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NS Calls on Nick Clegg to Consult Before Presenting Charter Proposals to the Queen

NS director David Newell has written to Nick Clegg to ask for the Royal Charter proposals not to be presented to the Queen before consultation with the regional and local newspaper industry has taken place.

Sent yesterday (Wednesday), the letter outlines the industry’s deep concerns with the Royal Charter proposals which the industry believes would “open the floodgates to compensation claims and increased legal costs.”

“Britain’s 1100 regional and local newspapers have not been consulted on the March 18th draft Royal Charter proposals. DCMS officials have rejected calls by the industry to discuss the economic impact of the proposals on the regional and local newspaper industry and their impact on editorial and press freedoms and the freedom to publish.

“The industry would ask that the controversial draft proposals which cause so much concern to regional and local newspapers are not presented to the Queen before appropriate discussions and consultations take place. It is my understanding that you have a key role in this process as Lord President of the Privy Council.”

The letter said: “In terms of the costs of the new regulator, it is hard to see how these could be more fairly shared between the different sectors except broadly on the basis of the proportion of the regulator’s time spent on complaints for each sector as at present. Currently it is estimated around 40 per cent of the PCC’s time is spent on regional press complaints, largely because of the size of our sector.

“None of the options available to regional and local publishers would allow them to avoid the additional burdens which everyone, including Lord Justice Leveson, has agreed should not fall on this part of the industry.

“If the local press were to set up its own regulator, it would have to carry on its own all the costs of setting up and maintaining the scheme, complying with all the recognition criteria including running a ‘free arbitration’ service. This would be considerably more expensive than being part of a single regulator. Further, a multiplicity of regulators would cause confusion in the minds of readers and would lead to a range of different codes and processes."

The note outlines eight key areas of concern for the regional press industry including statutory underpinning and exemplary damages which could have a “chilling impact on freedom of expression.”

The note states: “The Royal Charter and Recognition Scheme contravene the Leveson Report in fundamental ways. The Leveson Report recommended that the new regulatory model 'should not provide an added burden to the regional and local press.'

It said that “local, high-quality and trusted newspapers are good for our communities, our identity and our democracy and play an important social role” and that their “contribution to local life is truly without parallel.”

“It said the Government should 'look urgently as what action it might be able take to help safeguard the ongoing viability of this much valued and important part of the British press.

“The Government should honour these recommendations and not just pay lip service to them.”

The NS is the voice of Britain’s local media, the UK’s most trusted medium. It represents 1,100 newspapers, 1,700 websites and other print, digital and broadcast channels.