Parliament and independent press regulation – a chronology of ducks.

If you are interested in press reform, the chronology of events below should tell you how previous politicians have ducked their responsibility to act. When Leveson reports on Thursday, it will be up to you to convince your local MP that they should have the courage to finally deal with this issue. So why not consider joining the campaign for a free and accountable press? They’re called Hacked Off and they need your help and support.

1953 Four years after a Royal Commission told the press to start regulating itself, nothing had been done. It took the threat of legislation – a broadly-supported Private Member’s Bill from C.J. Simmons MP – to make them create the General Council of the Press. Withdrawing the Bill, a sceptical Simmons warned: ‘I give warning here and now that if it [the Council] fails, some of us again will have to come forward with a measure similar to this bill.’

1962 A second Royal Commission told the press it had to make self-regulation effective, but again warned of legislation: ‘We think that the Press should be given another opportunity itself voluntarily to establish an authoritative General Council . . . We recommend, however, that the government should specify a time limit after which legislation would be introduced.‘

1977 The third Royal Commission on the Press urged radical changes to the Press Council, which was found to lack independence and credibility, and said that if nothing was done Parliament should act. The report said: ‘We recommend that the press should be given one final chance to prove that voluntary self-regulation can be made to work.’

1990 The Calcutt Committee on Privacy was a response to Hillsborough, the grossly intrusive reporting of the death of TV presenter Russell Harty and an accident suffered by actor Gorden Kaye. David Mellor, then a Home Office minister, had said: ‘I do believe the press – the popular press – is drinking in the last chance saloon.’ Calcutt recommended the establishment of an effective Press Complaints Commission and newspapers were given a ‘year of grace’ to make this work. Home Secretary, David Waddingston, told the Commons: ‘This is positively the last chance for the industry to establish an effective non-statutory system of regulation.’

1993 The Calcutt Review concluded that the PCC was ‘not… an effective regulator of the press’. It recommended a Press Complaints Tribunal backed by statute. A Major government with a slender majority failed to implement this.

2011 In the Commons in July 2011, speaking after the revelation that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, David Cameron said: ‘I accept we can’t say it’s the last chance saloon all over again. We’ve done that.’

Hacked Off is working hard on behalf of the many ordinary victims and the public, of whom 78 per cent support independent press regulation, to ensure that their voices are not drowned out by the press. We are about to be steamrolled by one of the most powerful lobbying operations in parliamentary history. Please play your part in stopping it.


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