Media Standards Trust: The Story of Six Charters

22 06 2013

mst_portfolioThe Media Standards Trust has produced an impressive chronology and analysis of the six Royal Charters introduced since the Leveson report of 29 November 2012 in the form of a “Timeline”.  This can also be viewed at Timeline JS (where the width is less constrained).

It can also be read in text form, set out below.  It contains links to all the different versions of the Royal Charter including the Government’s first, unpublished, draft of 31 December 2012.

29 November 2012: Leveson report and recommendations published

On Thursday, 29th November at 1.30pm, Lord Justice Leveson published his 1,987 page report. It recommended a system of independent, voluntary self-regulation, underpinned by a statutory recognition process, and supported by legal incentives for those who participated.

LinkThe Leveson Report

29 November 2012: Prime Minister accepts ‘Leveson principles’ but rejects use of legislation

“They [the Leveson principles] are the central recommendations of the report. If they can be put in place, we truly will have a regulatory system that delivers public confidence, justice for the victims, and a step change in the way the press is regulated in our country.” But, Cameron said, “I have some serious concerns and misgivings on the recommendation to legislate to provide an independent process to recognise the new self-regulatory body.”

LinkPrime Minister’s statement to the House of Commons

4 December 2012: PM tells newspaper editors to ‘implement Leveson recommendations in their entirety’

Cameron said that the newspapers “have to do it [create a regulatory system] that absolutely meets the requirements of Lord Justice Leveson’s report”. Oliver Letwin reiterates this in a meeting with editors in Downing Street and suggests he has a plan to avoid legislation (though meeting not minuted).

Link: ‘Leveson report: Cameron tells editors to sort out regulator‘ (BBC News)

5 December 2012: Editors accept ’40 of 47′ Leveson recommendations at Delaunay

National newspaper editors met over breakfast at the Delaunay restaurant and agreed (according to editors) to 40 of 47 Leveson press recommendations. There were no reporters present and no minutes published. Rusbridger later claimed ‘an unseen hand’ withdrew the legitimacy of this agreement

Link: ‘Leveson report: Newspaper editors ‘back’ most proposals‘ (BBC News)

7 December 2012: ’40 of 47′ claim questioned by Media Standards Trust (MST)

A document prepared for the breakfast – and subsequently leaked – divided the recommendations into ‘Acceptable’ and ‘Unacceptable’, and sought to make changes to many. An MST analysis showed that, based on this document, the editors had agreed not 40 of 47, but 23 of 47.

LinkMST Analysis of the Delaunay Deal

10 December 2012: Labour publish draft Leveson bill

Labour publish a six clause ‘Press Freedom and Trust’ bill to show how straightforward it would be to implement Leveson in legislation

LinkLabour ‘Press Freedom and Trust’ bill

13 December 2012: Oliver Letwin to propose Royal Charter to achieve Leveson

It is first reported that Oliver Letwin is planning to use the vehicle of a Royal Charter to give authority to a recognition body, as opposed to legislation as recommended by Leveson

Link: ‘Oliver Letwin finalises plan for press regulatory enshrined in Royal Charter‘ (The Guardian)

14 December 2012: Newspaper publishers tell DCMS they, not editors, are in charge

Five publishing associations write to Maria Miller reminding them her ‘publishers are responsible for the establishment and funding of the new system, and will be the signatories to the contracts that will underpin it’, and so should lead the negotiations for a new system.

LinkLetter from five publishing associations

31 December 2012: DCMS distributes initial draft of Royal Charter to small group of stakeholders

This initial draft – not published – did not list the recognition criteria, but simply referred to criteria as set out by Leveson himself in the report.

Link31st December Draft Royal Charter

Analysis of 31st December unpublished draft

Closeness to Leveson: reasonably close, though lacks detail. This initial version of the Royal Charter, only distributed to key stakeholders, gives authority to a Recognition Panel to determine, review and withdraw recognition from regulators, through a Scheme of Recognition (The Schedule). It does not detail the Leveson recommendations but refers back to the report.

LinkAnalysis of 31st December Draft Royal Charter

4 January 2013: Peter Wright, Associated Newspapers, writes to Letwin demanding changes to draft of Charter

Peter Wright, Editor Emeritus of Associated Newspapers, writes to Oliver Letwin on behalf of parts of the press, demanding changes to the initial draft charter, and telling government about industry ‘red lines’.

LinkPeter Wright letter to Oliver Letwin

6 January 2013: Hacked Off publishes a ‘Leveson Bill’

Hacked Off publishes a Leveson Bill – to put in practice Leveson’s recommendations through legislation (as Leveson proposed). The Bill includes recognition criteria (Schedule 1)

LinkHacked Off ‘Media Freedom and Regulatory Standards Bill’

18 January 2013: Lord Pannick advises newspapers that Royal Charter could be amended by Ministers

Lord Pannick provides legal advice to newspapers on the use of a Royal Charter: ‘The fundamental defect of such a scheme would be that, in practice, Ministers would have power to amend the Charter as and when they see fit and so there would be no protection against political interference in the future’.

LinkLord Pannick advice to press on Royal Charters

31 January 2013: Lord Puttnam tables Leveson amendment to defamation bill

Lord Puttnam tables an amendment to the Defamation bill, which would establish a recognition commission for regulatory bodies that provide an arbitration service

LinkLord Puttnam amendment to Defamation bill

5 February 2013: Press working closely with government – Lord Black tells House of Lords

‘Since the [Leveson] report has been published,’ Lord Black tells the House of Lords, ‘the industry has been working extremely hard with the Government to finalise the details of a regulatory scheme’ (Hansard, Column 154)

LinkHL Deb, 5 February 2013, c154

5 February 2013: Lords support Puttnam amendment by 272 votes to 141

Lord Puttnam’s amendment to the defamation bill is debated. ‘These amendments’ he tells the House of Lords, ‘are designed to break that terrible silence’ of the government over its plans to institute Leveson’s recommendations.’ Puttnam’s amendment prompted Lord McNally to assure the House that a draft Royal Charter would be published the following week: ‘I can announce today that a draft royal charter proposal will be published next week’. Lords vote in favour of the amendment by 272 votes to 141

LinkHL Deb, 5 February 2013, c141

12 February 2013: First draft Royal Charter published

The first draft Royal Charter is published by Conservatives, prompted by the Puttnam amendment. The Charter is much weaker than Leveson, and diluted from 31 December. These dilutions include demands made by Peter Wright on 4th January on behalf of the industry (eg on Code Committee and group complaints). Charter also gives industry a veto on appointments to regulator, reduces power of regulator to direct corrections/apologies, limits the power of investigations, provides no check in the event of failure, and provides no flexibility to the recognition process. Nor is there anything in statute to protect the Charter from amendment by Ministers

LinkFebruary 12th draft Royal Charter

Analysis of 12th February Conservative draft

Closeness to Leveson: not close. Unlike the 31 December version, this charter details the summary recommendations of the Leveson report but considerably weakens them. The specific aspects that have been diluted relate mainly to the recognition criteria, and correspond closely to those aspects that were objected to by Peter Wright, on behalf of the industry, in his letter to of 4th January 2013

LinkAnalysis of 12th February Conservative draft Royal Charter

Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 12th February Charter

Textual comparison of Leveson summary recommendations with 12th February draft Charter

13 February 2013: Press welcome draft Charter as the ‘fruit of intensive talks’ between press and politicians

‘We welcome this very constructive announcement, the fruit of two months of intensive talks involving the newspaper and magazine industry and all three main political parties’, said Chairman of the press implementation group Paul Vickers of 12 February draft charter. According to subsequent reports, the PM promised newspapers this was ‘set in stone’. None of these talks were public. No details have yet been released.

Link: ‘Press owners welcome Tory plan for independent regulatory underpinned by Royal Charter‘ (Press Gazette)

13 February 2013: Labour raise ‘substantive concerns’ that the Charter does not deliver Leveson

Harriet Harman writes to Oliver Letwin expressing her ‘substantive concerns’ with the 12 February draft. ‘We have substantive concerns’ Harman wrote, ‘that the Royal Charter as drafted fails to comply with the recommendations that the Leveson Report makes’.

Link: Letter from Harriet Harman to Oliver Letwin

14 February 2013: Cross-Party talks restart to revise 12 February Royal Charter

The three main political parties re-start talks working from the 12th February draft Royal Charter

Link: ‘Parties say Tory post-Leveson plan ‘basis for talks” (BBC News)

21 February 2013: Lord Black rejects MST calls for greater transparency

‘We have not been told’, the MST writes, ‘who is running the process, who is participating, what concerns newspapers have, what meetings are being held – between media organisations themselves or between media organisations and the government – or what is being discussed at those meetings, or where there are points of dispute with Lord Justice Leveson’s findings. Nor has there been any concerted attempt to include or consult with the public.’

Link: ‘MST calls for greater transparency in process of press reform

3 March 2013: Could the Black/Hunt proposals for a new self-regulator pass the draft Royal Charter test? (MST Analysis)

A report published by the Media Standards Trust assesses whether the original plans put forward by the industry to Leveson, which the judge said did ‘not come close to delivering… regulation that is itself genuinely free and independent of the industry it regulates and political control’ would have to be accepted under the February 12th Charter. The report concludes that, with two changes, they would.

LinkReport - Could the Black/Hunt proposals for a new self-regulator pass the draft Royal Charter test?

8 March 2013: Lord Skidelsky tables Leveson amendment to Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill report stage

Lord Skidelsky’s proposed amendment to the ERR bill (after clause 78) would create a Leveson ‘Recognition Commission’ and recognition process, along with a schedule of recognition criteria

LinkLord Skidelsky amendment to ERR bill

14 March 2013: David Cameron unilaterally walks out of cross-party talks on Royal Charter

The PM, David Cameron, announced he was ending cross-party talks without an agreement being concluded. According to BBC News, the deputy prime minister said he was ‘disappointed and surprised that David Cameron has decided to walk away from the cross-party talks’ just when ‘real progress’ was being made.

Link: ‘David Cameron halts press regulation talks‘ (BBC News)

14 March 2013: Conservatives publish proposed C&C amendments

Conservatives put down amendments to the Court & Crimes bill to allow for the exemplary damages and costs Leveson incentives. Exemplary damages to apply only to relevant publishers (different to Leveson recommendation). Costs to take into account membership of a regulatory system (as Leveson recommended).

Link: Conservative amendments to Court and Crimes bill

14 March 2013: LibDems/Labour publish different proposed C&C amendments

Labour & Lib Dems put down amendments to Court & Crimes bill for exemplary damages and costs. Exemplary damages to be extended to all torts (as Leveson recommended), and costs to take into account membership of a regulatory system (as Leveson recommended).

LinkLibDems/Labour amendments to Court and Crimes bill

15 March 2013: Conservatives publish new version of the Royal Charter

Conservatives publish new draft of February 12th Charter. Some minor changes made to Feb 12 draft though: industry veto remains, the regulator is still unable to direct corrections or apologies, the editors’ control of code committee remains, and the very high hurdle to third party complaints remains. There is also no provision in the event of failure, no protection from interference by the Privy Council, and no leeway for the recognition commission to use its judgment.

LinkConservative draft Royal Charter (dated 14 March)

Analysis of 14th March Conservative draft

Closeness to Leveson: closer than 12th February, but fundamental differences remain. There is less opportunity for political interference through the exclusion of Party Peers, though still no legal protection from interference by Privy Councillors. The process for appointing the Recognition Panel is more independent, though there is now an industry veto over appointments to a regulator. However, fundamental differences remain around the code, powers, third party complaints and access.

LinkAnalysis of 14th March Conservative draft

Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 14th March Conservative draft Charter

Textual comparison of Leveson summary recommendations with 14th March Conservative draft Charter

15 March 2013: Labour & LibDems publish alternative version of Royal Charter

Labour&LibDems publish separate Charter with changes to February 12 version to better reflect Leveson. Nothing in Labour&LibDem Charter goes beyond Leveson. Certain elements do not go as far as Leveson, in order to address concerns of the press (e.g. regarding the Code Committee).

Link: Labour/LibDem draft Royal Charter (dated 15 March)

Analysis of 15th March LibDem/Labour draft

Closeness to Leveson: closest to Leveson published to date. Party political peers are excluded from the Recognition Panel and regulator. There is, separate to the Charter, legal restraint on any involvement of Ministers or Privy Councillors. Responsibility for the Code of Practice is given to the industry, but only as long as editors make up a minority of the Code Committee, and journalists and public make up two thirds. Third party complaints are allowed, but with constraints and caveats.

LinkAnalysis of 15th March LibDem/Labour draft Royal Charter

Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 15th March LibDem/Labour draft Charter

Textual comparison of Leveson summary recommendations with 15th March LibDem/Labour draft Charter

17 March: Cameron & Clegg agree alternative version of Royal Charter at 3pm Sunday 17th

Oliver Letwin to Select Committee: ‘at 3pm on the Sunday… the Prime Minister and I met with the Deputy Prime Minister. We put to the Deputy Prime Minister a proposal about the Charter and you can tell what proposal we put because it is the Charter you have before you. That is literally what we proposed to the Deputy Prime Minister at that time. From that point onwards, there was no further substantive discussion about the terms of the Charter. We merely waited for a response from the other two parties to that proposed Charter’

LinkOliver Letwin evidence to the Culture, Media Sport Select Committee (16 April 2013)

17 March: Clegg seeks response from Miliband and Hacked Off to Charter, Letwin present

Clegg meets Miliband and representatives for Hacked Off for response to agreed Royal Charter and associated legislation for Leveson incentives. Oliver Letwin invited to discuss specific elements

Link: ‘Leveson: sustained by Kit-Kats, how the parties – and Hacked Off – swallowed their differences and the Sunday night deal was done‘ (The Independent)

18 March: Cross-party Royal Charter published

Cross-party Royal Charter published – Lab/LibDem version with only four changes, none substantive.

LinkCross-Party Royal Charter (18 March)

Analysis of 18th March cross-party Charter

Closeness to Leveson: virtually as close as LibDem/Labour 15 March draft. This charter is virtually identical to the LibDem/Labour version published as an alternative to the Conservative version on 15th March. The only differences from that version are; qualification of the clause regarding composition of the Code committee, responsibility for reporting the budgets of the recognition panel, and clarification of the general recognition clause.

LinkAnalysis of 18th March cross-party Charter

Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 18th March cross-party Charter

Textual comparison of Leveson summary recommendations with 18th March cross-party draft Charter

18 March 2013: The Commons votes on Royal Charter motion and Courts & Crimes amendments

The three main Party leaders support the Royal Charter in the House of Commons. MPs vote on the motion: ‘the Speaker put the Questions necessary to bring proceedings on consideration of new Clauses and new Schedules standing in the name of the Prime Minister and relating to press conduct and remaining new Clauses and new Schedules relating to press conduct to a conclusion’. Voted through by 530 votes to 13.

Link: House of Commons Votes and Proceedings, 18th March 2013

18 March 2013: The Lords agree amendment to Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill

New clause added to ERR bill to prevent interference in the cross-party Royal Charter by Privy Councillors (Ministers). Agreed by the upper House

LinkHL Deb, 18 March 2013, c438

16 April 2013: Oliver Letwin & Maria Miller give evidence to Select Committee, to correct misleading accounts of the ‘Leveson deal’

Oliver Letwin tells Select Committee that, contrary to reports, he and Miller had many meetings with the press. “We were accused of various terrible malfeasances as a result of our intensive discussions with the press” Letwin says to Committee. Not reported in national press.

LinkLetwin & Miller oral evidence to Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee (16 April 2013)

25 April 2013: Newspaper groups propose alternative Royal Charter

News International, Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph Group announce the forthcoming publication of an alternative Charter, to be sought by the Press Standards Board of Finance, on behalf of major newspaper publishers.

LinkPressBoF Royal Charter (as submitted to Privy Council 30th April)

Analysis of 25th April PressBoF Charter

Closeness to Leveson: further from Leveson than anything previous. The recognition process is owned by the press’ funding body, PressBoF. The bar on the appointment of Party Political Peers has been removed from all regulatory levels. The legal protection from Ministerial influence would no longer be valid under this Charter. The powers of the regulator are diluted. Editors retain control of the Code. Investigations could be unfunded and impractical. Arbitration would be made optional.

LinkAnalysis of 25th April PressBoF Charter

Side-by-side: Leveson summary recommendations & 25th April PressBoF Charter

Textual comparison of Leveson summary recommendations with 25th April PressBoF Charter

3 May: Government announces consultation on PressBoF Charter

The government commits to considering the PressBoF Charter before putting the cross-party Charter before the Privy Council. The consultation deadline is set for 24th May. DCMS then to consider responses, and the PressBoF Charter itself, and make a recommendation to the Privy Council as to whether press Charter should progress.

Link: ‘Press regulation royal charter delayed by ministers‘ (BBC News)

Comparison of cross-party Charter with PressBoF Charter

Comparison – by Media Standards Trust – of the cross-party Royal Charter agreed by Parliament on 18th March with the alternative PressBoF Royal Charter submitted to the Privy Council on 30th April

LinkCharter vs Charter (23rd May 2013)

24th May 2013: Consultation on PressBoF Charter ends

The DCMS consultation on the PressBoF charter finishes. DCMS to make a recommendation to the Privy Council whether PressBoF Charter should progress to next stage

Link: ‘Phone-hacking victims reject newspapers’ charter proposal‘ (The Guardian)


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