Text analysis of the Royal Charter shows how Labour & the Liberal Democrats got their way

A text analysis of the press regulation Royal Charter suggest Labour and the Liberal Democrats got their way on everything.

A couple of days ago I made a “diff” between the competing drafts of the wretched Royal Charter on press regulation. I thought I’d look at what changes had made their way through to the final draft published today. In order to do so, I’ve made a plain text version of the file, as it was only published as a PDF.

This paragraph was in the original Conservative draft, and has not made the final version:

“AND WHEREAS the objectives of any independent regulatory body should be to promote the protection of freedom of expression, protect the public interest, maintain professional standards amongst the press, particularly with regard to the privacy of the individual:”

The idea of the Recognition panel “reporting on any success or failure of the recognition system” is a Labour/Lib Dem amendment that survives.

The terminology of an “ad hoc review” has replaced the concept of an “exceptional” review. This is another change adopted from the Labour/Lib Dem document.

The original Conservative draft had the Recognition Panel reporting budgets to the DCMS. The Labour/Lib Dem document suggested the Department of Justice. In the final version it is Lord Chancellor who gets to oversee the numbers.

The original Conservative draft stated that: “The Board of the Recognition Panel shall grant recognition to a Regulator if the Board is satisfied that the Regulator meets the recognition criteria.” The Labour/Lib Dem draft was more specific, and stated “The Board of the Recognition Panel shall grant recognition to a Regulator if the Board is satisfied that the Regulator meets the recognition criteria and that the Regulator meets the criteria of effectiveness, fairness and objectivity of standards, independence and transparency of enforcement and compliance, credible powers and remedies, reliable funding and effective accountability.”

The version that has made the final text is even more specific:

“The Board of the Recognition Panel shall grant recognition to a Regulator if the Board is satisfied that the Regulator meets the recognition criteria numbered 1 to 23 in Schedule 3, and in making its decision on whether the Regulator meets those criteria it shall consider the concepts of effectiveness, fairness and objectivity of standards, independence and transparency of enforcement and compliance, credible powers and remedies, reliable funding and effective accountability, as articulated in the Leveson Report, Part K, Chapter 7, Section 4 (‘Voluntary independent self-regulation’).”

This clause in the Conservative draft has been removed:

“The Board of the Recognition Panel shall not refuse to grant recognition to a Regulator by reason only of the Regulator making different arrangements for the regulation of different classes of its members, including, but not limited to, differential regulation between those of its members which are regarded as publishing on a national basis and those which are regarded as publishing on a local or regional basis. Provided that in all cases any differential regulation complies with the Recognition Criteria.”

The triggering of an “ad hoc review” has changed. The Conservatives wanted the Recognition Board to investigate “systemic breaches of the Standards Code”. The Labour/Lib Dem document phrased this as “serious breaches of the recognition criteria”, and it is the latter which is included in the final draft.

The final draft also incorporates a more detailed breakdown of who should be on the code committee, this was also from the Labour/Lib Dem document:

“7. The standards code which is the responsibility of the Code Committee, must be approved by the Board or remitted to the Code Committee with reasons. The Code Committee will be appointed by the Board, in accordance with best practices for public appointments, and comprised of equal proportions of independent members, serving journalists (being national or regional journalists, or, where relevant to the membership of the self-regulatory body, local or on-line journalists) and serving editors. There will be a biennial public consultation by the Code Committee, the results of which must be considered openly with the Board.”

Doing the “diff” on the documents, I can’t see any major sections from the Labour/Lib Dem document where their changes haven’t been carried through to the final version.

Clearly the charter isn’t the whole story, as more details emerge from politicians today as to who they expect to be “in” the regulator, and who they expect to be “out”. Politics Home has a list, and if you can work out the logic whereby Guido Fawkes isn’t “online only edited ‘press-like’ content”, but Huffington Post and Holy Moly are, then you are a more highly skilled lawyer than I am. What a hideous mess.

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