Newspaper industry tears up the Leveson royal charter

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The newspaper industry fights back
The newspaper industry fights back

The newspaper industry looked to be on a collision course with parliament today after it dramatically announced it would reject the royal charter agreed by party leaders.

Instead, most publishers backed an alternative system which would make it harder for groups to bring complaints against the industry.

It would also give publishers greater representation in the watchdog and remove parliament's power to block or approve future changes to the regulatory system.

In a statement, the Newspaper Society said: "A number of its recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press."


Ultimately, the controversy over the new system is likely to centre around the veto proposal.

Media reformers like Hacked Off lobbied hard to ensure newspapers could not veto appointments to the board of the regulator.

But under today's newspaper-backed plans that veto is restored, sparking fears the industry will be able to influence the appointments to the board.

It was precisely this element of the system which was widely considered to have made the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) so ineffective.

The move leaves just the Independent and the Guardian still backing the original charter.

Associated Newspapers executive Peter Wright told BBC Radio 4 that sceptical newspapers were still open to the idea however.

"I've spoken to the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Independent and they all think this is good way to get the ball rolling, to get started on a debate," he said.

The new proposal is understood to be closely modelled on the previous royal charter, but without a role for the state.

The alternative charter is a major challenge to the authority of politicians, who joined together on a cross-party to write up the royal charter.

In a sign some politicians would be sympathetic to the move, media committee chair John Whittingdale emphatically supported the alternative charter.

But media secretary Maria Miller expressed her annoyance at the latest development.

"The royal charter published on March18th followed 21 weeks of discussion and has cross party agreement," she said.

"We want to see a tough, independent self-regulator implemented swiftly."

Shadow media secretary Harriet harman also hit out at the proposal.

"The Royal Charter implements Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations," she said.

"It was supported unanimously by the House of Commons and had the full backing of the House of Lords.

"The important thing is that we get on with implementation."

All  four trade associations, representing all Britain's newspapers and magazines, are supporting the new move, presenting parliamentarians with a coup in the continuing battle over press regulation.

An application will now need to be made to the privy council, which will involve a consultation.

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