Hacked Off calls for means-testing of publishers over new press reforms

Reform group calls for amendments to Royal Charter plan that has angered newspapers

Hacked Off, the press reform group supported by Hugh Grant, is urging a series of reforms to the planned Royal Charter on newspaper regulation which it hopes will make the changes more acceptable to the media.

The controversial charter has been the subject of widespread criticism by newspapers and freedom of speech campaigners since it was thrashed out in late-night talks involving representatives of the three main parties earlier this month.

Critics have ranged from the biggest newspaper groups to the magazine sector, the regional press and bloggers and producers of news-based websites. The charter has also been the subject of negative comment from The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and freedom of speech organisations.

In an effort to build support for the charter, which is intended as a response to Lord Justice Leveson's proposals in his inquiry report published in November, Hacked Off has put forward amendments to legislation currently passing through Parliament. Among their measures, advanced on Hacked Off's behalf by parliamentarians such as the cross-bench peer Lord Skidelsky, is a call for responsible news organisations to be subject to "light touch regulation" by the Information Commissioner's Office. In a further amendment to the Crime and Courts Bill, due to be debated in the Lords last night, Hacked Off called for the means-testing of publishers who found themselves liable to the imposition of exemplary damages after having refused to join the new system. The amendment is also designed to protect bloggers and small websites.

During last night's debate Lord Black of Brentwood, the Conservative peer and executive director of the Telegraph Media Group, condemned the exemplary damages proposals as "wrong in principle". He added: "They were cobbled together late at night – over pizza and KitKats – with no thought for the legal and constitutional issues involved."

A number of high-profile news publications, including Private Eye, The Spectator and the New Statesman have already stated that they have no intention of signing up to the new regulator, despite the possibility of being subjected to exemplary damages in the courts.

Evan Harris, Hacked Off campaigner and former Liberal Democrat MP, said that exemplary damages would only be inflicted on publishers who engaged in "conduct of an outrageous nature" after having opted out. He said such damages should only be imposed on large publishers who had the means to pay. "This is designed to ensure that, for those people who are trying to make martyrs of themselves and do end up behaving outrageously, that it's a rather insipid and floppy martyrdom."

A further amendment supported by Hacked Off is designed to ensure that publishers who sign up to the new watchdog are not liable for their legal costs if complainants choose to take them to court rather than go before the regulator's arbitration system.

The group has found itself under attack after it emerged that several of its members were present when the Royal Charter was finalised at cross-party talks in the office of Ed Miliband. No representatives of the press attended. Only The Guardian, The Independent and the Financial Times have indicated a willingness to work with the Royal Charter, although all have expressed degrees of concern.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Guru Careers: Product Design Engineer / UX Designer

£20 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a tech savvy Product Design Engineer /...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: German speaking Account Manager / ...

Guru Careers: System Administrator / Sys Admin

£23 - 30K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a System Ad...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor