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Industry goes to court over Royal Charter rejection

The newspaper industry is to go to the High Court in a bid to reverse the Privy Council’s decision to block its proposed system of press self-regulation.

Earlier this month, a group of senior politicians turned down the industry’s request for a Charter to oversee its proposed new Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso).

Ministers then announced they would go ahead with their own version of the Charter, drawn up in conjunction with lobbying group Hacked Off.

However industry leaders have now announced they have applied for a judicial review of the Privy Couincil decision, meaning the implementation of the new system is now likely to be further delayed.

The decision was announced yesterday evening by the Newspaper Society. which represents the regional press, and its national counterpart the Newspaper Publishers Association.

It said in a statement:  “In April 2013, the newspaper and magazine industry submitted an application to the Privy Council for a Royal Charter to establish an independent “Recognition Panel” to oversee applications for the recognition of a self regulatory system of press regulation.

“This application was rejected by a committee of the Privy Council on 8th October, and an Order to that effect was issued on 9th October.

“Given the critical importance to a free society of the issues involved in the granting of a Charter on this subject, which goes to the very heart of press freedom and the right of free expression, it was vital that the consideration of this application be undertaken fairly and rationally.

“After studying the matter closely, it is the clear view of the industry’s trade associations, which submitted the Charter through the Press Standards Board of Finance, that the application was not dealt with fairly, that the press had a right to be consulted which the Government and the Privy Council failed to do, and that the procedures deployed were irrational.

“We believe that the decision and the Order were therefore unlawful, and the industry’s associations through PressBof are applying to the High Court for judicial review and to have the decision quashed.”

Lord Black of Brentwood, Chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance, the industry body which funds the regulatory system, added: “The decision by the Government and the Privy Council on this matter has enormous ramifications for free speech both here in the UK, and – because of our leadership role in the Commonwealth and developing world – across the globe.

“The Government and the Privy Council should have applied the most rigorous standards of consultation and examination of the Royal Charter proposed by the industry, which would have enshrined tough regulatory standards at the same time as protecting press freedom. They singularly failed to do so, and that is why – as the issues at stake are so extraordinarily high – we are having to take this course of action.”

In a further development, industry leaders have announced they are pressing ahead with the setting up of Ipso.

It is now formally asking publishers to sign up to the new body, a process which is expected to take around eight weeks.

Paul Vickers, chairman of the Industry Implementation Group and executive director of Trinity Mirror plc, said: “We can now move to establish the tough, independent, effective regulator that Lord Justice Leveson called for in his report.

“I am confident that what we have produced will be the toughest regulator anywhere in the developed world – one which will guarantee the public the protection it deserves, but which will also ensure we maintain the free press on which our democracy is founded.”

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell added:  “The new regulatory system will be the toughest in the Western world. It will deliver the solutions that Lord Justice Leveson recommended. The new body will give the public a clear path to air their complaints while at the same time protecting the freedom of the press that is essential in our democracy.

“The Leveson Inquiry was set up to look at the culture and practices of the press. The revelations bore no resemblance to the behaviour of most newspapers and their journalists. UK newspapers produce millions of stories a year most of which raise no calls for complaint. The new body will allow them to continue serving their readers while at the same time ensuring that complaints are dealt with fairly and quickly.”