• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

News International, Others Propose Alternative U.K. Press Regulator

Rupert Murdoch

It would be based on ideas in the Leveson Report, but come "without any form of state-sponsored regulation that would endanger freedom of speech," they say.

LONDON - A group of British newspaper and magazine publishers, including the News International arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., on Thursday unveiled an alternative proposal for a new press regulator amid industry discontent with a recent government charter.

The proposed alternative royal charter "will deliver a tough new regulator for the press that will be independent of judges and politicians," the companies said.

It would be "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," they added.

The newspaper and magazine publishers behind the proposal also include the Telegraph Media Group and Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail.

They said they would apply for a royal charter to put into effect key parts of the Leveson Report on U.K. media ethics and standards, which was published late in 2012. They had reservations about the government-supported regulator, which would be tied to law. They therefore argued it would subject media to government control and end Britain's tradition of press freedom.

The government charter "has no support within the press," the companies said Thursday in unveiling their alternative proposal. "A number of its recommendations are unworkable, and it gives politicians an unacceptable degree of interference in the regulation of the press."

Their proposal calls for a regulator to be recognized "by a genuinely independent body." Added the companies: "Importantly, there will be a public consultation on the industry’s proposals giving newspaper and magazine readers the chance to have their say – a consultation that the government has refused for its state-sponsored scheme."

Concluded the sponsors: "It is 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. "Critics have said that an industry-supported regulator may give big companies like News International too much influence on its governance and its direction.

"Sun readers expect journalists to behave responsibly, but don’t want them censored by a state-sponsored Ministry of Truth," Dominic Mohan, editor of The Sun, said though. "This constructive proposal would create a tough, but independent regulator supported by the vast majority of the industry – a workable solution which should command public confidence."

Here is a look at some of the other aspects of the new proposal:

* Code of practice:
The public would be involved in the creation of a Code of Practice, which would bind national and local newspapers, as well as magazines.

* Sanctions:
The new regulator would have the power to impose fines of up to $1.5 million (£1 million) for wrongdoing.

* Corrections:
The proposal says there would be "up-front corrections, with inaccuracies corrected fully and prominently."

* Probes:
The regulator could investigate wrongdoing and call editors to account.

* Independence:
The proposal's backers promised "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."

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