On 30 October the Privy Council — an appointed committee of medieval origins — is due to announce a decision on press regulation.
The big political parties have agreed a scheme between them but are reworking it to try to make it acceptable to the press lords.
The Privy Council has already rejected a full-scale alternative drafted by the newspaper bosses.
The differences between the newspaper bosses’ scheme and the government’s are relatively slight. Both would established a souped-up version of the present Press Complaints Commission, and a panel to check up on how the souped-up commission is operating.
Both have the drawback for the dissident and minority press — like Solidarity — that publications outside the scope of the new commission would be subject to exemplary punitive damages in libel cases.
Socialists prefer even bourgeois freedom of the press to government control, and we are for a drastic reform of Britain's current libel laws, which offer people rich enough to go to court large protection from criticism. But we also support legal entitlements to replies and corrections.
Real freedom of the press will be won only by establishing social control over the essential means of production — printing presses, distribution systems, and so on — and guarantees of access to those means by all schools of thought.