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Actors Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan — victims of phone-hacking by News Corp tabloid journalists in the U.K. — have signed a letter to Rupert Murdoch voicing “deep regret” that News. U.K. has not adopted press reforms urged by a Royal Charter.
“We write now to express our deep regret that the management of News UK is turning its back on an important opportunity to restore trust,” stated the letter, which was signed by twenty people who identified themselves as “victims of unlawful actions by employees of the News of the World or the Sun.”
The letter, published in full by U.K.’s The Guardian, also stated: “In defiance of an exceptionally broad consensus of opinion in the UK about the best way for the press to proceed, News UK is rejecting meaningful reform of the UK self-regulatory system and attempting to preserve the failed arrangements of the past.”
U.K. newspaper companies, including News Corp’s News U.K. unit, which was at the center of the phone-hacking scandal, have opposed stricter U.K. press regulation, which Britain’s political parties had agreed on a year ago. They say the proposed rules, which would require a so-called royal charter, are too strict and would give politicians too much potential power over the media.
Instead, many companies have agreed to participate in a new self-regulator put together by the industry itself.
“Instead of embracing reform and so demonstrating that it has changed, News UK is digging itself into a hole of untrustworthiness and denial. Instead of making a break with a shameful past, it is clinging to that past,” the letter stated. “Unless there is a change of heart, News UK is again on course for governance failure, disastrous costs, harm to British citizens and public disgrace.”
“Not one U.K. publisher has agreed to seek recognition under a royal charter for a new regulator of the press,” News Corp said. “More than 94 percent of the industry, left and right, tabloid and broadsheet, local and national, have signed up to IPSO (the Independent Press Standard Organization), which will come into being this June.”
Last month, a group of more than 200 British celebrities and personalities, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfonso Cuaron, Maggie Smith, John Cleese, Danny Boyle, J.K. Rowling, Grant and current Doctor Who lead Peter Capaldi, urged newspaper owners to embrace the regulation proposals, which were put together following the hacking scandal.
Public apologies and corrections are one key sanction for newspapers running afoul of the code of conduct under the envisioned regulations. Supporters have said this would allow members of the public and celebrities to seek sanctions in the case of press intrusion or abuse. A new regulator would be able to require and even direct apologies. Offending papers could also be forced to pay fines of up to $1.5 million (£1 million).?
The back-and-forth debate has delayed the launch of any new regulatory system.
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