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Editors urged to enlist readers’ help over Section 40

Karen BradleyIndustry leaders are urging editors to elist the help of readers in responding to the government’s consultation on whether to implement controversial changes to libel costs laws.

The implementation of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act could see media organisations who do not sign-up to a state-sponsored press regulator forced to pat both sides’ costs in privacy and libel actions even if they won.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley, pictured, last week announced a ten-week consultation on whether the government should go ahead with the move, which is being strongly opposed by regional publishing groups.

Now the Society of Editors is urging its members to encourage their readers to respond to the consultation which continues until January 10.

Executive director Bob Satchwell said: “It makes sense that the Secretary of State is consulting all parties on press regulation as it is today. The Leveson Inquiry took place more than four years ago and inquired into events that had happened a decade or more ago.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has been in operation for two years and has already strengthened regulation and changed the behaviour of the press dramatically. It covers the vast majority of newspapers and magazines who are signed up to its already toughened systems of governance.

“All of the significant publishers will not contemplate joining the imposed Royal Charter system which is a gateway to political interference.

“Over the past decade the economic and competive background has changed dramatically. It would be dangerous to open up local and regional papers particularly to threats of legal action, the costs of which they would have to pay even if they won a case, and which could put them out of business.”

Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Ms Bradley MP said: “The Government is determined that a balance is struck between press freedom and the freedom of the individual. Those who are treated improperly must have redress. Likewise politicians must not seek to muffle the press or prevent it doing legitimate work, such as holding us to account.

“This is the balance that we wish to strike, and this consultation is the most appropriate and fairest way of doing so.”

HTFP readers can respond to the consultation document here.