UK

Press reform: Media reaction to regulation deal

Newspapers
Image caption Press regulation has become a vexed issue in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry

A deal agreed between the three main political parties on measures to regulate the press with a new watchdog - established by royal charter and backed by legislation - has provoked strong opinions.

A number of the UK's national newspapers are taking "high-level legal advice" before making a decision on whether to co-operate with a new regulator.

Newspapers have shared their views on the move in Tuesday's leader columns, while bloggers have been expressing their views online.

UK press

The Sun

Celebrations are premature. Yes, it is welcome that parliament seems to have stepped back from the worst case scenario - full-scale control of papers by politicians.

And yes, the Sun is committed to tougher rules that safeguard the public. But much remains to be studied before the royal charter can be accepted as the foundation stone of new regulation.

The Times

This was a deal done without the involvement of the British press, even though the campaign group Hacked Off was, remarkably, present during the negotiations. The most rational reaction came from Index on Censorship, which declared the deal "a sad day for press freedom in the UK". There was a basic principle at stake and it has been lost.

The role of a free press is to hold the government to account. It should not work the other way round. Despite Mr Cameron's bland reassurance, there is no such thing as a "dab" of statute. Regulation of the press is a matter either recognised in law or it is not.

The Daily Telegraph

For all Mr Cameron's protestations, the distinction between his proposed regime and statutory regulation is a semantic one.

The near unanimity in Parliament yesterday in support of the new approach was a powerful indication of how far the press needs to move in order to restore faith in its regulatory structure. The three party leaders urged the newspaper industry to endorse the new dispensation as quickly as possible. However, after 318 years of a free press, its detail deserves careful consideration.

The Guardian

The politics, then, have played out, but will the practicalities? There is still no guarantee. Monday night's non-committal statement by the Newspaper Society suggests that many powerful players are still calculating whether to play ball.

After doing a deal among themselves, the politicians will breathe a sigh of relief and hope they can move on. But as the industry alights on grievances, both real and hyperbolic, the political class as a whole could discover that the brokering has only just begun.

The Daily Mail

Over the coming weeks, it will be for the newspaper and magazine industry to decide whether it can co-operate with a system involving politicians, many of whom will be here today and gone tomorrow, which overturns 300 years of press freedom.

The bitter irony is this long-drawn out debate comes when the internet - which, being global, has no regulatory restraints - is driving newspapers out of business. If politicians had devoted half as much of their energies to keeping a dying industry alive, instead of hammering another nail into its coffin, democracy would be in a healthier state today.

The Independent

Given the behaviour of parts of the press over the past few years, and given the prime minister's decision to appoint a judge to shine so unflinching a light on it, something akin to what was agreed yesterday was always the probable outcome.

It is not perfect, from the press perspective. But it could have been worse. Now, all the press must put the posturing and face-saving behind it, accept the new system and move on. Most importantly, we must begin to rebuild public trust in journalism.

The Daily Mirror

The cobbled together blanket law will blow up in Britain's face. Next time a prime minister denounces the censorship of a Mugabe they'll have a ready retort.

Despots will take heart from Britain beating the press.

Blogs

Fleet Street Fox

When journalists talk about press freedom we are accused of defending ourselves but we are also defending you. There are 62.6 million people in this country, and 20 to 30 million of them read a mass-market newspaper every day. If we successfully defend the rights of the press, we defend the rights of our readers and our non-readers too.

Objectively speaking, I don't mind what I write being controlled by law, so long as the law guarantees that I can otherwise write what I like. We've only got one law for that. It's the Human Rights Act 1998, Article 10. And the government wants to repeal it.

Nick Cohen in the Spectator

The anarchist in me is looking forward to sheer bloody mess this half-baked, illiberal, ill-conceived censorship will bring. It will be a perverse delight to see the regulator overwhelmed and the politicians, who applauded themselves so loudly today, mocked tomorrow.

But this isn't funny because basic human rights are at stake. If politicians from all parties... do not instead tone down this sweeping legislation a great chill will descend on the free republic of online writing, which until now has been a liberating and democratic force in modern British life.

Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph

It is a sad moment, but today I have decided to resign from the National Union of Journalists. For some time I have been increasingly disturbed by the NUJ's growing sympathy for state control over the press.

If the union represented journalists, as it claimed to do, it would have been up in arms at yesterday's squalid deal which has granted politicians power over newspapers for the first time in more than 300 years. It would have fought all the way.

Rafael Behr in the New Statesman

I suspect the royal charter will be a disaster. The circumstances of its genesis, the reluctance of the newspapers who are supposed to be governed by it, the lack of understanding among its architects of how the internet works - everything points to chaos and perverse unintended consequences.

Where is the contrition? I hear only what might be called "bankers' apologies". That is the special kind of bogus sorry containing no remorse, only peevish irritation at having been caught doing something deemed unacceptable.

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