Regulation of the press

Written evidence submitted by the Newspaper Society [ROP 006]

I am writing to you as a follow up to the oral evidence which regional and local newspaper publishers gave to your Committee on 21 May 2013 on behalf of the UK's 1100 regional and local newspapers.

Regional and local publishers and editors have the following fundamental concerns about the three party political leaders' draft Royal Charter proposals:

· They take no account of Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations in relation to local and regional newspapers.

· They establish one Recognition Panel for all types of newspapers and magazines and a set of criteria which are inflexible and incapable of alteration without Parliamentary approval.

· This means that, whilst it may be possible for regional and local newspapers to set up their own Regulator, the Regulator will not be able to obtain recognition unless it meets the same recognition criteria as will apply to a Regulator established to cover national newspapers. This interpretation of the proposed structure has been confirmed to the industry by independent legal advice.

· It follows that a Regulator will have to establish an arbitration scheme which would be free for complainants to use, and to comply with detailed provisions in respect of the composition of the Editors' Code Committee, the hearing of group complaints, and the provisions required to achieve and maintain recognition.

· All categories of newspapers-including small weekly newspapers-will be required to finance and be bound by a "recognised" Regulator if they are to obtain some protection from the new exemplary damages and cost rules which have been introduced.

· This will create a substantial financial burden for regional and local newspapers and force them into a system of regulation and control which is inequitable given their behaviour and conduct was exonerated by Lord Justice Leveson. It is regrettable that discussions with the Secretary of State and DCMS officials have to date indicated that there would not be the flexibility for regional and local newspapers to create their own system of independent regulation with separate recognition and compliance criteria.

The Newspaper Society is submitting a detailed paper on the regional and local newspaper industry's deep concerns about the practical impacts of the Party Leaders' proposed arbitration scheme to our Committee and to the DCMS.

June 2013

Prepared 19th June 2013