We continue to await press regulation following Lord Justice Leveson’s report in November 2012, whilst the Privy Council reviews two competing draft Royal Charters. There will be a Royal Charter to establish a regulator and two pieces of legislation - the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which provides for the establishment of a self-regulator.
The requirement to sign up for self regulation has sparked some fear amongst bloggers, tweeters and website publishers, because there could be costs penalties for ‘publishers’ defending a libel claim (even where there is a successful defence) if the court holds that they should have signed up for regulation but have not.
Thankfully the legislation does list a number of exclusions, such as ‘a person who publishes a title that relates to a particular pastime, hobby, trade, business, industry or profession, and only contains news-related material on an incidental basis that is relevant to the main content of the title’ and publishers, such as scientific journals, academic journals, public bodies, charities, company news publications, book publishers and micro-businesses (those with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding £2 million). However could the outcome of such a wide exclusion be that the new legislation doesn’t really have much bite? With almost anyone online (except a newspaper or dedicated news outlet) falling outside of the scope of regulation, the new legislation most definitely isn’t a means for policing the dissemination of news and gossip on the wider internet.