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A consistent approach to regulation of online and offline media

Last updated: 11:40am 17 January 2019

We will be consistent in our approach to regulation of online and offline media.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.80

Our verdict

In theory, media regulation means controlling or circumscribing the activities of mass media organisations for the benefit of the population.  So effective media regulation should keep us safer, better informed, well entertained, and facilitate communication. This policy is a promise to maintain a consistent approach to regulation of both offline and online media.

Ofcom is the UK regulator for broadband, phone services, TV and radio. Its legal authority comes from the Communications Act 2003.

Press regulation is overseen by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP), set up by Royal Charter following the Leveson Inquiry. The PRP recognises and approves just one regulatory body, IMPRESS. Another body, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) also exists, but has declined to seek recognition from the PRP. So even within traditional, offline media there is not a consistent approach to regulation, and under this government there have so far been no attempts to address that.

The borderless nature of the internet makes regulation much more complex online. There is currently no “internet regulator” in the UK. The Government response to the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper in May 2018 promised a white paper to be published in late 2018, which would set out legislation to be brought forward addressing internet safety and regulation.

The white paper has not yet been published at the time of writing, although a September 2018 report suggests the government is “considering all options…including whether a regulator is needed”.

This is a complex and controversial policy area. Our judgement is that currently the offline approach to regulation appears inconsistent, and the online approach is in its infancy.  We’re calling this ‘in progress’ because the government’s response to the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper means that there has been at least some work on this . We’ll look again when the white paper is published, to see what’s changed and whether there are grounds for moving it to ‘done’. Follow this policy to stay up to date.

If you want the details…

There's always room for debate

We’re serious about providing clear, up-to-date, non-partisan information. We focus on being consistent and fair in how we reach our verdicts, and always explain our reasoning. But there is always room for debate. So if you see it differently, we’d love you to tell us why. Or even better, submit an edit.