What does yesterday’s agreement on press regulation mean?

Q and A

Q What forms of media will the new regulator cover?

A Although the Leveson inquiry and the subsequent proposals have focused on the regulation of newspapers and news websites, the wording of the Royal Charter has created confusion as to where the boundaries of a new regulator would lie. National and local newspapers and lifestyle magazines are covered, as are their websites and certain “press-like” edited online publications. Outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs are supposed to be exempt, as are special interest magazines, community publications, hobby blogs written by individuals and broadcasters’ websites. However, the charter referred to websites “containing news-related material”, which lawyers warned could be open to a judge’s interpretation.

Q What do the proposals mean for the publishers that are covered?

A A new press regulator will be formed in order to adjudicate on complaints brought against publications that fall under its radar. If the new regulator rules against the publication, it will be able to direct it to publish corrections or apologies, and in some cases, levy a fine of up to one per cent of the publication’s revenues – up to a maximum of £1m. If a dispute is successful, the publisher will have to pay the complainant’s costs.

Q Do publications have to sign up to the new system?

A Several newspapers are understood to be considering boycotting the new regulator, having pointed to “several deeply contentious issues” with the proposals, such as requirements to pay complainants’ costs. However, although there is no legal requirement, papers have been warned that failing to sign up to the regulator would mean “exemplary” damages and costs if complaints go to the courts.

Q Who was in favour and who was against the proposals?

A The leaders of the UK’s main political parties all claimed victory yesterday, although David Cameron was opposed to any form of political interference and the Liberal Democrats and Labour hoped for more state-enforced regulation. The middle ground was not welcomed by some newspaper groups, which argue that their inability to veto appointments to the regulator could see enemies of press freedom governing the industry.

Q What is the next stage in proceedings?

A Barring any legal challenge via EU courts, the commissioner for public appointments will select a board to apply a standards code drawn up by a separate board of journalists, editors and independents.