THE BLOG

The Real Royal Charter: Ten Gains for the Public

30/04/2013 17:21 BST | Updated 30/06/2013 10:12 BST

The Royal Charter on the press that was approved by all parties in Parliament on 18 March will benefit the public in many ways.

The Charter, which is based on the recommendations of the year-long Leveson Inquiry and has the support of many victims of press abuses, creates a framework for press self-regulation that meets basic regulatory standards.

Once a regulator is established and approved:

1. It will for the first time provide a genuinely independent and impartial service to handle complaints from people who believe that newspapers have breached their own standards code.

2. That code won't just be written by editors as it used to be, but by other working journalists as well - and with input from lay people and the public.

3. When complaints are upheld, the new independent self-regulator will have the power to make sure corrections are given proper prominence and not buried in the corner of a little-read page.

4. Newspapers will have to show they have proper internal arrangements to make sure that their reporters obey the law and follow the standards code.

5. Where people have a case in law against a paper - say for libel or breach of privacy - they can use a cheap, quick and fair arbitration service rather than having to go to court (which usually only the rich can afford).

6. When a big press scandal happens (such as phone hacking or the McCann case) there will be a full, independent investigation by the regulator so that lessons are learned.

7. If a newspaper is found to have breached the code or the law in a particularly outrageous or sustained manner, it can be fined.

8. To ensure the press remains free to report the news without fear or favour, the new regulation system is rigorously safeguarded against any form of interference by government, political parties or individual politicians.

9. For the same reason, the new standards code will recognise the importance of free speech and the new regulator will only be allowed to take action after something has been published.

10. Every three years the self-regulator will undergo an external inspection to ensure it remains genuinely independent and effective.

In the press version of the charter which a group of editors wants to see adopted instead, almost all of these benefits would disappear or at least be curtailed.

The Royal Charter approved by Parliament can be read here.

Most of the detail relating to the operation of the new self-regulator is in Schedule 3 ('Recognition criteria'). Protections for the freedom of the press can be found there, and also in the body of the Charter (e.g. pars 7 and 9) and in Schedule 1 ('Appointments and terms of membership').

You can read a discussion of these points here.