A regional daily which circulates in Prime Minister David Cameron’s constituency has backed moves to set up a new system of press self-regulation independent of politicians.
Regional and national publishers last week unveiled plans for a new regulator overseen by Royal Charter as an alternative to the proposal drawn up by the three main parties in consultation with campaign group Hacked Off.
The move has already won widespread backing from within the regional press industry, which viewed the government’s proposals as placing an unacceptable burden on local newspapers.
Editors speaking out in favour of the plan include Simon O’Neill, whose Oxford Mail covers Mr Cameron’s Witney constituency.
Said Simon: “I support radical changes to the way Britain’s press is regulated, as I want no part of an industry that hacks phones and convicts innocent people on the front pages.
“But I will not accept a system that has been steamrollered through by self-interested politicians and pressure groups in the dead of night. The implications for press freedom in this country with politicians astride the regulation process hardly bear thinking about.
“Furthermore, I am disappointed, but not surprised, that despite fine words from MPs of all parties, including the three leaders, the impact this would have on the regional press has been completely ignored, or at best viewed as collateral damage. They clearly believed that if they patted us on the head we’d just go away. They were wrong.
“I want firm, fair and credible press regulation that also preserves freedom of the press in this country for another 300 years or more. That is why I support the Independent Royal Charter. It offers a sensible and effective solution to the current stalemate.”
“Firstly it breaks what looked like deadlock; secondly it recognises that the regional newspaper industry is in no position to carry the huge financial risks inherent in the cross-party Royal Charter; and finally, crucially because it protects a freedom of the press that has served us brilliantly for 300 years,” he said.
Nigel Pickover, editor of the Eastern Daily Press, said: “We believe the proposed system confronts the concerns of many press publishers and editors and is a boost to the process of implementing a tough new system of independent self regulation. It is an Independent Royal Charter which will guarantee Britain remains the home of free speech. It will deliver what Lord Leveson called for.
“Politicians must accept this compromise solution or they will be culpable in threatening not least a regional press which millions of people rely on for news that is clear, truthful and unhindered by the vested interests.”
The independent Charter was drawn up jointly by the Newspaper Society, Newspaper Publishers Association, Periodical Publishers’ Association and Scottish Newspaper Society, representing regional and local press, national press, magazines and Scottish newspapers.
NS president and Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings said: “The proposed system allays the deep concerns of many regional press publishers and editors about the Government’s draft Royal Charter and represents a positive and constructive step forward in the process of implementing a tough new system of truly independent self regulation.”