Introductory Note:

Nobody wants a fettered press, no clamps on the mouths of journalists who provide us with factually accurate news and opinion. The regulation of the press as regards content is an abhorrent concept and rightly should never be applied in a democracy, even in the face of so called fake news which often spirals from little more than a back bedroom social media rant.

However, the caveat to the freedom of the press – with the media ruling many aspects of our lives, and trusted to inform us on important issues – is that it is honest and ethical.

A longstanding principle for journalists and editors has been that corrections and retractions are given equal prominence to the original article, in order to redress any adverse effects or imbalances caused.

With the larger publications now driven by profit, editorial responsibility is often over-ridden by business and revenue strategy.

This situation is untenable and irresponsible, with adverse effects clear for all to see.

Proposal:

It is now clear that intervention must come, led by the will of the people, to influence parliament to intervene and resolve this issue for the benefit of all, through legislation.

A short act must be introduced, to regulate this specific aspect of media behaviour, while unambiguously ensuring journalism remains free and unfettered.

An act, entitled the News Publications (Corrections and Retractions) Act is proposed, which would make the following provisions and the following provisions alone (formal draft wording is being prepared for later use):

Section 1:

a) News publications (defined as print newspapers and magazines, and electronic or digital versions thereof);

b) published or accessible in any format in the United Kingdom;

c) must, publish a retraction or correction of, or relating to an article, at the time they are made aware it is required;

d) and, when publishing a correction or retraction of, or relating to an article, assign the same headline size and type, page number, and printing space (or column inches), with identical prominence to the original article.

d) (A front page article must be corrected in identical lay out on the front page, or front page of a website, for example).

Section 2:

a) It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with section 1, with a mandatory fine for the publication or business owner of the publication responsible of not less than £25,000 but not more than £1000,000; the level of fine being attributed in bands on the scale set out below.

b) The offence is indictable and triable at Crown Court only.

c) The publication or business owner thereof, including any corporation or board, is the liable party in all cases. For the avoidance of doubt this includes ‘senior management’ as defined by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

d) Individual journalists are not liable parties in such proceedings but may be personally liable in any civil recovery proceedings arising from the case.

e) The band of fine on a guilty finding under this offence is set out as follows:

  • Local News Publications: £25-100,000
  • Regional News Publications: £100,000-500,000
  • National and International News Publications: £500,000-1000,000

f) The level of fine within the band will be attributed by the court based upon the comparative size, location and prominence of the correction or retraction to the original article, the circulation of the article, and the level of harm caused by the content – determined by any evidence of adverse affects to any person, group, corporation or any other body. In the case where no correction or retraction is made, the maximum fine within the band shall be applied.

Section 3:

a) Any party subject to proceedings as a liable publisher under this act must be readily identifiable to an average person as a ‘newspaper’, ‘magazine’, or ‘online news outlet aligned to or forming part of the operations of a newspaper or magazine’.

b) News publications shall not be subject to further regulation or constraint, notwithstanding rules, regulations and acts already in force at the time of enactment.

Section 4:

a) ‘At the time they are made aware it is required’, at Section 1(c) means upon the receipt of a formal letter, electronic communication, or telephone call.

b) A communication at Section 4(a) will be deemed received if the party making the publication aware holds a record of the outward communication, for example an email, or a recorded delivery receipt.

Section 5:

a) Any person may raise a complaint of an offence contrary to this act, including on behalf of another person.

b) For the purposes of crime recording, one notifiable offence shall be recorded for each instance relating to an article and its retraction, rather than one offence per person raising the complaint of the offence. For example, one failure to retract an article generates 10 complaints, one crime shall be recorded with ten complainants.

c) All offences shall be subject to mandatory referral by the police to the media regulator, OfCom.

Supporting This Campaign:

This campaign requires no financial support.

You can either sign an online petition here, which the government will respond to if it reaches ten thousand signatures. The petition wording is as follows:

Enact law regulating retractions and corrections (only) in news publications.

It is a long standing editorial principle that a correction or retraction should take the same size and prominence as the original article. With publications of newspapers and their online arms now increasingly profit driven and political, this practice of editorial responsibility has fallen away.

A number of inflammatory headlines over recent months have caused significant disturbance and furore, while the subsequent corrections and retractions have been buried in small bylines. Such articles very often inflame community tensions during a period of heightened civil unease and may well be a contributing factor in hate crimes across the UK. A proposed bill has been drafted to mandate for responsible publication practices, while making sure not to fetter the freedom of the press.

Or contact your MP (you can find your MP here) using the following as a cut and paste text:

Dear [name],

RE: Please support our campaign to enact law regulating retractions and corrections (only) in news publications.

The regulation of the press as regards content is an abhorrent concept and rightly should never be applied in a democracy, even in the face of so called fake news.

However, the caveat to the freedom of the press – with the media ruling many aspects of our lives, and trusted to inform us on important issues – is that it is honest and ethical.

A longstanding principle for journalists and editors has been that corrections and retractions are given equal prominence to the original article, in order to redress any adverse effects or imbalances caused. With the larger publications now driven by profit, editorial responsibility is often over-ridden by business and revenue strategy.

This situation is untenable and irresponsible, with adverse effects clear for all to see.

It is now clear that intervention must come, led by the will of the people, to influence parliament to intervene and resolve this issue for the benefit of all, through legislation.

A short act must be introduced, to regulate this specific aspect of media behaviour, while unambiguously ensuring journalism remains free and unfettered.

An act, entitled the News Publications (Corrections and Retractions) Act is proposed, which would make the following provisions and the following provisions alone (formal draft wording is being prepared for later use):

Section 1:

a) News publications (defined as print newspapers and magazines, and electronic or digital versions thereof);

b) published or accessible in any format in the United Kingdom;

c) must, publish a retraction or correction of, or relating to an article, at the time they are made aware it is required;

d) and, when publishing a correction or retraction of, or relating to an article, assign the same headline size and type, page number, and printing space (or column inches), with identical prominence to the original article.

d) (A front page article must be corrected in identical lay out on the front page, or front page of a website, for example).

Section 2:

a) It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with section 1, with a mandatory fine for the publication or business owner of the publication responsible of not less than £25,000 but not more than £1000,000; the level of fine being attributed in bands on the scale set out below.

b) The offence is indictable and triable at Crown Court only.

c) The publication or business owner thereof, including any corporation or board, is the liable party in all cases. For the avoidance of doubt this includes ‘senior management’ as defined by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

d) Individual journalists are not liable parties in such proceedings but may be personally liable in any civil recovery proceedings arising from the case.

e) The band of fine on a guilty finding under this offence is set out as follows:

  • Local News Publications: £25-100,000
  • Regional News Publications: £100,000-500,000
  • National and International News Publications: £500,000-1000,000

f) The level of fine within the band will be attributed by the court based upon the comparative size, location and prominence of the correction or retraction to the original article, the circulation of the article, and the level of harm caused by the content – determined by any evidence of adverse affects to any person, group, corporation or any other body. In the case where no correction or retraction is made, the maximum fine within the band shall be applied.

Section 3:

a) Any party subject to proceedings as a liable publisher under this act must be readily identifiable to an average person as a ‘newspaper’, ‘magazine’, or ‘online news outlet aligned to or forming part of the operations of a newspaper or magazine’.

b) News publications shall not be subject to further regulation or constraint, notwithstanding rules, regulations and acts already in force at the time of enactment.

Section 4:

a) ‘At the time they are made aware it is required’, at Section 1(c) means upon the receipt of a formal letter, electronic communication, or telephone call.

b) A communication at Section 4(a) will be deemed received if the party making the publication aware holds a record of the outward communication, for example an email, or a recorded delivery receipt.

Section 5:

a) Any person may raise a complaint of an offence contrary to this act, including on behalf of another person.

b) For the purposes of crime recording, one notifiable offence shall be recorded for each instance relating to an article and its retraction, rather than one offence per person raising the complaint of the offence. For example, one failure to retract an article generates 10 complaints, one crime shall be recorded with ten complainants.

c) All offences shall be subject to mandatory referral by the police to the media regulator, OfCom.

A petition has been lodged bearing the title ‘Enact law regulating retractions and corrections (only) in news publications’.

Your support in helping ensure ethics in media publications, while preserving the freedom of the press, is greatly appreciated.

Yours faithfully,

[Your Name]

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you can see fit to support this campaign.

James.

 

 

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