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Industry breathes sigh of relief as press regulation measures defeated

Ian Murray 2The regional press industry breathed a collective sigh of relief last night after MPs voted down ‘anti-press’ amendments to the Data Protection Bill in the House of Commons.

The two Labour amendments called for the reopening of the Leveson inquiry and for costs sanctions to be introduced in data protection cases which would have seen publishers who refused to join a state-sponsored regulator pay all the costs of an action – even if they won.

The first amendment, tabled by Ed Miliband, was rejected by 304 votes to 295, while the second, tabled by Tom Watson, was abandoned after the SNP withdrew its support.

Wales Online editor Paul Rowland summed up feelings across the industry in a Tweet saying:  “…and everyone in the regional press breathes an enormous sigh of relief.”

Today’s votes followed an intense lobbying campaign led by Society of Editors executive director Ian Murray, pictured, and trade body the News Media Association.

Said Ian: “I am delighted that common sense has prevailed and the attempt to impose appalling penalties on the UK’s free press for failing to join a state-recognised regulator has been defeated. The defeat of proposals for a costly second inquiry into the press is also to be welcomed. As MPs heard, the press has already taken great steps since the Leveson Inquiry to meet the objectives of that report.”

The NMA added in a statement: “We are pleased that MPs have today recognised the importance of press freedom to our democracy. Both these amendments, for a sweeping inquiry into all media and the Section 40-style costs sanctions, represented a dangerous threat to press freedom.

“The industry can now focus upon the important task of ensuring that the business of producing high quality news media journalism has a sustainable and healthy future.”

Opening yesterday’s Commons debate, culture and media secretary Matt Hancock warned that the meaaures would have a “catastrophic” impact on local papers.

“These amendments would have made it near impossible to uncover some of the stories of abuse and including the abuse of all those children in Rotherham,” he added.

His predecessor John Whittingdale also argued that the amendments would be “deeply damaging to a free press”.

“I myself have suffered at the hands of the press, but that is the price we pay in this place,” he told the House.

“I do believe that the imposition of the kind of sanctions that are proposed under these amendments would be deeply damaging to a free press.

“What we do in this debate is watched around the world. This country is seen as a bastion of freedom and liberty, and a free press is an absolutely essential component of that.”

Following the vote, Mr Hancock wrote on Twitter: “A great day for a free and fair press. We will work closely with IPSO to make sure their important work continues.”

Mr Miliband tweeted: “Very disappointed for the victims of phone-hacking and press abuse that we did not win the vote for Leveson 2.The battle goes on to keep our promise to them to get the truth they deserve and protection for victims in the future.”

The debate on the amendments can be watched here.


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  • May 10, 2018 at 11:34 am

    There were a lot of very angry NUJ members on Twitter attacking their own union as it said it “fully supported” the amendments…

    … as a member, I don’t recall being asked about this.

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  • May 10, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Given what was at stake, the vote was far, far too close for any comfort, and just goes to show that people still don’t understand the issues that lie at the heart of all this. Crucially, the public mood is no longer with the industry, and we are all going to have to continue working extremely hard to win back confidence in the vital role it performs in the name of the people.

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  • May 10, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Great news that these amendments died a death, although still concerning that 295 MPs voted for another Leveson inquiry. Miliband’s tweet simply focusing on the victims of phone-hacking is pathetic. It is almost a pity that Watson’s amendment, calling for newspapers to bear complainants’ costs even if they won, was withdrawn as I would have liked to hear the debate about him encouraging publishers to sign up to a body (Impress) that happens to be backed by someone (Moseley) who has handed him half a million quid.

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  • May 10, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Too close for comfort by far, as is noted above. I particularly agree with the comment about Watson’s despicable amendment; one would like to know the names of those MPs who would have voted for statutory measures that would surely bring a blush to the cheeks of even the West’s seeming new BF, Mr Kim. Come to think of it, there’s a project that could be assigned to a suitably engaged intern; get them to email all 650 MPs and ask them to declare how they would vote if Watson’s amendment was an option right now. The answers, and non-answers, would make a great piece of copy.

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