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

    Comment number 130.

    There is no way that we should accept legal restriction on press freedom. Government would eventually misuse it, the temptation would be too great. The newspapers are absolutely right to resist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    7 Minutes ago
    Get a life and think for yourself!
    Was agreeing with your post...until that line... "think for yourself...by doing what I tell you!!! Made me smile. :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Like it or not this whole issue would probably never of happened in Canada, France, Germany and so on…. Why you may ask, well it is simple; in those countries whilst newspapers have offices in their countries respective capitals cities, there operations are regionalised, to ensure the newspapers focus on perseveration of democracy and not just the status quo, aka the UK's London 1st policy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Any law which prevent Private Eye exposing corrupt politicans is a bad one. Therefore despite the distaste of allowing the sun, mail et al to continue printing rubbish the Hacked off proposals should be struck down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Who cares if the Papers had no final say? If you have no intention of hacking again, like you've said you won't, you won't care about new laws or potential fines because you'll never be foul of the rules and this none of the proposed legislation would affect you . . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    The papers are doing the right thing, the government need to stay out of press regulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    My way of regulating news papers would be to make them have a headline warning that the contents of the newspaper may be inaccurate. After someone sued the news paper for libel the paper should be forced by law to carry such a health warning for 6 months. After 6 months of not being sued for not being found guilty of libel, they can remove it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    A free press can exist with strict regulation. So long as any wrong information that cannot provide proof it was properly investigated by the media beforehand prior to publishing then the publisher should be made to apologise, any such claims should be verified by approaching those involved in the story.

    Failure to do this and the regulations can then be harsh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Bit like our banker friends, mention the word regulation after they've messed up other peoples lives and they kick off threatening all and sundry. Lets deregulate the Police, and Doctors and Nurses, so they can do what they like with impunity. No it won't happen because they have no power with the establishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Do we in fact live in a democracy, or are we in fact owned by Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay Brothers, Lord Rothermere and Richard Desmond? I only ask because of the way these papers are dictating what they will accept and won't accept. They appear to believe they are above the law, which is presumably why they were arrogantly breaking the law with phone hacking, payments to public officials etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    In other news

    The Bankers have rejected state regulation of banks, and will regulate themselves.

    The Police have rejected state regulation

    As have the judges.

    Oh and the thieves guild has decided to opt out of "policing by consent" and therefore its members can no longer be arrested!

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Self regulation is always superior to government regulation. Look at the famous UL Seal on electrical applicances for example, paid for by insurance companies.

    If you disagree, fair enough, but we have multiple layers government regulation of our food and will ended up with Horse Meat. Do you want the Horse Meat failures repeated here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    its easy, just do not buy the nationals. I buy my local because that is factual and non-political. The nationals are a joke now, so just ignore them then we will not a regulator as they will have no sales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    "would Jesus make the front pages of The Sun?"

    Only when discussing his secret love-child with Mary Magdalene.
    ["I knew there was something funny about that kiss," said Judas Iscariot, 29, who works for HMRC's VAT department.("Just don't ask me about Starbucks, Google, Amazon, etc, yeah?)]
    [SUN: that's okay, Jude, baby, we're not interested in that "serious" stuff.]

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Absolutely right. They were stitched up by Milliband and Harman and their Left Wing Champagne Socialists who want to gag the Press from revealing their misdemeanours from sexual pecadillos to fiddling MPs expenses. Our democracy is completely corrupt to even think about Press regulation. A newspaper group broke the law and should be prosecuted as such not gag the whole of the Press. Typical Harman

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    How about a 'minimum price' for newspapers which refuse to agree to being subject to the regulations.
    If it's legally possible for alcohol, why not newspapers

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    The newspapers have proved time after time that they can't behave like grown ups and regulate themselves. In which case a someone else has to provide the regulation.

    If it costs them money, then perhaps they may learn from it - they don't appear to learn any other way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Look folks. Many entertainers and sportspeople want regulation so that their hypocricies can be hidden and their 'brand name' not tarnished by their misdeeds. The politicians of course want regulation to prevent the next scandal (after expenses) ever being exposed.
    I'm truly sorry for the Dowler family - the press should be hammered for that hacking - but a free press is essential.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    So, Cameron's light touch proposal has been rejected.

    Great, lets go back to the Labor & Lib Dem act of parliament route.

    The papers have absolutely no say in their regulation, they have been show to be totally irresponsible time and again. Phone hacking, paying for inside stories and sting meetings with sportsmen and celebrities. All 3 should be criminal offences for the damage they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    It might not be supported by the press or some freedom organisations, but it is supported by a huge number in the general population.

    But then, since when did the press give a damn what the ordinary member of the public think?


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