UK

Press regulation: Culture secretary seeks to reassure papers

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Media captionMaria Miller says there is "complete agreement" on self-regulation of the press

The press could avoid state regulation by making a success of their own system, the culture secretary has said.

Maria Miller told the BBC she wanted to see independent regulation "within the context of a Royal Charter" but encouraged the press to put their own system in place.

It comes after editors opposed a cross-party charter to create a watchdog to oversee a new regulator which was approved last week.

They said it could "neuter" the press.

Instead the newspaper industry has moved to set up its own regulator - the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Asked on BBC One's Andrew Marr programme whether "nothing else needs to happen" if IPSO was working, Ms Miller said: "Ultimately yes.

"There are opportunities for the press to be able to be recognised and I would encourage them to look at that because it does mean they can get the sort of incentives... around costs and exemplary damages."

Nearing breakthrough

It comes as politicians and the press seek to establish a new system of regulation in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of the press following allegations of intrusion and phone hacking.

Ms Miller said whatever replaces the old system was for the press themselves, not politicians, to set up.

"The most important thing that happens now... is for the press to go forward with their own self-regulatory body and to establish that," she said.

"Self-regulation has to be that. It has to be determined by the industry. The industry are setting up their own self-regulatory body.

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Media captionSteve Coogan: Press acting like a 'recalcitrant teenager'

"Really, the only role of the government in this was to oversee the traffic of the Royal Charter being put in place, which is a set of principles that will guide that. It is for the industry now to set up that self-regulatory body."

Alternative proposals by publishers were rejected by politicians on the Privy Council last month because they did not comply with certain principles from the Leveson report, such as independence and access to arbitration.

But following Ms Miller's interview, Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands told the Marr programme: "It sounds to me as if we are getting to a breakthrough."

And Ms Miller added: "There is not perhaps as much difference between where the government's been and where the press is."

Under the Royal Charter, the Press Complaints Commission will be replaced by a new regulator with greater powers, and a watchdog - the recognition panel - which will check the regulator remains independent.

The regulator, set up by the press but without any editors on the board, will draw up a standards code and will be able to impose fines of up to £1m.

It will also provide a speedy arbitration service to deal with complaints.

The recognition panel will be made up of between four and eight members, none of whom can be journalists, civil servants or MPs.

Newspapers and magazines can chose whether to sign up to the new system of regulation, but those who do not, risk exemplary damages if they lose a libel case and may also be liable to pay the complainant's costs, whether they win or lose.

Image caption Some parts of the system have been omitted for clarity

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