Press Licensing, Revisited
Seminar by Dr Geoff Kemp of the Department of Political Studies, University of Auckland
Presented by the Centre for Media History in association with the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University, 23 October 2012
Abstract: The fall-out from the News of the World phone hacking scandal has put press freedom on the agenda for public discussion and put press licensing back in the news, three centuries after England's statutory licensing system was brought to an end. In a submission to the Leveson Inquiry, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger declared: 'When people talk about licensing journalists or newspapers, the instinct should be to refer them to history. Read about how the licensing of the press in Britain was abolished in 1695 and look at the arguments why, they are remarkably similar to the arguments today.' This paper revisits the events and arguments of 1695 and asks what referring to early modern history might mean for the news media and press freedom today.