Newspaper industry leaders have begun steps to set up a new independent regulator as the political row over a Royal Charter for the press drags on.
Former deputy premier Lord Prescott today took the unusual step of resigning from the Privy Council in protest at the delays in implementing the Charter agreed by the three main parties and lobby group Hacked Off earlier this year.
This week’s meeting of the Council is due to consider the rival Charter drawn up by the industry because this version was actually submitted first.
Meanwhile the industry is pressing ahead with the establishment of its proposed Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) which it says does not depend on the approval of a Royal Charter.
The initiative is backed by the Newspaper Society, which represents the regional press, its national counterpart the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Scottish Newspaper Society and the Professional Publishers’ Association.
Draft constitutional documents for the new body setting out its proposed rules and structure have been circulated to all members of the four organisations today.
In a press statement today, the four organisations said it was important to get the process under way as the Royal Charter approval process “may take some months to complete.”
“It is already eight months since Leveson delivered his report and the industry does not believe the public can be expected to wait longer before a new regulator is put in place,” the statement added.
The proposed organisation will have the power to impose fines of up to £1m, a standards and compliance arm with investigative powers to call editors to account, and an arbitration Service to offer a speedy and inexpensive alternative to the libel courts.
It will also have a majority of independent members at each level with no industry veto on appointments.
Commenting on the launch, Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell said today: “Editors will welcome moves to take plans for a new independent and more powerful press body forward. The steps announced today put flesh on the principles behind a new body agreed during and after the Leveson Inquiry.
“The new system will be able to earn the confidence of editors and the public and will quickly become effective. It will be independent and robust. It will have the ability to deal with any of the issues discussed over the last two years. It will have new powers including fines and it will be capable of dealing with rapid changes in the media industry.
“The industry needs this and so do the public. The process should not be interfered with by attempts to delay the adoption of the new system by those politicians and others who would prefer to neuter the press.
“Revelations over the past few months including those about the police and the health service show just how important it is to have a free and fearless media.”