According to Home Secretary Theresa May, she was accused of seeking to introduce Government censorship by Sajid Javid, a Cabinet Colleague and then-Culture Secretary
In his letter, Javid said Theresa May’s plan to use regulator Ofcom to survey programmes before they were broadcast posed a threat to the freedom of speech.
He added that Ofcom could become a state “censor” rather than a regulator. He compared the activities of Ofcom to “regimes” with lacking human rights records.
Home Secretary Theresa May’s plan was to use Ofcom to prevent programmes that may contain “extremist content” given the increasing presence of the Islamic State and militant groups in social media and the rest of the Internet and television.
Javid argued that Ofcom had already prohibited “hateful broadcasts.”
“Ofcom does not have the powers to approve programmes before they are broadcast and nor do we consider that it should have these powers as has been proposed,” he said.
“Extending Ofcom’s powers to enable it to take pre-emptive action would move it from its current position as a post-transmission regulator into the role of censor.
“This would involve a fundamental shift in the way UK broadcasting is regulated, away from the current framework which is designed to take appropriate account of the right to freedom of expression.”
It was, he agreed, “absolutely vital” that the Government take steps to protect society from extremism.
But he added: “It must also continue to protect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that these proposals do not restrict or prevent legitimate and lawful comment or debate.
“It should also be noted that other countries with a pre-transmission regulatory regime are not known for their compliance with rights relating to freedom of expression and government may not wish to be associated with such regimes.
“I am concerned about the risk that the powers would be used otherwise than intended, not least given the difficulty of defining extremism, and the consequent likelihood of the Government being seen to be interfering with freedom of speech without sufficient justification.”