Leveson, Section 40 and Channel 4: What the Conservative manifesto means for the media

William Turvill
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Lord Leveson Publishes His Eagerly Awaited Report Into Press Standards
Lord Justice Leveson probed the media industry in 2011 and 2012 (Source: Getty)

The Conservative party today provided two bonuses to the newspaper publishing industry and pledged to relocate Channel 4 from London.

The party’s General Election manifesto said there would be no second part to the Leveson Inquiry, and also pledged to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.

The Tories also said they would “ensure content creators are appropriately rewarded for the content they make available online”. This could be bad news for Google and Facebook, which the news industry believes benefits from its content, dominating the advertising market, without paying sufficiently.

The manifesto also said it would “place the BBC World Service and the British Council on a secure footing so they are able to promote the best of British values around the globe and build strong ties between our local communities and other countries”.

Read more: Prime Minister Theresa May unveils Conservative manifesto

What this means?

Channel 4 will not be completely happy.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley announced in March that her department would be considering whether to relocate the broadcaster, which is publicly owned and privately funded.

Channel 4 hit back, saying a “substantial relocation would be highly damaging to Channel 4’s business model and diminish our investment in the creative industries around the UK and our overall contribution to the UK economy”.

As well as stating that Channel 4 would remain publicly owned, the Tories also said they would relocate the broadcaster out of London.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said:

We welcome the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment that Channel 4 will remain publicly owned. Channel 4 already delivers a significant impact in the UK’s nations and regions and we want to continue to work with government as part of its consultation to explore meaningful ways to grow this further and support jobs, investment and growth in the creative economy across the whole of the UK.

In doing so we want to ensure that Channel 4 remains commercially sustainable and is able to maximise its investment in original British-produced programming.

The newspaper industry will be pleased.

Newspaper bosses did not enjoy part one of the Leveson Inquiry, when they were forced to reveal the secrets of the industry under oath. Therefore, the fact that part two of the inquiry will not be held will be welcomed.

The repeal of Section 40 is a big boost for the industry. Figures from the across the industry have condemned the “draconian law”, and the News Media Association warned it could cost the sector £100m a year.

If passed, the new law would mean publications not regulated by a government-approved organisation would be liable to pay the legal costs of claimants in libel cases – even if they win the case. The only government-approved regulator is Impress, which the newspaper industry does not like because of its links to Max Mosley and the laws under which it is recognised by the government.

The following pledge, which is vaguely written, could be good news for news publishers that are unhappy with the way Google and Facebook dominate the online advertising market without paying for journalistic content:

At a time when the internet is changing the way people obtain their news, we also need to take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy and a free and independent press. We will ensure content creators are appropriately rewarded for the content they make available online.

Read more: It looks like the Conservative manifesto could be very bad for startups

What other parties have said

Labour said it would implement the recommendations of part one of the Leveson Inquiry and hold part two of the probe.

The party also said it would hold a “national review [of] local media and into the ownership of national media to ensure plurality”.

Labour also said it would “always support” the BBC “unlike the Conservatives” and keep Channel 4 publicly owned.

The Liberal Democrats said they would commence part two of the Leveson Inquiry “as soon as practicable”.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems said they wanted broadcast regulator Ofcom to address concerns around media plurality and ownership.

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