Media Standards Trust Publishes Report on February 12th Royal Charter

MST Analysis: Could Black/Hunt plan pass February 12th Royal Charter test?

      • Leveson said the Black/Hunt 2012 plans for a new regulator ‘did not come close’ and Cameron said they were ‘not good enough’
      • But new MST analysis shows these same proposals could, with two exceptions, pass the draft Royal Charter test (as drafted on 12th February)
      • The February Royal Charter therefore, rather than being ‘Leveson-compliant’, plainly fails the Leveson test

The regulatory system proposed by Lord Black and Lord Hunt ‘does not’, Leveson wrote, ‘go anything like far enough to demonstrate sufficient independence from the industry (and, in particular, serving editors) or sufficient security of high and unalienable standards for the public’.

David Cameron agreed, “Frankly,’ he told the House on 29th November 2012, I think we have to be tougher on Hunt and Black than that. We need to say very clearly that what has been proposed so far is progress on the Press Complaints Commission, but that it is not good enough… Leveson points out the weaknesses in the system, and we need to plug those gaps”

Yet this analysis, which assesses the Black/Hunt plan against each of the February 12th Royal Charter’s 23 recognition criteria, shows that this plan could be accepted, with two exceptions. These exceptions are:

  1. Serving editors cannot serve on the Complaints Committee according to the Royal Charter. However, this does not preclude deputy editors, managing editors or emeritus editors from serving on the Committee
  2. The Industry Funding Body cannot have ‘ultimate discretion to refuse membership to any publishers’, as in the Black/Hunt proposals

Otherwise, with minor tweaks, the proposals could go through. As a result the Royal Charter, as drafted, would enable the press to set up a regulator that Leveson judged to be wholly unsatisfactory.

It is also striking that the changes to Leveson’s criteria made in the draft Royal Charter map closely to the changes asked for by the press following 29th November and following distribution of an initial, unpublished, version of the Charter on 31st December. For an analysis of the changes and how they evolved see Appendix 2 of the report (pp41-46).

If you have any questions about the report please contact us at 020 7727 5252 or 0207 7275229 or email martin.moore@mediastandardstrust.org or gordon.ramsay@mediastandardstrust.org.