment: The secret state is just itching to gag the press
More than 200 celebritiies, from JK Rowling to Rowan Williams, feature in Hacked Off ad supporting the press censorship system rejected by publishers.
More than 200 leading figures from the arts and academia, including writers, film-makers, actors, comics and broadcasters, have signed a declaration of support for a system of press censorship underpinned by royal charter.
They include Danny Boyle, Michael Palin, Sir Tom Stoppard, Sir David Attenborough, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Alan Bennett, Dame AS Byatt, Irvine Welsh, Bob Geldof, Ian McEwan, John Cleese, VS Naipaul, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the former archbishop of
Canterbury Rowan Williams.
Their names appear in full-page advertisements published in three national titles. The declaration, and the assembling of the names, has been organised by Hacked Off.
But the royal charter has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of newspaper and magazine publishers, who are on the verge of creating a new regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso). Its founders have said they will not
seek recognition under the royal charter, which they regard as state restriction on press freedom .
The new press censor IPSO - the Independent Press Standards Organisation - has appointed Matt Tee as its first chief executive. Tee said:
I am excited to be appointed to be Chief Executive of IPSO.
A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. To be effective and credible, IPSO must be independent and free from the control of the press or the state.
It will understand the press but be tough when there is wrongdoing.
Tee is currently chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation, before that, he was Permanent Secretary Government Communication.
IPSO is due to start work in the autumn, replacing the Press Complaints Commission. It says that more than 90 per cent of the UK's national press and the majority of regional press and major magazine publishers have already elected to be subject to its
The British government has opened up a public consultation about implementing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Let the government know what you think about this disgraceful press censorship law