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The Cable will not settle a position on press regulation without thorough consultation with members and advisors.

The debate is raging regarding press regulation and the fallout from the Leveson inquiry. The discussion has now reached fever pitch, as the government has consulted the industry and the public in the run-up to deciding whether or not to implement section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The clause forces (Correction: effectively forces) publishers to sign up to a government approved press regulator or face punishment. Any publisher not signed up, if they were sued for libel, would have to pay for both sides’ legal costs, even if it was determined the publisher had done nothing wrong.

Currently there is only one approved regulator, Impress, who claim to meet the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry. Offering a scheme that they claim will protect both the interests of the public and publisher. Impress counts a selection of mostly very small publications as members, and is primarily funded by Max Mosely, the Formula 1 billionaire who was caught up in a tabloid sex scandal and with historical links to fascist politics.

without a dedicated team of lawyers to help us navigate the law or the shield of anonymised writers, the decision for the Cable is very tricky

However, many opponents of Impress and section 40 claim state intervention in the media is not just threatening but unnecessary, as there is already adequate press regulation in the form of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. IPSO, a regulatory body that can handle complaints and hand down sanctions against publishers, is funded by the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and other major media groups.

Critics argue that Impress has facilitated state intervention in the media and is funded by a billionaire with a vendetta against the press. Aside from reducing the ability of tabloids to spy on celebrities, there are serious concerns that quality journalism will also be hampered by the activation of section 40. Meanwhile, Impress and allies maintain that the industry’s giants can’t be trusted to regulate themselves in the interests of the wider public.

Publications like the Guardian, the Financial Times and Private Eye are not members of the IPSO and have publicly denounced section 40, opting for internal or self regulation (and a full legal team to support it).

With a commitment to accountability, but without a dedicated team of lawyers to help us navigate the law or the shield of anonymised writers, the decision for the Cable is very tricky, and one that has by no means been settled. On the one hand, Impress purports to offer the Cable both much needed protections against legal claims by people we legitimately rub up the wrong way, as well as redress for those wrongfully damaged by the press.

On the other hand, there is major concern about forced state interference in the press by the back door, particularly when the main organisation leading the charge is funded by Max Mosely.

This issue has turned into a very muddy picture of political football, with many of the outcomes and consequences yet to be seen. As such, we don’t feel confident settling on a position in a highly charged and largely hypothetical debate.

The Cable will be following developments, gathering relevant information and seeking advice in the run up to a full consultation of all co-op members prior to any change to our current unregulated status.

If you have any questions or thoughts get in touch at info@thebristolcable.org

 

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  • The Bristol Blogger says:

    The Bristolian does not use “the shield of anonymised writers” by the way.

    We were openly inviting the city council to sue us as recently as December: https://thebristolian.net/2016/12/14/bristolian-publisher-demands-to-be-sued/

  • Joe Smith says:

    The Bristol Cable is not in the habit of hounding celebrities or invading the privacy of individuals. Section 40 poses the most risk to exactly the kind of investigative, truth-telling journalism that you have be so successful at. As a member and former contributor to the Cable I do not feel comfortable with Max Mosely’s organisation having the final say over weather what you do is in the public interest or not.

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