Newspapers meet to discuss plans for new press watchdog

Dec 21, 2012

Editors and owners thrash out plans for regulation after Leveson report

THE NEWSPAPER industry has agreed a "direction of travel" over plans for a post-Leveson press regulator, but there are still divisions over how closely it should follow the model recommended by the judge.
Almost 100 editors and representatives of publishers have met in private to discuss new guidelines for the press.
Lord Hunt, who is overseeing the process of setting up a new regulatory body, said a draft contract was being drawn up, although he insisted that the agreement was a long way from being finalised and that there were "streams of lawyers" looking at it.
The Daily Mail said that the industry had "agreed to set up a new independent press watchdog" and that a "detailed blueprint" for the regulator would be agreed next month.
However, The Times suggested that key issues, including how binding the newspapers' contract with the body would be, had not yet been addressed. It said that "significant differences" still existed over "how closely it should follow the model recommended by Lord Justice Leveson".
One of the main sticking points appears to concern the length of the contract that papers sign up to.

The Independent says that after an initial five-year period papers will sign up to be governed by the new body on an annual basis.
"The contract details will increase scepticism among victims of the phone-hacking scandal that all sections of the press will voluntarily adhere to an independent regulator," it says.
One of Leveson's primary concerns was that the new system should be more powerful than the Press Complaints Commission, which, as the Times notes, "was undermined when the Daily Express and Star suddenly withdrew two years ago".
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that David Cameron wants to ensure that ministers cannot "meddle" with the new press watchdog. The Prime Minister's policy adviser, Oliver Letwin, has mooted plans to use a royal charter to establish a body that will oversee the regulator.
"Normally royal charters can be amended on the say so of ministers," notes The Guardian. But the charter overseeing the press could only be changed by a "super majority" vote in the Lords and Commons.

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