18 April 2014

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Industry leaders sign up to new independent regulator

Five major trade bodies representing the UK media have confirmed their willingness to set up a new independent regulator for the based on the principles of Lord Justice Leveson’s report.

The five organisations have written to culture secretary Maria Miller to signal their determination to create a new system of press self-regulation and thereby stave off the threat of statutory curbs.

It follows last weeek’s warning by Premier David Cameron that failure to come to swift agreement on a new system could force the government to legislate.

The five bodies include the Newspaper Society, which represents the regional press in England and Wales, and its Scottish counterpart the Scottish Newspaper Society

The letter states: “We can confirm that we are committed to establishing a new system of independent self-regulation in accordance with the five Leveson Principles outlined by the Prime Minister.”

Lord Hunt, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, will continue to act as the point of contact between publishers and ministers, although it is clear that the PCC is doomed in its current format.

The peer said today that he had appointed three independent advisers to help him “adjudicate” on the industry’s proposals for a new regulator.

They are Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the recently retired president of the Supreme Court, Guardian columnist and former editor of The Times Sir Simon Jenkins, and Lord Chris Smith, the former Labour culture secretary and now chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority.

Cross-party talks on how to implement the Leveson report are continuing, with Labour and the Lib Dems still favouring a system of regulation underpinned by statute.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing on behalf of the newspaper and magazine industry’s trade associations, representing publishers across the industry, following the meetings held at Downing Street and the House of Commons last week. A number of groups within the industry, including national editors, have held further meetings. However, as you will be aware, publishers are responsible for the establishment and funding of the new system, and will be the signatories to the contracts that will underpin it.

We can confirm that we are committed to establishing a new system of independent self-regulation in accordance with the five Leveson Principles outlined by the Prime Minister and have agreed that Lord Hunt should be the point of contact between publishers and the Government.

We accept the clear majority of Lord Justice Leveson’s main recommendations, although we still have legal work to undertake on a very small number of areas including principally appointments, confidentiality of sources, allegedly discriminatory reporting and funding structures. This will be completed by next week. We are also taking forward urgently the recommendations from Lord Justice Leveson on the provision of an arbitral arm to the new regulator.

Work is now underway on the provision of a draft contract and regulations, which will be compliant with the Principles. A Working Group, drawn from lawyers, editors and senior executives across the industry, will be co-ordinating this activity, and will be reporting to Lord Hunt as soon as is practical.

We hope this update is useful to you

Yours faithfully,

Adrian Jeakings. president of the Newspaper Society
Murdoch MacLennan, chairman of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association
Tim Blott, president of the Scottish Newspaper Society
Kevin Hand, chairman of the Professional Publishers’ Association
Lord Black of Brentwood, chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance

3 Comments

  1. Adrian

    Brilliant news and long overdue! Change is needed and having an independent regulator is a good start. Hopefully we won’t be here in 10 years time creating another new body/set of rules/laws/etc…

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  2. Peter Jeffery

    I seem to recall a quotation, Rules are made for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools. Heaven forbid our newspapers should be run by the latter, so don’t get carried away by the fear Leveson. Rather it is the job of fearless proprietors and editors to protect the public against the activities of fools.
    Peter Jeffery

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  3. Adrian

    But who protects the public from foolish ‘fearless proprietors and editors’?

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