In October 2023, the Online Safety Bill became law in the UK.
The good news – from a media perspective – is that some interesting provisions, that were present in earlier drafts, have been removed.
This included a new offence of publishing “fake news”, from which ‘official’ news publishers would be exempt. Or, in other words, citizen journalists could have been prosecuted for getting a story wrong; but the likes of the Daily Mail and the Telegraph would have been safe.
Also, teasingly, the Bill makes reference to a new duty for Ofcom to publish and promote a media literacy strategy. However, our reading of the relevant sections (ss.165/166) suggests that this will be focused on issues of harmful conduct online.
Leveson to be neutered
Also of concern is the intention flagged in the 2023 King’s speech that the UK government will use a forthcoming media bill to repeal a provision, drawn up in the wake of Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry, that would force publishers to accept state-backed regulation or face paying the legal costs of both sides even in court cases they win.
On the plus side, the Labour Party have said they will oppose this; and this announcement brings media regulation back onto the political agenda.
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