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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  • rate this
    +58

    Comment number 50.

    Got to be joking right, self regulation?? yeh the reason we don't do that is the same reason we don't let criminals set their own sentences.

    Why is it taking so long to bring laws to stop the press from doing what they want with no punishments. Bring in laws and control these scum.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    I think it's fair to say that newspapers are sold the public? Therefore some regulation may already in the hands of those who decide to purchase, or not purchase?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 48.

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

    In other words only Tories are allowed to stitch us all up.! It is time to pulp the Tory fiction on the Economy, Welfare and Immigration, NHS etc.. With the right wing Press on their side Tories are getting away with huge whoppers! So you can understand their anguish.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 47.

    "to swiftly deliver"?
    Fantastic! The guardians of our language reveal their ignorance of it, the poverty of their grammar and go merrily splitting infinitives as if they were merely hacking some newspring fodder's mobile phone!
    O tempora, o mores!

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 46.

    Any democracy must support a free and unhindered press. This is just as important as freedom of speech, no matter what someone rants about! The press must however take a responsible approach to reporting, handing out blatant lies and similar character assassinations is clearly unacceptable. In no way should the press's hand be tied. We must know if our politicians are fiddling their expenses!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 45.

    Surely it is time that Cameron actually started realising he runs the country?

    He has backed down and u-turned on just about every policy for three years and seems to lack any faith in his own judgement unless, and I raise this merely as speculation, he is completely corrupt.

    Journalists hacked the phones of people who had been murdered and of dead soldiers - they need to be regulated by law.

  • rate this
    +32

    Comment number 44.

    Much of the press' previous reporting - and mis-reporting - of the Leveson Inquiry justified the need for it in the first place.

    Many of them are still behaving like self-important powermongers rather than the bastions of freedom and integrity they arrogantly mistake themselves to be.

    Perhaps they'll feel free to grow and act responsibly any time they're ready. Meanwhile, here's some music...

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    The press sound like Luis Suarez

    They behave appallingly and expect to get away with
    If they don’t get away with then they want to administer their own punishment

    Which spires spires is nothing

  • rate this
    -33

    Comment number 42.

    We need an uncowed, awkward, reckless, irreverent press. There's nothing much wrong with the system as it is. All the wrongdoing listed by the recently revealed to be hopelessly corrupt Leveson enquiry is more than dealt with by current law. We need to leave things as they are and move on. All this Daily Mail/Murdoch bashing and "We'll Get You Back for the Expenses Business" nonsense has to stop.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 41.

    Press self-regulation has failed five times over the past 60 years.

    You can't apologise 5 times and then claim 'this time we'll get it right'.

    Nobody believes self-regulation will work, not least because the press have gone out of their way to prove it doesn't work!

    Accept the royal charter. Review it after 3 years. Move on.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 40.

    Now we will all see if the "dog is wagging the tail", or the "tail wagging the dog".

    Of course, this does not detract from the historical fact that neither the free press or the Politicians can be trusted.

    Watch this space!

  • rate this
    +68

    Comment number 39.

    Interesting that the Guardian and the Independent have no objections. Maybe I will just buy one of those instead

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 38.

    It seems as though the Newspaper industry has misunderstood how democracy is supposed to work. Ah well, I suppose if you can get away with it why not! It's been 5 years since I bought a newspaper, I don't think I'll start again now, clearly nothing will change..........

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 37.

    Not all newspapers broke the law; the Guardian and the Independent weren't implicated at all in Levenson and they didn't go along with the Murdoch-Mirror-Mail axis' rejection of the government's plans.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 36.

    Just why do these unelected editors think they can dictate to the ELECTED people's representatives. Do they want an actual law laid down forcing them to comply because that would be bad for them and bad for democracy and I hope the intransigence of these editors doesn't force this unpalatable decision on us.

  • rate this
    +141

    Comment number 35.

    OK, so shall we ask a cross-section of people convicted of burglary to comment on the laws relating to theft?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 34.

    The press have proved time & time again that they are incapable of regulating themselves and what do they propose - more of the same, pathetic.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    @5. ynecawla

    The newspapers simply want to carry on hacking phones of dead children.

    --

    "Hacking" phones is/was already illegal and the offence you refer to was known by the police at the time.

    Journalists will continue to break the law if the laws aren't properly policed and this is where Leveson went wrong.

    Enforce existing laws first before introducing new ones.

  • rate this
    +68

    Comment number 32.

    The media believe they can do no wrong and that anyone getting in their way is guilty of controlling a free press. That they believe that there was nothing wrong in the Milly Dowler case and that all their actions were in the public interest just goes to prove how out of touch they are with the public they're meant to protect. In fact they believe they are more important than us and that's wrong.

  • rate this
    -35

    Comment number 31.

    Why are we allowed to comment on this and not allowed to comment on other things such as the UK economy returning to positive growth??

    Talk about free press......

    The BBC seems to have an agenda of its own....

 

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