Regional newspapers to snub new press regulator
Papers reject Royal Charter over fears of political meddling
Regional newspapers across the United Kingdom will not sign up for a new group to regulate the Press, claiming it is open to political interference.
The print media is to be monitored by the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). But a new regulatory body created after the Leveson Inquiry into media standards was granted a Royal Charter last week.
IPSO has been set up by a consortium including Rupert Murdoch's News UK, the Daily Mail publisher and Telegraph Media Group.
Publishers of the Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times, though opposed to the Government's use of a Royal Charter, have not signed up for IPSO.
The move comes after the Leveson Inquiry, sparked by a phone hacking scandal in some papers, cast a shadow on the industry.
Executive director of the Society of Editors Bob Satchwell said the Press was making IPSO a very stringent body.
"The industry is putting together a new tougher regulatory system which is Leveson-compliant," he said. "What Lord Justice Leveson said was that he was content for the industry to do that.
"He also said that it should be acceptable to the Press as well as politicians. The Royal Charter is something which the industry clearly does not accept, therefore in itself is not Leveson-compliant because it could lead in the future to political interference.
"The reason for that is that if it takes a vote with a two-thirds majority in both Houses to change it, the next time Parliament and the Press fall out, a two-thirds majority could easily be found."
The Newspaper Society, which represents regional papers, said it will not sign the Royal Charter.
President Adrian Jeakings claimed it "was devised by politicians and a special interest lobby group and imposed on an unwilling industry".
"We firmly believe that by establishing a tough new self-regulatory scheme under IPSO together with other news and magazine publishers from across the Press, we can guarantee the public the protection it deserves whilst ensuring that the Press remains truly free and unfettered by political interference," he said.
"The regional and local Press – in common with newspapers and magazines across the UK – will not be signing up to the cross-party Royal Charter."
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said on Sunday that the Royal Charter Press watchdog may not be necessary.
Asked whether the charter could now be redundant, Ms Miller said yes, subject to the new regulator being set up properly.