U.K. Newspaper Giants Keep Quiet as Parliament Presents Press Regulation Deal
LONDON -- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron formally unveiled in Britain's House of Commons late Monday a cross-party agreement to establish a new and powerful press regulator. Most newspaper firms didn't immediately comment on the deal.
An emergency debate called for by Cameron to allow each party to declare their part in the agreement, which was struck in the early hours of Monday morning in the U.K., and various other topics rubber-stamped the Royal Charter that sets up the regulator.
The Royal Charter calls for the new regulatory body to have a powerful executive committee to help make the decisions.
That body will not have any serving newspaper editors on it, no civil servants or serving members of parliament, but will have the power to forcibly tell newspapers where and how prominently to display any apologies or corrections that might be required.
The new regulator is birthed from the proposals made in the final report of the Leveson Inquiry late last year. The inquiry was set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal surrounding News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper arm News International.
The debate took everyone back to where it all began, with Cameron and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband reminding members of parliament that it was for the victims, such as the parents of murdered school girl Milly Dowler, of phone hacking that Leveson and the changes had come about.
Cameron warned newspaper bosses that the debate was done. "My message to the press is clear. We've had the debate. Now it is time to get on and make this system work," Cameron said.
Miliband noted the press regulation being introduced is similar to the one that already operates in Ireland.
"But, as Leveson recommended, independent regulation with membership voluntary on the basis of incentives. I urge all members of the press now to join this new system," Milband said.
Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and deputy prime minister in the coalition government with Cameron, also paid tribute to the victims of phone hacking.
Clegg also garnered a laugh from the house as he noted that all three main parties are claiming a victory with this before contradicting Cameron's view by saying that there is statutory underpinning of the press watchdog.
All eyes will be on Rupert Mudoch's News International response and other powerful newspaper companies, including The Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
There has been a whispered threat that there is a likelihood that certain factions will not sign up to the new system. The newspaper industry said it will pore over the Royal Charter before it makes its official stance clear in the coming days.
Said a News International representative during the parliamentary debate: "We will look closely at what emerges in Parliament and will proceed accordingly."
Georg Szalai contributed to this report.