Lords Committee agrees with English PEN concern over ‘ambiguous’ press regulation law

Select Committee on Communications agrees that the term 'relevant publisher' should be clarified

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Today, the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications published Press Regulation: where are we now?, a report into the system of press regulation currently operating, following the publication of the Leveson Report.

During the evidence gathering phase of the Committee’s investigation, English PEN submitted a copy of its report Who Joins The Regulator? A report on the impact of the Crime and Courts Act on publishers.  Our report argues that:

  • Publishers expected to be exempt from regulation appear to fall into the category of ‘relevant publisher’, including campaigning organisations, political parties and think tanks
  • Terms in the legislation are poorly defined, leading to uncertainty for publishers and the risk of a chill on free speech
  • Lack of clarity in the legislation will result in anomalies within categories of publication expected to be excluded from regulation, including blogs and specialist publications
  • English PEN’s analysis of a range of publications, according to the terms in the legislation, reveals widespread inconsistency across the media landscape regarding which publications are exempt and which qualify for regulation

In a section on ‘Key issues requiring clarification‘ the Select Committee cited English PEN’s findings and agreed that the term ‘relevant publisher’ in the legislation was ‘ambiguous’.

English PEN repeats its call for a review of the legislation governing press regulation.  In addition to clarification of the term ‘relevant publisher’, we are concerned by the measures in the Crime & Courts Act which allow a court to award punitive costs against a publisher who is not a member of a regulator.  This appears to be a coercive measure that would in effect force publishers to join a regulator.

Read the House of Lords Select Committee report

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