Regulating the Regulators – the Press Recognition Panel and Wales

We all remember Leveson. And we still hear late rumblings from that consideration of corruption in the UK press as well as continuing debate as to how best to deal with it. A need for regulation was generally acknowledged but what system should be used? The compromise reached was the creation of self-regulators overseen by a Recognition Panel established by Royal Charter and the Panel came to Cardiff on 14th July.

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The Press Recognition Panel  held a consultative session in the School of Journalism, Cardiff on the criteria to be used when assessing applicants for recognition. This consultation process ends on 31st July.

It was striking that staff from only one university were present and two of them had already met with PRP staff. (See here for an account of that meeting which provides a useful outline of current issues re the press in Wales.)

And when a very pertinent question was asked as to the number of professional journalists present “who would report all this”, the answer seemed to be only one and she is also amongst the academics. It was a telling moment. How is the public to find out what’s going on?

In the fortnight remaining it would be worth taking an interest in what the Panel offers and in whether or not it’s fit-for-purpose for Wales. It covers tiny newspapers as well as hyper-locals. The Chair, Dr David Wolfe explained that there will be free application for the next two years. He encouraged anyone thinking of registering as a regulator not to be put off by the process which he assured us is simpler than it looks.

Membership of a recognised regulator protects against the costs of being sued. ‘A regulated publisher is taken out of the court regime.’ This would seem to embolden the press not to be put off by the fear of expensive litigation.

Prof Máire Messenger Davies of IMPRESS: The Independent Monitor for the Press, “the first ever system of independent and effective press regulation” was present. Read their rationale IMPRESS prospectus. Small Welsh publishers might want to consider whether that’s an umbrella under which they’d like to shelter.

Although not required to do so by the terms of the Charter, the Panel has  a Welsh Language policy . The view was expressed by several at the meeting that Welsh/English translation facilities should have been made available.

There was lively discussion about the pros and cons of applying for recognition and about the decision of 87 publishers not to apply but to group together as IPSO. The Guardian and the FT are examples of papers who at the moment are not applying to the PRP. Read notes on a meeting between the Guardian and the PRP which exemplify the concerns of those wary of the PRP.

The accounts of the Stakeholder Meetings on the Panel’s website are vivid snapshots of the latest positions on press regulations from key players in the Leveson debate such as the Media Standards Trust, Hacked Off and Steve Hewlett.

It was when we got to the nitty-gritty of what it all means for small publishers that we heard some of the most interesting and pragmatic questions at the Cardiff meeting,  from academic/journalist Rachael Howells of the Port Talbot Magnet, a not-for-profit, community co-op providing online news and information; and from Emma Meese of Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism on aspects affecting hyperlocals.

But why so few attendees from the press? There were at least six members of the public who mostly seemed to have come because of bruising experiences trying to get redress and they asked perceptive questions, perhaps born from bitter experience.

I attended with colleagues from the IWA’s Wales Media Policy Group as part of our preparations for our Cardiff Media Summit on 11th November.

Contact the PRP: contact@pressrecognitionpanel.org.uk         @PRPanel

 

 

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