Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Newspaper Society

  The Newspaper Society is most grateful for the opportunity that has been given to provide further evidence to the Joint Committee on the DTI/DCMS Policy memorandum sent to us on 3 July 2002. Unfortunately, the DTI/DCMS did not also supply the Society with a copy of the separate memorandum exploring, inter alia, the interrelation between the Enterprise Bill and the new newspaper regime, which they gave to the Joint Committee (see 2.1). The Newspaper Society would be most grateful if the Joint Committee were able to make available that memorandum, or give permission for the DTI/DCMS to disclose it to us.

  We have now studied the policy document supplied by the DTI on the proposed newspaper merger regime. This confirms the views we expressed in our submission and evidence. The proposed regime is extremely complex and uncertain in its application to all newspaper titles and all newspaper companies—large and small; it enhances the discretionary powers of the Government in newspaper merger cases; it involves four regulatory bodies in newspaper merger cases; it is inconsistent with the Government's declared policy objectives of streamlining and simplifying the current newspaper merger regime and of removing small newspapers from the special regime; and it has the potential of making it more difficult for regionally-based newspaper companies to expand and compete with the consolidating TV and radio sectors.

  The Committee also asked for our comments upon self-regulation. We should stress that self-regulation must not be confused with co-regulation. The regional newspaper industry strongly supports the editorial and advertising self-regulatory systems upheld by the Press Complaints Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority. Detailed accounts of the self-regulatory structure and the work of both bodies are set out on their websites and within their 2001 Annual Reports ( and

  The Newspaper Society would oppose the establishment of any co-regulatory framework that might undermine the self-regulatory systems upheld by the Press Complaints Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority. We have already expressed our concern over the role of OFCOM. Given the application of extensive existing law, no new controls over editorial or advertising content in newspapers or newspaper websites or over the Internet are necessary. We welcome the Government's previous endorsements of the self-regulatory systems upheld by the ASA and PCC and the Secretary of State's denials of any intention either to regulate the Internet or to give OFCOM any jurisdiction over newspapers' content. It is important that the Communications Bill does not lead to new restrictions upon freedom of expression and press freedom.

10 July 2002

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