DCMS: Trade titles, supermarket magazines and Stephen Fry not covered by new press regulator


Trade titles, supermarket magazines and Stephen Fry will apparently escape the attentions of the planned statute-backed press regulator.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has clarified the list of titles that will have to sign up with the new regulator or else face the threat of exemplary damages and higher libel costs.

According to a Departmental spokesperson: “Exemplary damages and costs are designed to catch larger news publishers – those at the centre of circumstances giving rise to Leveson.

“These new provisions act as the key incentive for joining the new press regulator.”

Under a provisional list of publishers seen by Press Gazette, local and national newspapers (including their online editions) will be expected to join the regulator.

Websites such as Huffington Post and Holy Moly will also be subject to exemplary damages as well as gossip and lifestyle magazines such as Heat and Marie Claire.

However, bloggers, news aggegators and Twitter users such as Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais will escape state control.

Supermarket titles such as Waitrose magazine will also be exempt, according to the DCMS, as will trade publications like Retail Week.

Scientific publications such as the British Medical Journal will also avoid the new restrictions.

Student newspapers as well as those for special interests and not-for-profit organisations will also fall outside the regulator’s remit.

The DCMS say the three interlocking tests are whether the publication is publishing in the course of business; publishes news related material sourced by a range of authors and is subject to editorial control.

Special interest and hobby titles will also avoid regulation.

According to a DCMS spokesperson: “It is now for the press to establish the self-regulatory body in line with Lord Justice Leveson’s requirements and reflected in the charter, and to decide whether to apply for recognition. If they chose not to apply for recognition, they will sit outside the regulatory system and risk exposure to exemplary damages and averse costs in libel cases.

“These incentives in the law were intended by Leveson to ensure that major news publishers would sign up to the new system, and we are confident that this will be the case.”

However, Bob Satchwell of the Society of Editors said the Government’s confidence in major news organisations signing up to the new deal may be misplaced.

“You can be guaranteed that the major news organisations are currently talking to each other and among themselves about how to proceed.

“The concept of exemplary damages is probably unworkable due to the European Court of Human rights. Also these proposals will have a disproportionate effect upon the local and the regional press.

“It is hard enough for newspapers to conduct investigations awith the current draconian libel system in this country.

“The legislation proposed by the political parties will not give effect to any of the key proposals or findings within Leveson. It could in fact delay the ability for people to seek redress if the new system is too bureaucratic and cumbersome. Also the fact that this Royal Charter can be changed with a 2/3 majority of both houses of Parliament is very concerning.”

One senior Fleet Street source said their news organisation was currently considering their response to the Royal Charter.

Said the source: “This has been ill-thought out and is from a self interested political alliance. They are completely out of touch with reality if they think this is the best way forward. We do not want to comment publicly on this yet.”

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