THE government’s proposals to regulate the press via a royal charter have much to recommend them, not least that they do not involve any form of statutory underpinning.
But some of the fine detail within the plans makes me deeply uneasy, as it should anyone who believes that a healthy regional newspaper industry is vital to local democracy.
The government’s proposals would allow third parties to complain about articles, opening the way to every minor pressure group making time-wasting and irrelevant complaints.
There are also plans to create a low-cost libel arbitration arm to the new regulator, which could mean those publishers who do not use it would be left open to the threat of exemplary damages.
That represents a double whammy for smaller local newspapers that do not benefit from the resources enjoyed by the nationals.
They will not be able to afford not to be part of the arbitration arm (and there is no suggestion as to how much that will cost in itself). Let me make one thing clear. Newspapers like the Argus do not like getting things wrong.
And when we do we want to put them right as soon as possible.
I want readers to be able to complain about inaccuracies and the like, and we encourage them to do so.
But, under these proposals, I can foresee a substantial increase in spurious complaints driven by people seeing pound signs before their eyes.
Complaints will have to be investigated none the less, taking up time and money that many local newspapers can ill-afford.
So there are tweaks to be made to the government’s proposals.
They are not perfect but they are, on the whole, acceptable and a damn sight better than creating new laws to prevent actions by national newspapers that were already illegal.
Thanks for your courtesy
THE deaths of five members of the Hayat family in a taxi crash during a pilgrimage to Mecca is a terrible tragedy.
This awful incident is, of course, a tragedy for the rest of the family.
But it is also a tragedy for Newport and for the Pill community, of which all five members of the family were an integral part.
The Hayat family is hugely respected in Newport, and that respect has grown in the dignified way they have responded to this tragedy.
I want to thank them personally for the time and courtesy they afforded to my reporters at the weekend. It must have been hugely difficult for them to talk to us, but they could not do enough to help us tell their story and publicise their tributes. I want to thank them personally for the time and courtesy they afforded to my reporters at the weekend.
It must have been hugely difficult for them to talk to us but they could not do enough to help us tell their story and publicise their tributes.
Fickle fans write and having written, move on
A TINY minority of Newport County ‘fans’ have given manager Justin Edinburgh some terrible stick on online forums over the last few weeks after a couple of bad results.
(I know I shouldn’t read such comments but they are so entertaining they become addictive.) That’s the same Justin Edinburgh who, in a little over a year, has saved the club from almost certain relegation, got them to Wembley for the first time in their history, and turned them into genuine promotion challengers.
So what happens when County produce a great performance to beat promotion rivals Mansfield this week?
The tiny minority of ‘fans’ say the team won because Edinburgh listened to them and changed the formation of the team as a result.
Because that’s what professional football managers do.
It really is beyond parody.