The press regulation debate has become so polarised that there is little common ground, certainly not enough to point a clear way ahead. This newspaper is of the view, shared with The Guardian and Financial Times, that the current system needs an overhaul and that a small statute designed to protect press freedom (to stop ministers changing a Royal Charter in secret in future) is a price worth paying. That, of course, is not the attitude of all. Other titles have reacted as though what is planned is a 1984, Big Brother-type regime. They, presumably, would rather regulation was altered willy-nilly by politicians in private in the Privy Council rather than in the open setting of Westminster.
We have said that the proposals are far from perfect and that we have serious misgivings about some of them, notably exemplary damages and the cost of the arbitration process. But a route through the chaos must be found if confidence in the press is ever going to be restored. Which is why the suggestion of setting up the regulator and creating a panel to oversee the new watchdog now – so they can begin operating and iron out problems as they arise – is positive. The charter and accompanying legislation can come later, when we know we have a formula that both works and can be accepted, albeit grudgingly, by all the press and the pro-reform campaigners, too.