In this article I revisit the debate around statutory underpinning in the context of the UK Leveson Inquiry of 2011–12 to refocus discussion on the conceptual distinctiveness of this term. Refusing the idea that it is simply a term of art for statutory control, I argue that statutory underpinning enables a strong articula- tion of the accountability relationship between the press and the public. The article discusses the concept and its operation in the Leveson Report. I then explore the uniqueness of the term on three levels: that of the technical speci- ficity of the recognition criteria; the underpinning of the independence of the press; and finally the articulation of an accountability relationship. I turn to the work of philosopher Onora O’Neill to provide philosophical context on how underpinning offers a significant pathway to media accountability.