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UK newspaper industry rejects Government plans for press regulation


Lord Justice Brian Leveson

Lord Justice Brian Leveson

Lord Justice Brian Leveson

THE newspaper industry has rejected the UK Government’s plans for the future of press regulation and has submitted a rival proposal for a Royal Charter to create a system of self-regulation.

Publishers representing the national and local newspaper and magazine industry warned that the UK Government’s Royal Charter published last month has “no support within the press”.

The industry will now apply for a Charter which it says would meet the recommendations of last year's Leveson Report into press standards without introducing any element of state-sponsored regulation.

In a statement co-ordinated by the Newspaper Society, the publishers warned that a number of the Government’s “recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press”.

The industry's new proposal is closely based on the draft Royal Charter published in February following negotiations with national and local newspapers and magazines.

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”.

The statement said the new proposal has “widespread backing across the industry” and would deliver tough sanctions with a new regulator able to impose fines of up to £1 million for systematic wrongdoing.

It would also include rules on having full and prominent correction of inaccuracies as well as strong investigative powers enabling the new regulator to investigate wrongdoing and call editors to account.

The statement said it would have 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.

Crucially, there would be a public consultation on the industry's proposals to allow newspaper and magazine readers to have their say - something which is not being offered for the Government-sponsored scheme.

The industry statement said: “This Royal Charter proposal will deliver on Leveson and bind the UK's national and local newspapers and magazines to a tough and enduring system of regulation - tougher than anywhere else in the Western world - which will be of real benefit to the public, at the same time as protecting freedom of speech.”

Under the industry proposals, a new recognition panel would be created, with the responsibility for accrediting a self-regulation body for the press and the power to withdraw recognition if the regulator fails to live up to its responsibilities.

The chair and members of the new 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.

Every member of the recognition panel would be required to have senior board-level experience in a public or private sector organisation and the panel would have to include members with legal qualifications, financial skills and experience of the newspaper and magazine industry.

Serving editors, publishers, MPs, members of devolved assemblies and ministers would be barred from joining either the appointments committee or the recognition panel.