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
    -42

    Comment number 210.

    This may sound contoversial but I think the best person to head the new press body is Rupert Murdoch. Hes really shown how sorry he is with the actions of some bad elements at the News of the World, not just that, he was attacked and abused and gave compensation.Hes paid a heavy price,and learnt valuable lessons. I believe in second chances.

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 209.

    The Sun`s reaction to the original plans and the disgraceful character assassination of Hugh Grant shows precisely why the press need to be regulated. We do NOT have a free press; it is owned by rich owners whose own views published whilst there is no redress for those who have been maligned by a vindictive owner. You only have to see the disgusting attacks on Anne Diamond by Murdoch`s papers.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 208.

    The whole notion of there being a free press is a red herring. How can a group of commercial/business organisations that have their editorial policy influenced by individuals (Murdoch) or investors be "free"? They're not. They just want to be free to adopt their own views.

    What is important is that we allow freedom of political expression in this country. There are no curbs on that.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 207.

    The newspapers brought this upon themselves and they well know it, so they can hardly complain if the goal posts are moved against their interests because self-regulation was and will continue to be a joke. We ALL know that. They made their bed and now they have to lie in it. I'm for the Leveson recommendations in their entirety - we need a "clean and respectable press" in our country.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 206.

    "Newspapers reject press regulation plans"

    Well, they would, wouldn't they?

    A Royal Charter was surely one of the dumbest ideas going.

    All current legislation should be used to protect people against lies / false accusations - including ensuring a few editors / owners go to prison for a considerable time prosecutions if their rags publish untruths / use illegal means to gain information?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 205.

    How about conceding this measure in return for a regulation on the number of media outlets one organisation can own? Give (for instance) Murdoch the choice between his Sky or his press outlets?

    Surely the 'freedom of the press' (TM) can't be endangered by a plurality of newspaper-owners, can it?

  • rate this
    -18

    Comment number 204.

    GOVERNMENT FEAR NOTHING MORE THAN A FREE PRESS.
    "Emergencies have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded."
    ~Hayek

    181.Robin, 185.Notrocketscience1
    Agreed.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 203.

    This regulation is an attack on press freedom. Freedom to make up stories, freedom to harass the innocent, freedom to intrude on people's private lives.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 202.

    Let's remind ourselves where newspaper self-regulation got us, that's right, in this huge mess and the largest privacy scandal in history. I think the opinion of newspapers and their publishers can happily be dismissed as utterly incompetent.

  • rate this
    -22

    Comment number 201.

    You're all stupid if you believe anything you read in any of the papers anyway. At least The Sun doesn't hide it's predudices- and it's an entertaining read.
    God forbid we should end up a nation of Guardian readers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 200.

    177.Gammarus
    I don't want any regulation at all, let them print whatever they want ...
    --
    Govs are at least in part supposed to answer to the public.
    As to your main point, about freedom to comment without recourse or responsibility, "any method" could simply be imagination so now think about all the vile (& untrue) things that could be written about you or I just because it filled a paper.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 199.

    The press are showing themselves to be above the law by denying the will of the democratically elected government (like them or not). And the idea of a free press is a fallacy anyway as it is merely two or three oligarchs dictating the political agenda through the media they control.

  • rate this
    +34

    Comment number 198.

    So if speeding drivers decide to reject speed limits and go for self regulation and judge each other, that's all right is it? Or muggers, rapists or whoever.
    So why does the Press think it is any different?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 197.

    175. Major Dennis Bloodnok
    We need a free press as bad as that can be, giving politicians any control whatsoever over the press will be disasterous
    ==
    You'll be saying we don't need to regulate the banks next - great plan...

    We cannot continue with the current situation where mega millionaires can print what they like and harass/ruin the lives of average citizens with few consequences.

  • rate this
    -31

    Comment number 196.

    The press MUST have it`s freedom or else the day of DICTATOR CAMERON will have arrived.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 195.

    They don't make the rules. Theycomply or go to jail, preferably Dartmoor with a big hammer and lots of rocks.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 194.

    This all boils down to the press wanting to be able to print things that aren't true, or they can't be sure are true, with the minimum possible inconveinience to them at the maximum profit. We've had about 6 of these investigations going back 70 years. I think by now the press have proven beyond all shadow of a doubt they can't be trusted. So my answer to them not wanting regulaton is... tough!

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 193.

    Good on the press for not caving in on this. We need a free press, just like we need Freedom of Information, both of which are attacked by MPs.

    The way to regulate the press through punitive damages decided by juries.

    Publish when in the public interest, otherwise award eye watering damages against the publishers. Reckless editors will publish and be bankrupted.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 192.

    Interesting use of the word 'systematic' in relation to fines - presumably the one off destruction of individuals lives based on the publication of mistruth/lies will remain acceptable!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 191.

    You only have to look at the newspaper stands in your newsagent or supermarket to daily see the utter garbage some of these people regard as newsworthy and important enough to give space too.They have to be regulated or we will have a gutter press for ever, backed by weak government who will get a bloody nose next Thursday.

 

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