25 Apr 2013

Publishers reject post-Leveson regulation plan

Political Editor

A newspaper industry body rejects the government’s plans for press regulation and publishes its own proposal for self-regulation bound by a royal charter.

In a joint statement co-ordinated by the Newspaper Society, publishers representing the national and local newspaper and magazine industry said the government’s recommendations following the Leveson inquiry give politicians “an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press”.

The statement said the royal charter published by the government on 18 March has been condemned by a range of international media freedom organisations and enjoys “no support within the press” in the UK.

Instead, the industry will apply for a different charter which it says will meet the recommendations of last year’s Leveson report into press standards without introducing state-sponsored regulation.

Independent body

A new regulatory body would be formed with the power to impose fines of up to £1m, order the full and prominent correction of inaccuracies and investigate wrongdoing.

Most members of the body would be independent from the press and from politicians, and the public would be given a say in the drafting of a new code of practice for editors.

A new panel would be responsibile for accrediting the regulator and the power to withdraw recognition if the regulator fails to live up to its responsibilities.

The panel would be selected by an appointments committee chaired by a retired supreme court judge and including 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.

News International, which publishes the Sun and the Times, is one publisher calling for an alternative system of self-regulation

‘Workable and practical’

The statement described it as “a workable, practical way swiftly to deliver the Leveson recommendations, which the industry accepts, without any form of state-sponsored regulation that would endanger freedom of speech”.

Serving editors, publishers and politicians would be barred from joining either the appointments committee or the accreditation panel.

The plan has been backed by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, which publishes the Sun and the Times, and the statement was first published on the group’s website along with a series of short films from newspaper editors.