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Industry loses Royal Charter appeal bid

Newspaper publishers have been refused permission to appeal against the High Court’s rejection of their bid to block the cross-party Royal Charter intended to establish a new regulatory system for the press.

The Press Standards Board of Finance – PressBof – had sought permission to appeal against the decision to reject their application for Judicial Review of what they argued was the Privy Council’s “unfair, irrational and unlawful” decision to reject the newspaper industry’s own proposals for a rival charter.

During the hearing Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mr Justice Sales, had said the merits of the PressBof legal case were “at best weak”.

Today it emerged that PressBof’s application to appeal, and for permission to rely on fresh evidence, had been rejected on the papers by a judge. PressBof could apply for an oral hearing at which to renew its applications.

The majority of the newspaper and magazine industry has rejected any regulator overseen by the Royal Charter, saying that the Charter leaves too much room for political interference.
In addition, proposals for the Charter emerged after a late-night meeting political leaders and representatives of press pressure group Hacked Off from which industry representatives were excluded.

It emerged in December that the safeguards intended to protect the Charter could easily be overridden.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller conceded that a clause requiring a two thirds Parliamentary majority before the Charter could be changed could be removed after the next general election.

The press has refused to sign up to the Charter, which it says introduces a degree of political influence and ”signed away three centuries of Press freedom”.

But in November last year Mrs Miller also indicated that the Charter could become redundant if the industry’s new watchdog, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), proved successful.

Some 90pc of the national, regional and local newspaper and magazine industry has already decided to sign up with Ipso, which is funded by the industry and is due to start operating in the spring, taking the place of the Press Complaints Commission, which will disappear.

The only other regulator which has entered the scene is the Impress Project, which is supported by former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans, and which wants to set up Impress: The Independent Monitor for the Press.

The group, founded by journalist and press freedom campaigner Jonathan Heawood, says in its prospectus, under the heading Aims and Objectives, that its purpose is “to support the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards in journalism”.

It goes on: “A ‘sunset clause’ in its Articles of Association would cause Impress to dissolve itself if any future government modified the legal operating environment for press regulation so as to curtail press freedom.”

But it appears so far to have gathered little support.