THE OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the political cloak for NATO, has issued a warning about the agreement to establish an agency for the regulation, and culling, of the print media and websites in the UK.
The new media censor, whose personnel are to be selected by the Privy Council and the government, has been established by a royal charter.
This charter can only be altered by two thirds of MPs and peers agreeing to the change – this is supposed to protect the regulator from becoming the political tool of the cabinet, in the style of the Charles 1 ‘Star Chamber’. In fact, it prevents parliament getting rid of it!
A second new piece of legislation also means judges can award punitive damages against publications which refuse to sign up to the new ‘watchdog’, in the event of a court case going against the complainant if it is decreed that there is a basis for the complaint.
The new ‘regulator’ will be able to force newspapers to issue apologies, and impose £1 million fines, as well as forcing newspapers who do not register with the regulatory body to pay the costs for legal actions.
The OSCE said: ‘A government-established regulatory body, regardless of how independent it is intended to be, could pose a threat to media freedom.’
It added that ‘Self regulation is the best way to deal with ethical lapses and failures to comply with professional standards.’
The OSCE urged that the British tradition of self-regulation is regarded around the world as a best practice, adding it should not be sacrificed because of flaws in its application.
‘The phone-hacking scandal was a criminal issue and the people involved are being prosecuted. This should not be used as an excuse to rein in all print media.’
A joint newspaper statement pointed out that there are ‘several deeply contentious issues’ about what kind of publications and websites are covered by the regulator.
A DCMS government spokesman commented: ‘Ultimately, it is a matter for the court to decide on the definition of a relevant publisher based on assessment of the facts, in accordance with the three interlocking tests – course of business, range of authors and editorial control.’
The Newspaper Society, representing local papers, said the proposals agreed by the three parties would place ‘a crippling burden on the UK’s 1,100 local newspapers, inhibiting freedom of speech and the freedom to publish.’
That is, in part, because of the ‘huge financial penalties for newspapers which choose to be outside the system and an arbitration service which would open the floodgates to compensation claimants’, president Adrian Jeakings said.
This state control over the media emerged out of the Leveson inquiry into the phone-hacking, being carried out by the Murdoch empire, ruining the lives of many families. It developed into exposing the way that News International had got its people into 10 Downing Street, as head of the PM’s news operation, and into the Met Police media centre, as well as providing employment for many ex-leading police officers.
Where News International ended and the state and government began became exceedingly blurred.
Yet News International will not be the target of this new Star Chamber. Its job will be to strangle those newspapers and websites that support the millions of people who will fight the coalition and its policies, as the class struggle sharpens.
It is this section of the media that fears being ruined by the complaints of those acting for the rich and powerful, and will be wary of risking all to tell the truth.
State censorship must be fought with the struggle for a socialist revolution. Among the first tasks of this revolution will be the expropriation and dismantling of the Murdoch and other media empires and handing them over to the regions and the communities.