Editors attack charter

Newspaper executives throughout Britain have condemned the Royal Charter proposed by Parliament to implement a new regulatory system in the country.

Editors across the political spectrum all shared the ideal that the press must be free from any political influence.

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell said the level of political intervention in the press would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world.

“The things which are being proposed at the moment would be totally unconstitutional in the US and other countries,” he said.

“People in other countries, not just journalists, are looking at what’s going on here at the moment with horror.”

What’s behind the vitriol? Click here to find out the main points of the Royal Charter

After The Daily Mail came under fire last week for its story on Labour leader Ed Milliband’s late father and his Marxist views, editor Paul Dacre cited the reaction a prime example on why statutory regulation should not be introduced.

“Some have argued that last week’s brouhaha shows the need for statutory press regulation,” he said.

“I would argue the opposite.

“The febrile heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice provoked by last week’s row reveals why politicians must not be allowed anywhere near press regulation.”

Former editor of The Scotsman John McLellan also revealed his disdain that the Royal Charter was not independent of Parliament.

“This remains a charter cooked up by politicians, written by politicians and controlled by politicians and as such it fails every test of a self-regulated system to protect freedom of speech and expression,” he told ABC’s The Drum.

“Changes would need a two-thirds majority in parliament, Scottish or UK, and while that will be relatively easy for politicians to achieve it will be virtually impossible for the industry, so it is clear the ownership of this system would remain firmly in the hands of government.”

Similarly, The Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland challenged the gravitas and relevance of using a Royal Charter to create a regulator which must be independent of the state.

“Politicians and press alike have embraced this medieval device [the Royal Charter], believing that a body magicked from the air by the Queen neatly dodges the threat of state control,” he wrote.

“But they’re wrong – and this week has proved why.

“For the body that oversees a royal charter, and can unpick its terms on a whim, is the Privy Council – an entity packed by ministers drawn from the government of the day, and which is deployed to do the state’s most secret business, under the extensive, unchecked powers of the royal prerogative.

The Independent and London Evening Standard deputy managing editor Will Gore said the level of parliamentary interference was disconcerting to media around the world, but warned there was still a long way to before any real impact would be felt.

“The Charters are only half the story because all the Charter does is to establish a recognition panel and set out the requirements that a regulator will have to meet in order to obtain recognition,” he said.

“It does nothing towards establishing a regulator and at the moment the only proposal on the table for one of those is that put forward by the newspaper industry.”

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