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."

 

More on This Story

The Leveson report

Comments

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 70.

    "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"

    Newspaper regulation can't be left to the mere public. We need a newspaper commision with powers to close down public comment at a whim. (sarcasm)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 69.

    Difficult this, whose charter do you trust the papers or the politicians?
    Nether.
    Lets get rid of both then, and i don't mean the charters.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 68.

    I think people are misunderstanding Cameron. He was never in favor of any government legislation but saw the need for a limited bill to defeat the calls from the left for full regulation. This rejection by the papers and international journalist body's suits him just fine. I personal support his position. The crimes committed are criminal acts so there in no need for regulation the left want.

  • rate this
    -44

    Comment number 67.

    The newspapers have a right to print what they want because we live in a democracy and free speech is an important aspect of this.

    However, newspapers reportage is often salacious and is eagerly digested by millions eager to read about tragedy or suffering.

    All I ask is for some news print be occasionally devoted those who do good in our society - would Jesus make the front pages of The Sun?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 66.

    The written press in this country are morally bankrupt from the owners down, would any other industry in this country have the hubris to make this statement given it's recent behaviour?

    "A number of its recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press,"

    The sooner Leveson is implemented and backed by law the better.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 65.

    The press should be under the same state control as the television news. Their job is to provide the news, not humiliate innocent people or print pictures of naked women, be they models or the royal family.
    Behaving like human beings is not optional.
    Thank heavens we have never had freedom of speech. Things are bad enough as it is.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 64.

    Stop buying their tawdry rags and keep away from their websites - they'll soon accept the regulations.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 63.

    The press just don't get do they, they are a bunch of ostriches, for far too long they have done exactly what they want to do and now apart from probably the only 2 quality papers left have thrown their toys out of the pram. The government now need to legislate to ensure that Leveson's proposals are met.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 62.

    Who can be surprised at this. The last thing the 'free' press, and particular, the propriators want is a reasonable, armslength but effective regulatory process that has real teeth to name and shame. If they don't sign up to the proposed Royal Charter, then remove their right to call themselves 'newspapers'. I believe that the public at large have had enough of this out-of-control 4th Estate.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 60.

    Press? Awful.
    Politicians? Worse still.
    Celebrities on a mission? Worse still.

    It may not be the world's best press, but it's the only one we've got, so leave it alone!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 59.

    make it law and they wont have any choice in the matter.
    the papers already have too much power on what they do and don't print without any regard for anyone they report

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 58.

    The arrogant press. Who needs newspapers anyway. Some of them give massive political influence to their American owner who doesn't even have a vote here.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 57.

    So, the media will take on the government?

    I think we all know who's going to win... Corrupt newspapers will blackmail spineless politicians.

    What a sorry state of affairs!

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 56.

    The press were given years to demonstrate that they could effectively self-regulate. They failed.

    That's why an externally imposed regulatory regime is needed.

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 55.

    Why should the press have any say in their regulation - criminals don't have a say in what constitutes a crime or their sentencing ...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 54.

    Let's get all these outstanding legal cases sorted ASAP and see what the fall out from that is. Somehow or other Murdoch needs nailing.

  • rate this
    +159

    Comment number 53.

    There are some fantastic journalists out there who have great integrity and print truthful stories.

    Then we have those who will do anything to go after a story at any cost and if they can't find anything they will make something up.

    Self regulation of the press has failed and its time for a radical change.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 52.

    Cool, I'm sure everyone wouldn't mind if I reject some regulations of my own. I am no longer required to pay tax, I don't agree with the drug laws so I'm gonna drop them, I want to be able to walk into a shop and take what I please, hmmm what else...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 51.

    Easy answer....stop buying papers that don't sign up to the charter.

 

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