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Newspaper industry rejects government regulation plans

The newspaper industry has announced its own proposals for a Royal Charter to underpin a new system of self-regulation. Photo: Press Association

The newspaper industry has today announced its own proposals for a Royal Charter to underpin a "tough and independent" new system of self-regulation which is free from state interference.

It comes after the industry rejected cross-party plans for the future of press regulation - agreed in late-night talks last month between the three main parties - branding them as "unworkable" with "no support within the press".

The Privy Council Office will now look at the industry proposals, with guidance from Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

A statement co-ordinated by the Newspaper Society said the new proposal has "widespread backing across the industry" and would deliver:

  • Tough sanctions - with the new regulator able to impose fines of up to £1 million for systematic wrongdoing.
  • Full and prominent correction of inaccuracies.
  • Strong investigative powers enabling the new regulator to investigate wrongdoing 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.
Lord Justice Leveson with the report from the inquiry. Credit: Press Association

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.

– newspaper industry statement

The Hacked Off campaign for press reform said that the press proposals amounted to "a bid to block any kind of independent regulation of the press that would be capable of protecting the public from the abuses that made the Leveson Inquiry necessary".

The editor of the Daily Telegraph Tony Gallagher described the government-proposed approach to press regulation in colourful language on Twitter:

The newspaper industry has released its own proposals on press regulation. Credit: Press Association

The key points of the proposed cross-party Royal Charter were:

  • To create a body known as the Recognition Panel.
  • To remain in place unless two-thirds of MPs and peers decide otherwise.
  • To impose "financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover attributable to the publication concerned with a maximum of £1,000,000".
  • To be funded by public money “to commence its operations and thereafter fulfil its purpose for the first three years”.
  • To be governed by a board made up of a chair and at least four members.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said that the Privy Council should press ahead with implementing the cross-party proposals.

"The Royal Charter implements Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations," said Ms Harman.

"It was supported unanimously by the House of Commons and had the full backing of the House of Lords. The important thing is that we get on with implementation."

John Whittingdale, chairman of the influential House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, welcomed the industry proposals as "an attractive proposition (which) may even be preferable to what was originally proposed", and said he hoped that neither side would stick "rigidly" to their plans.