Liberal Democrat peer Anthony Lester has written for the Guardian about his independent Press Council bill which he introduced in the House of Lords yesterday.
If his measure became law, it would be the Supreme Court rather than OFCOM which would ensure that the independent self regulatory body was genuinely independent and complying with the principles Lord Leveson set out in his report.
Writing about the need for legislation, Lester wrote:
Statutory underpinning is needed to compel ministers and others to uphold freedom of speech and of the press, and the independence of the new press council. This aim cannot be achieved by contract alone because a contract does not bind third parties or affect the role of the courts. An act of parliament would also provide a powerful incentive for publishers to join the new system and abide by high professional standards. The incentive is contained in my bill by widening the public interest defence in claims of libel and media intrusion on personal privacy where a newspaper or its editor or staff can show that they have acted responsibly in news gathering and publishing, in accordance with the standards and practices prescribed by the press council. The courts would take that into account, making it much less likely that a publisher would be found liable for alleged wrongdoing.
He outlined what he was trying to achieve in the Bill:
I have sought to provide a framework of principles, rather than a code of detailed prescriptive rules, keeping the bill’s clauses to the bare minimum, and leaving the scope and machinery of the press council to be worked out by the promoters of the scheme. If something on the lines of my bill is approved, only a future parliament enacting primary legislation will be able to amend or abolish the act. That, and the role of the president of the UK supreme court as validator – and the safeguard of judicial review for lapses by the press council – are all designed to enhance much needed public confidence in independent self-regulation.
You can read the whole article here.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings