THE QUEEN last night approved a royal charter that paves the way for state oversight of the media, in a move that risks ending centuries of press freedom.
All three leading political parties backed the regulatory framework, which was given the go-ahead by a meeting of the privy council at Buckingham Palace.
The charter sets up a legal framework that will have power over a new press regulator.
Newspapers claim that this is tantamount to state control of the press, since MPs will have control over this legal framework and be able to change it as they see fit.
The charter also promises to impose exemplary damages on organisations that refuse to sign up to the new press regulator and then lose a case, while those within the system face fines of up to £1m.
The deal was agreed after publishers failed in a last-ditch attempt to force a judicial review of the plan. Last night several national newspapers suggested they could ignore the new system and set up their own regulator that will not seek approval from the state.
“This is disappointing and it is a pity the Queen has been brought into controversy,” said Bob Satchwell of the Society of Editors.
“Royal charters are usually granted to those who ask for one – not forced upon an industry or group that doesn’t want it.”
Even the government admitted that the “question that remains is how it will work in practice”.