Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Press launches rival Royal Charter

A new proposal on press regulation has 'widespread backing across the industry'

The newspaper industry has firmly rejected the Government's plans for the future of press regulation and published its own proposal for a Royal Charter to create a tough and independent new system of self-regulation.

Publishers representing the national and local newspaper and magazine industry and covering thousands of publications are to apply for a Charter which they say would meet the recommendations of last year's Leveson Report into press standards without introducing any element of state-sponsored regulation.

In a statement co-ordinated by the Newspaper Society, they said the Royal Charter published by the Government on March 18 has been condemned by a range of international media freedom organisations and enjoys "no support within the press" in the UK.

"A number of its recommendations are unworkable and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press," warned the statement.

The industry's proposal is closely based on the draft Royal Charter published on February 12 following negotiations with national and local newspapers and magazines. The statement described it as "a workable, practical way swiftly to deliver the Leveson recommendations, which the industry accepts, without any form of state-sponsored regulation that would endanger freedom of speech".

The statement said the new proposal has "widespread backing across the industry" and would deliver tough sanctions - with the new regulator able to impose fines of up to £1 million for systematic wrongdoing. It would also deliver full and prominent correction of inaccuracies and have strong investigative powers enabling the new regulator to investigate wrongdoing and call editors to account.

They said it would have genuine independence from the industry and from politicians, with all the bodies making up the new regulator having a majority of independent members appointed openly and transparently; and public involvement in the framing of the Code of Practice which binds national and local newspapers and magazines.

Crucially, there would be a public consultation on the industry's proposals to allow newspaper and magazine readers to have their say - something which is not being offered for the Government-sponsored scheme.

The industry statement said: "This Royal Charter proposal will deliver on Leveson and bind the UK's national and local newspapers and magazines to a tough and enduring system of regulation - tougher than anywhere else in the Western world - which will be of real benefit to the public, at the same time as protecting freedom of speech."

The newspaper industry's proposals would require the board of any new self-regulation body to be appointed in a "genuinely open, transparent and independent way without any direction from industry or influence from Government". The chairman and board members would be nominated by an appointment panel containing a "substantial majority of members who are demonstrably independent of the press" and no more than one serving editor of a publication.

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