Cameron rules out government role
British prime minister David Cameron has said the government should be "wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and the free press".
Mr Cameron was speaking in the House of Commons following the publication of the Leveson inquiry report today, which has called for significantly tougher independent regulation of the British press, but ruled out any role for the British government.
Membership of the new body would be voluntary for British newspapers, but they would enjoy some greater protections in libel actions if they accept it, Lord Justice Leveson declared.
Legislation will be needed, but only to enshrine government's duty to protect the freedom of the press, to recognise the new regulatory body and to reassure the public that standards will be set high and kept - not to regulate the press.
However, newspapers that refuse to sign up to be regulated by the new body could face regulation instead by Ofcom, the statutory regulator that governs UK television stations, he warned.
Legal recognition of the new body's arbitration system would validate its standards code and offer legal protection on data protection issues and other issues.
The body should be properly funded by the industry, with guarantees about its budget for up to five years ahead, while it should be free for members of the public to lodge complaints with it.
It would not have the power to prevent publication, but it would have the authority to impose fines of up to £1m depending on the turnover of the organisation, and to order apologies and corrections to be published.
An independent panel, with just one current serving editor, should appoint the the new regulatory process after an open, transparent interview process is held.
While it would have to include people experienced in the media, this body would not include any serving editor - compared to the seven who sit now on the Press Complaints Commission. Nor should it include any serving MPs
"By far the best option would be for all publishers to choose to sign up to a satisfactory self-regulatory regime and, in order, to persuade them to do so, convincing incentives are required," he wrote.
An arbitration system staffed by retired judges could cheaply deal with many of the complaints against the press “striking out unmeritorious claims and quickly resolving the others”.
If a newspaper refused to be covered by the new regulatory body then a court would be able to rule that it had deprived a complainant of access to 'a quick, fair low-cost arbitration.
"(It) could permit the court to deprive that publishers of its costs of litigation in privacy, defamation and other media cases, even if it had been successful. After all, its success could have been achieved far more cheaply for everyone," he wrote.