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No evidence to justify curbs on local press says NS

The Newspaper Society has issued a fresh warning to David Cameron on the eve of the Leveson Report saying there is “no evidence” to justify statutory regulation of local newspapers.

With the report due out tomorrow, NS director David Newell urged the government to consult the public on its findings before deciding on its next move.

“The public’s views in the nations, regions and localities of the UK, which have so far not been the focus of the Leveson inquiry or of politicians, should be at the centre of the debate on press freedom and press regulation,” he said.

“No evidence has been produced to Leveson which justifies controlling local and regional newspapers through a new system of Government controls under a statutory regime. ”

The move comes as 86 mainly Conservative MPs and peers gave their backing to Press Complaints Committee chairman Lord Hunt’s plan for a beefed-up system of self-regulation.

They include former Commons speaker Baroness Boothroyd, Olympics boss Lord Coe, former Tory leadership contender David Davis, Downton Abbey creator Lord Fellowes and former Labour home secretary David Blunkett.
Regional editors have also continued to argue strongly against the imposition of legal controls.

In a blog post published yesterday, Northern Echo editor Peter Barron called for newspapers to be forced to carry apologies and corrections as the splash as part of a beefed-up form of self-regulation.

Peter said that corrections published on “page 64″ do not hurt national newspapers enough and that on occasions they should be required to carry them on page one.

“We need a beefed up, tougher watchdog for the press. One with more teeth than the current Press Complaints Commission (PCC), not least greater power over the prominence of corrections and apologies,” he wrote.

Elsewhere deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has told his local newspaper editor he will oppose any “extreme” measures which would see the day-to-day workings of the local press regulated by law.

In a conversation with Sheffield Star editor Jeremy Clifford, the Lib Dem leader and Sheffield Hallam MP said he did not want to see the press regulated on a working level.

Jeremy told HTFP: “He is not actually saying he thinks there should be statutory regulation of the press on a day to day basis. It was quite interesting and certainly very different to how he has been portrayed.

“There is a difference between legislation which interferes with what a free press does on a day to day basis, and an independent body regulating the press which is recognised by legislation.

“He wants to see a debate based around whether the independence of any regulatory body should be enshrined in law.”

“Clearly, as an editor I am opposed to any statutory regulation of what we do – but I am quite relaxed about having an independent body looking at it.”

Lord Justice Leveson will make a short statement about the report at 1.30pm at the QEII Conference Centre in London tomorrow but will not take questions or be available for interviews afterwards.

Following publication of the report, Prime Minister David Cameron will make a statement in the Commons before a full debate by MPs on Monday.