In the previous edition of this post, we discussed hoe media is regulated in the United states and the means to which it is implemented in the state. Today we will be discussing the subject matter as present in the UK.
The case seems to be different for Britain as it operated for decades without state regulation. This can be attributed to the unwritten constitution operated in Britain, it relies largely on hundreds of government practices and traditional practices. The beginning of regulation within the British Press can be traced to the 1947 Royal Commission. The Commission recommended the formation of a regulatory body – the General Council, it was to govern the actions of the publishing companies, promote the interests of the consumers, amongst others.
The print media largely opposed the recommendations of the Commission and only succumbed to it when they were threatened with statutory regulations. A new Royal commission was set up in 1962, it reformed the General Council into the Press Council, which took an activist approach. IT provided for guidelines on Defamation, Privacy and Contempt of Court involving the print media.
The Press Council however didn’t do any better than its predecessor, through the 1970’s to the 1980’s, it lost the confidence of other stakeholders in the media. The PC were perceived to have done little or nothing to curb the excesses of unethical journalism and invasions of privacy by the booming tabloid press.
A new model was attempted by the 1990’s, the Calcutt committee was set up by the Conservative government to investigate the complaints and scandals caused by the British Press. This same period also witnessed the attempt by the Press Council to reform, it aimed at transferring management of its finance to the Press Standards Board of Finance and the creation a Code of Practice. The Calcutt report resounded emphatically the recommendations of the Second Royal Commission. It slated an 18-month probation period for a mew commission to be set up and prove that the industry would not need statutory regulation. In essence, another chance of self-regulation was given but on trial. The new commission, Press Complaints Commission was set up in 1991, alongside the emergence of the Code of Practice produced by British editors.
The controversies that railed the British Press, left little or no room for the public to believe in justice from the Press Complaints Commission. The turning point appeared following the discovery of newspapers hacking phones for stories. The Leveson Inquiry was set up, it saw the urgent need for statutory underpinnings for the complaints commission to function as expected.
Leveson’s recommendations of state regulation, court of appeal ruling, legislation protocols, investigations and penalties for violators seemed to be the British Press nightmare. The barons reacted hysterically.
The system of self-regulation has historically repeated to be influenced by the monopolies of the industry. It continued in upholding scandals after scandals in the news, chequebook journalism as well as vivid violation of privacy rights with absolute secrecy within the group. The fear of statutory regulations was heightened as the Royal Charter designed an audit model regulation designed to prosecute. The PCC designed a new body and claimed to model its functions according to Leveson’s recommendations, named the Independent Press Standards Organisation. The IPSO was set up in 2014 headed by ex-judge Sir Alan Moses, it is largely represented by the media giant corporations. It is no surprise that IPSO’s has been seen to serve the interests of its paymasters.
Currently, opponent’s of the IPSO set up IMPRESS an alternative to IPSO. Till date it has not recorded any membership of the giant media companies. IMPRESS continues to seek the model of self-regulation which promotes great journalism and avoids any form of abuse.