Press regulator will be good for us all

When Leveson published his report five months ago, could he have anticipated the ensuing turmoil or how far some would go to prevent his recommendations from becoming a reality?

The good news for PRWeek's readers is that the post-Leveson world should be a better environment for comms professionals.

In March, certain politicians were temporarily cured of their Stockholm syndrome relationship with the press. This paved the way to agree a Royal Charter underpinned by statute (although some deployed semantics to claim there was no underpinning).

The press is now deciding whether to play ball. It is largely expected to co-operate, because it will wish to avoid the alternative of fully fledged statutory regulation, so will be looking to set up an independent regulator.

How well the new regulator will work is yet to be seen, but, it will have powers to investigate, impose large fines and direct prominent corrections and apologies.

The sharper teeth ought to make those working to protect their clients' reputations from intrusive or false and damaging stories better able to deal with issues efficiently post-publication.

Indeed, both sides are being encouraged to use the regulator rather than the courts, through a combination of carrots and sticks. The carrot, for example, is that arbitration is meant to be cheaper than litigation.

I am optimistic the regulator will work better than the PCC, and that it will be the regulator that will be the first port of call when an agreement cannot be reached.

If the regulator proves to be truly independent, effective and efficient then it can only be a good thing for clients, comms professionals and lawyers. After all, most individuals and companies with a grievance simply want swift redress and fair treatment.

Some comms professionals may feel the press will be muzzled as a result of so many changes, but broadcasters manage to publish hard-hitting investigative pieces despite full statutory regulation. There is no reason to believe that the press will be unable to do the same with its light touch version of it.

Gideon Benaim is a partner at media lawyers Michael Simkins, specialising in reputation protection.

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