Metro uses 'first ever' leader column to oppose Section 40 law, calling it 'clearly nuts'

The Metro has written what it claims is its first opinion piece in its 17-year history with a leader column opposing the section 40 cost penalty law, calling it “clearly nuts”.

The newspaper said today that it was breaking with its “tradition” of not writing opinion pieces because “we feel the future of this newspaper, and newspapers across the country, is at risk”.

The comment, on page two of the paper, directs readers to a full page further back calling on them to have their say as part of a government consultation on the issue, due to close on 10 January.

Metro.co.uk has also followed suit, calling section 40 “illiberal” and “illogical” and including a step-by-step guide for readers on how to respond to the consultation.

It comes as the media has ramped up its campaign against section 40.

On the weekend, the Sunday Times claimed it would not have run its investigation exposing drugs cheat cyclist Lance Armstrong had section 40 already been in place.

The law, part of the Crime and Courts Act, was passed by Parliament in 2012 but has yet to be enforced. Under its terms, any publisher not signed up to a state-approved press regulator would be liable to pay both sides’ court costs in a legal battle, even if they win.

The Metro, which has an ABC circulation of 1.4m copies, said Section 40 had the “potential to cripple not just the giants of the industry but every local newspaper doing its best to highlight wrongdoing”.

Metro.co.uk reaches 1.2m daily unique browsers, according to ABC.

Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn has also spoken out against the imposition of section 40.

In a column yesterday he wrote: “Section 40… has the potential to bankrupt newspapers who refuse to sign up to a State-controlled regulator. Under its provisions, papers who fail to register with an outfit called Impress will be liable to pay the legal costs of anyone who brings a libel action against them — win or lose.

“Not only is this an outrageous inversion of justice, it is an open invitation to malevolents, malcontents and assorted chancers to sue the Press at no risk to themselves. Have no doubt that an avalanche of vexatious and unwarranted lawsuits will be launched immediately the clause passes into law.”

He added: “Ultimately, Section 40 is an attack not just on the Press but on free speech itself, born out of contempt for the newspaper-reading public, whom most politicians consider too stupid to think for themselves.”

Comments

3 thoughts on “Metro uses 'first ever' leader column to oppose Section 40 law, calling it 'clearly nuts'”

  1. The Sunday Times rightly draws attention to the Lance Armstrong investigation. It might have added that the paper’s investigation of ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the medical register, including for research fraud over the MMR vaccine, would also have been impossible under the regime demanded by Hacked Off.

    At every stage of our investigation, Wakefield filed barrages of vexatious complaints that took hundreds of hours to process. He filed four lawsuits against the investigation of his conduct, all of which failed. Under the Hacked Off regime, executives would have known that, even without litigation, it would have cost more to process the complaints than the journalism cost in the first place.

    As the journalist who carried out the investigation, I am in no doubt whatsoever that it would have been halted at the earliest stage, vaccination rates would have continued to decline, and more children would have died.

    Furthermore, I am in no doubt whatsoever that, if Britain had a government-licensed press (however much Hacked Off wishes to argue that matter) then that licensing process would be invoked by every crook, quack and conspiracy theorist around the world as evidence that the only source of accurate information will be the unlicensed “free” media of the internet. Again, children will die.

    Simple as that.

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