Papers get 72 hours to accept new regulation
Media’s own plans rejected for being insufficiently independent of the industry
Conservative culture secretary Maria Miller rejected UK newspapers’ own plans saying they were insufficiently independent of the industry, but repeatedly insisted she does not want the press to be state-controlled. Photograph: PA
The British newspaper industry has been given 72 hours to accept a compromise regulatory system, or face the more draconian measure passed by MPs in the wake of the publication of the Leveson Inquiry report earlier this year.
Conservative culture secretary Maria Miller rejected the newspapers’ own plans saying they were insufficiently independent of the industry, but repeatedly insisted she does not want the press to be state-controlled.
Between now and Friday, she will push Labour and the Liberal Democrats to accept some changes to the plans that were accepted by MPs in March – but that is far from certain given the temperature in the House of Commons.
Heeding the concerns of newspapers, Ms Miller wants to impose a fee for those seeking a decision by arbitration on a newspapers’ conduct; a greater influence for journalists and newspapers over the drafting of the ethical code, and measures to let the regulator operate in Scotland.
While agreement is not certain, culture officials believe both the Liberal Democrats and Labour accepted that some amendments to the March agreementwere justified.
If an agreement cannot be reached, then the March 18th agreement stands. Equally, that agreement would come back to the table if the industry rejected a compromise deal in coming days.
However, the coalition government – which is strongly divided on the need for, and scope of regulation – faces a major quandary, as it will be practically impossible to impose regulation without industry acceptance.
Insisting that the regulatory system proposed by newspapers had to be properly judged, the culture secretary said it was turned down because it did not comply with some of Leveson’s “fundamental principles”, including independence and access to arbitration.
Under the revised agreement that is still subject to political agreement, those complaining about newspaper stories would have to pay an administration fee – a nod to local papers that feared being targeted by “ambulance-chasing” lawyers, to quote one.
Despite political rejection, the UK’s major newspaper groups are to press ahead with their plans for the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the proposed replacement for the much-criticised Press Complaints Commission.
“We are not prepared to sign up to a charter in which politicians get their sticky fingers into regulation. Until the waters become clear we will proceed with (it),” the Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh told the Guardian.
Mr Justice Brian Leveson recommended last November that an independent regulator have the power to impose fines of up to £1 million and be able to control the positioning of apologies and corrections.
The regulator would be overseen by another ‘over-arching’ body, though this was strongly opposed by newspapers who argued that politicians would control appointments. Equally, it would control the Editor’s Code that would govern conduct in newsroom.