Leveson report: Newspapers reject press regulation plans

Copy of the News of the World Press regulation faced intense scrutiny after the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World

The newspaper industry has rejected a plan for press regulation agreed by the three main political parties in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.

The newspapers opposed the idea of a regulator backed by a royal charter, and have revealed an alternative plan.

It is closely based on the draft charter agreed after the Leveson report into press standards - but without "state-sponsored regulation".

Campaigners said it showed the industry had "learned nothing" from Leveson.

The Guardian and the Independent are the only two titles out of 11 national newspapers that have not signed up.

The government's royal charter, published on 18 March, has "no support within the press" and has been condemned by media freedom organisations, said a statement released by the Newspaper Society, on behalf of a number of national and local newspapers.

The newspapers also argue that they had no say in the final discussions.

Prime Minister David Cameron said there was all-party agreement around the published charter but he was "always very happy to look at other proposals".

However, BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said government sources are saying their plans "will not be dropped" in favour of the newspaper industry package.

'Widespread backing'

The industry's proposal is closely based on the draft royal charter published on 12 February following negotiations with national and local newspapers and magazines.

Industry sources told BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins the industry-backed press regulator would not apply for formal recognition under the government's royal charter plans and it will not apply to be the official regulator.

This throws open the post-Leveson debate as politicians cannot force the papers to engage with their plan, our correspondent said.

The risk for politicians is the newspapers' plan could see the press regulating itself once more, under a rulebook it designed - and this is unlikely to appease the public or victims, he said.

The newspapers' proposals are different from the government-backed scheme for England and Wales in that they:

  • Remove Parliament's power to block or approve future changes to regulation. Instead the regulator, trade bodies and a newly-created "recognition panel" would have to agree to changes
  • Would see the chair and members of the panel selected by an appointments committee chaired by a retired Supreme Court judge, and include one representative of the industry's interests, one member representing the public interest and one public appointments assessor nominated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments for England and Wales
  • Remove a ban on former editors sitting on the panel
  • Give newspaper and magazine readers a say on the industry's proposals
  • Make it more difficult to bring group complaints
  • Change the power of the regulator to "direct" the nature, extent and placement of corrections and apologies, saying it should "require", not "direct"

The industry described it as "a workable, practical way to swiftly deliver the Leveson recommendations... without any form of state-sponsored regulation that would endanger freedom of speech".

Editors have lined up to back the proposals.

Tony Gallagher, of the Daily Telegraph, tweeted: "Can anyone possibly be surprised we have rejected Lab-Lib-Hacked Off stitch up[?]"

In a statement on News International's website, Sun editor Dominic Mohan said it was "a workable solution which should command public confidence".

Acting editor of the Times John Witherow described the proposals for self-regulation as robust but said they would not affect press freedom.

Peter Wright, editor emeritus of Associated Newspapers, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "We recognise that the most important thing we have to do is to get an effective new regulator up and running, and we need to have the support of political parties in this.

"The clear preference is for a royal charter... that is in line with Leveson regulations."

Neil Wallis, a former executive editor of the News of the World, said the press was honouring the spirit of the Leveson report but wanted to prevent politicians having a say in regulation.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Commons culture committee chairman, John Whittingdale, said the plans were a "constructive development".

The Conservative MP said he hoped neither side would stick "rigidly" to their plans and there was now the possibility of producing a "charter which everyone can support".

'Desperate move'

But campaign group Hacked Off said in a statement: "This desperate move by editors and proprietors… is only the latest proof that most of the industry has learned no lessons from the Leveson experience.

"They are not sorry for the abuses exposed at the inquiry... and they do not accept the need for real change."

The industry statement said the charter would deliver:

  • Tough sanctions - with the new regulator able to impose fines of up to £1m for systematic wrongdoing
  • Full and prominent correction of inaccuracies
  • Strong investigative powers enabling the new regulator to investigate wrong-doing and call editors to account
  • Genuine independence from the industry and from politicians, with all the bodies making up the new regulator having a majority of independent members appointed openly and transparently
  • Public involvement in the framing of the code of practice which binds national and local newspapers and magazines

Lawyers representing the papers said they had formally petitioned the Privy Council, which meets next month, to consider the issue.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "We want to see a tough independent self-regulator implemented swiftly.

"The royal charter published on the 18 March, followed 21 weeks of discussion and has cross-party agreement."

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said: "The important thing is that we get on with implementation."

But London Mayor Boris Johnson tweeted: "Press proposing alternative royal charter on regulation - keeps best of Leveson but free from political interference."


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The Leveson report


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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Can we add something in their to say that it's now against the law to report on the mundane doings of people such as David Beckham (yawn)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    While I believe some regulation is needed it is most certainly coming from the wrong place.... Politicians and a bunch of rich celebrities? Is that mixture really going to give us the free press we deserve. Really it seems like this whole issue is at a major impasse and both sides are quite as bad as each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Really. They reject it, just who do they think they are to be above government regulation. Can I reject laws i don't like? The "gutter press" is responsible for a lot of problems in our society and clearly they haven't "learnt" a thing; it's about time the government came down on them hard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The simple answer is to pass the legislation as it stands, though my preference is for the full Leveson recommendations. If the newspapers brake those rules and are not signed up, throw the full weight of the regulator at them and fine them the appropriate amount allowed by the regulations.

    I don't have the option on which regulations to obey, what makes them think they can pick and choose theirs

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I'm not sure what a free Press actually means. Most of the journalists appear to be little more than stenographers for lobby groups, consequently there's only ever one side of the story told to the public. An excellent example of this would be BBC environmental journalists...

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The headline for this report reads "Newspapers reject royal charter", but the body of the report says that they are putting forward their own proposals for a royal charter. A somewhat misleading headline, don't you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    We don't trust the press but we do trust Hugh Grant to help shape the industry? Anyone with a brain would know this u-turn by Cameron would never stack up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    They rejected it, well i think i will just reject any and all of societies rules when one of them affects me.

    Taxes on my earnings - nah dont feel like it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    This whole episode has been a collosal waste of time and money and demonstrates everything wrong with our judiciary and political class.

    We have laws. Some people broke those laws. The police were either complicit with those people or negligent. We spent millions with an enquirey and political gainsaying, and have arrived nowhere.

    All we need to do is apply the laws we have, properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Withdraw their license to publish unless they sign up.

    No more chances for self regulation on their terms.

    No negotiation.

    End of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    This was THE top story on the BBC World at One 45 minutes ago.
    Because on a bad news day for the BBC, there was NO triple dip recession.
    TWAO is now covering.... the lack of women in IT! I don't suppose the BBC would think of coveing the lack of men in pharmacetical sales?
    Think I'd like to see some regulation of the BBC - in particular for unbiased, thought through, Guardianista-free coverage

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Don't the Press get it yet?

    They have had self regulation for decades and it does not work.

    Some sort of regulation applies in Ireland and none of the papers seem to have any problems with that.

    The problem is with the UK Press who are often out of control and they need to get with the strength of public feeling.

    It is not censorship - it is just good regulation and that has been lacking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    So the over mighty Press barons are claiming that they are being denied 'democracy' when in fact it's Parliament, not the press, that is elected to make decisions. Typical. Will they get their way? With a PM in that they are backing to the hilt, absolutely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    So the press have decided THEY will write their own code of conduct. Well, now let the government scrap the proposal they made and instead implement Leveson fully as they should have done in the first place

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    We must have a free press.

    Quote "Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe."
    Thomas Jefferson

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    In Simple terms legislate the papers, they had their chance and now thrown it away.... same as the banks they cannot be trusted any more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Whatever the detail of the proposal it is far preferable to have self-regulation with regards freedom of speech than it is to be subject to control by the state. Remember East Germany anyone...? Wasn't much fun for folk. And it fell apart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Not sure the press are entitled to input into process, given that they had their chance (self regulation) and abused it. However a body which everyone supports will be more effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Easiest way to regulate the press - stop buying garbage newspapers! If the headlines are about a "celebrity" or a TV talent show or Princess Diana conspiricy theories it's a garbage paper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Sledgehammer to crack a nut.


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