Brits Want Independent Press Regulator After Phone Hacking Scandal

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In the wake of the phone hacking scandal, the British public would prefer an independent body to regulate the press rather than see newspapers regulate themselves via an industry group, the Guardian reported.

It cited a new survey conducted by YouGov and shared with politicians by Hacked Off, an initiative set up following the hacking scandal that is supported by the likes of actor Hugh Grant.

Nearly four in five people in the poll expressed a preference for an independent oversight body, according to the Guardian. It said that 77 percent agreed that after the hacking scandal, in which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has been embroiled, newspapers shouldn't control the system for press complaints anymore.

And more than two thirds agreed with the view that politicians are too close to media owners and editors to ensure that people are protected from unethical behavior.

The Press Complaints Commission, a self-regulatory body that currently deals with complaints about missteps by newspapers, has been seen as ineffective. Brian Leveson, who has led the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and standards following the hacking scandal, has been reviewing a possible new regulatory set-up and is expected to publish his findings in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Ken Clarke, a member of the current British government who has no defined portfolio, has written to Leveson to say he was in favor of a new regulation body for the press that could impose fines, the Guardian said. He dismissed fears voiced by other members of government that this would hurt the industry.

Other government ministers have opposed any government intervention.

Said Clarke: "I believe we do need a new regulator – one with substantially more power and independence than the PCC, which failed in its previous incarnation, and no longer commands the confidence of the public."

He added: "I also share what appears to be the consensus view that a new body should be independent both of the industry and of political influence."

Clarke said that this would not "amount to state control of the press."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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