Indeed, Marker-of-the-press’-own-homework-in-chief, Paul Dacre, wrote yesterday that politicians “cannot be allowed to sit in judgement on the press”, with the unmistakeable implication that that is what the Royal Charter proposes.
For the third time, I have just read the proposed Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press (latest version). I would encourage anyone with a genuine interest in this subject to do so. It’s a rewarding read.
It doesn’t propose a state regulator. Far from it. It sets up an independently appointed Recognition Panel to act as a “mechanism to recognise and certify an independent regulatory body or bodies for the press”.
That’s it. There’s lots of stuff about money and appointments and recognition criteria. But basically it is very uncontroversial, very fair, almost boring stuff about the recognition panel.
And if you think the “recognition criteria” are controversial, then here’s a sample by way of the criteria for a recognised appointments panel for a self-regulatory body. It says such a panel:
a) should be appointed in an independent, fair and open way;
b) should contain a substantial majority of members who are demonstrably independent of the press;
c) should include at least one person with a current understanding and experience of the press;
d) should include no more than one current editor of a publication that could be a member of the body.
Uncontroversial, I would suggest. And it’s all like that. A totally fair, light-touch, independent recognition panel to safe-guard a basic level of fairness within independent, voluntary, post-publication self-regulatory bodies for the press. It’s not Ofpress. In fact, it’s a thousand miles from “Ofpress”. It’s also a thousand miles from controlling what the press write. Indeed, a trillion miles.
The press are saying that “politicians” have stitched up this Charter. I have news for the press. Every law in this country is basically a stitch-up by politicans. It’s called a democratically constituted Parliament.
But, please, let’s not forget what all this is about.
Because it is very easy to get lost in all the hyperbole flying around.
Basically this all boils down to one word.
That’s what all this stuff leads to. The ability of people who are wronged by the press to receive a decent apology.
So, why all the ruckus? They protesteth too much, perhaps? I suspect it is about those old male weaknesses: power, control and pride.
Witness Paul Dacre’s behaviour over the last two weeks. He just can’t bring himself to say sorry for a daft headline. He’s incapable of invoking the basic traditionally British polite word: “Sorry”.