The 'No' men

Associated Newspapers, News International and Telegraph Media Group have yet to announce what they intend to do with Parliament's press law. Wouldn't it be interesting if they all said no?

Our last hopes for a free press?
Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 20 March 2013 09:14

‘No’. That is the polite, firm and almost universally commended response from Fraser Nelson to Parliament’s press law in today’s Spectator.

Obviously over at Guido we are saying thanks but no thanks, and I am pleased to say The Commentator will not be signing up to the Prime Minister’s Royal Charter system either.

But what does this mean for journalists and bloggers who refuse to kowtow to this shoddy super-rich celeb plot against the free press? Will Max Mosley really be able to “cut the wires” of websites that have the gall to mention his sexual peccadilloes? It all sounds a bit “German-themed”, you might say.

Fortunately, there is another way. Here is what Downing Street tell us:

“No newspaper or blogger would be forced to join the regulator, the Royal Charter system is a system of incentivisation. However, those ‘relevant publishers’ that choose not to join the regulator would be subject to costs and could be subject to exemplary damages if taken to court.”

The Guardian, the Independent and, predictably, a sad gaggle of naive, self-important “progressive” blogs that couldn’t break a window let alone a story, will no doubt be the first to pick up and pen and sign on the dotted line.

They will become the lickspittles of the establishment, the teacher’s pet to Headmaster Hugh, never finding themselves in detention with his trusty deputy Miss Miliband.

Don’t be so sure the right-wing press will be as willing to sign away their freedom, however. As yet Associated Newspapers, News International and Telegraph Media Group have yet to announce what they intend to do. If they all said no things would get very interesting.

In a few months we could quite feasibly have a system where six of the top eight best-selling newspapers in Britain have set up their own independent regulatory body. A rogue regulator, if you like. The papers that people want to read, the papers that break news, would retain the freedom they have enjoyed for 300 years, free from the interference of the state. Hacked Off’s press law would be rendered utterly obsolete.

The Sun, Times, Mail and Telegraph have all been noble defenders of the press over recent months, but actions speak louder than words. If newspaper owners and editors truly want to stand up to this attack on their way of life they should have the courage to say no.

Yes they will have to pay heftier fines when they do wrong, but they will also have wrecked the greatest threat to the free press for decades. In every sense, that is surely a price worth paying.

Alex Wickham is The Commentator's UK Political Editor and a reporter at the Guido Fawkes website. He is a contributor to their column in The Sun newspaper. He tweets at @WikiGuido

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