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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Statutory Underpinning, the Leveson compromise

JUNE 2014: The consensus seemed to be that a new press self-regulator would be established, like the BBC, through a royal charter, NOT legisltaion (statutory), BUT that Parliament could intervene to change the terms of the regulator, its rules, if 2/3 of MPs and Lords voted in favour of this. Its that possible 2/3 vote that provided the 'underpinning'.

When reading about Leveson's recommendations you'll encounter the term STATUTORY UNDERPINNING frequently. So, what does this mean?

There's no precise answer as Leveson left the precise form of this open to debate among politicians. The principle, though, is clear enough: its a compromise between continuing self-regulation and introducing statutory regulation. It may mean that the press regulator is created through an Act of Parliament (so, has a legal status) rather than being created by voluntary agreement amongst newspaper owners. It may also mean that a review body is set up by Act of Parliament to regularly (probably annually) check that the press regulator is functioning as it should.

The idea also carries the possible threat of calling time in the last chance saloon: some politicians favour using statutory underpinning to give (essentially) self-regulation one final chance, BUT with the explicit reserve power passed at the same time which will see a more statutory body launched if this regulator fails as its predecessors have.

Statutory underpinning may also see a legally enforceable fining system introduced (also discussed is the idea of tax breaks for any companies to sign up to the new regulator, withdrawn from any companies - like Northern + Shell currently - who refuse to).

A few useful links:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/leveson-inquiry/9711769/Lord-Justice-Leveson-insists-statutory-underpinning-does-not-amount-to-state-control.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-fenton/leveson-statutory-underpi_b_2237834.html;
http://hackinginquiry.org/debunking/six-degrees-of-regulation/;
http://www.mediareform.org.uk/featured/labour-promises-to-vote-on-statutory-underpinning;
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/polislevesonblog/2012/11/26/arguments-for-statutory-underpinning-of-regulation/;
BBC report on different ways to regulate press;

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