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LONDON – British prime minister David Cameron has said the “clock is ticking” for newspaper editors and proprietors to sort out press regulation in the wake of the Leveson inquiry findings into media ethics.
Cameron played a “friendly but firm” host according to The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who was talking to BBC news after the meeting of the great and the good from the U.K. national press at No. 10 Downing Street Tuesday.
Attendees included Dominic Mohan, the editor of The Sun, the tabloid and sister publication of the now defunct The News of The World Sunday, published by Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp. owned publishing division News International.
Both Murdoch titles found themselves engulfed in the phone-hacking scandal.
Cameron tweeted straight after the meeting: “I’ve just spoken to newspaper editors in No.10 – telling them they need to set up an independent regulator urgently.”
Late last week, Lord Justice Brian Leveson recommended an independent self-regulatory body for the press, backed by legislation.
Other newspaper bigwigs rocking up to hear Cameron’s demand for expediency included James Harding, the editor of Murdoch’s London Times, Peter Wright from the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Telegraph‘s Tony Gallagher, Sarah Sands from London’s Evening Standard and Lloyd Embley from the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People.
Tuesday’s meeting was organized by culture secretary Maria Miller.
After it ended, she said the industry had “responded positively” to the challenge of establishing a new regulator.
“The challenge has been thrown down to them. They have responded positively and it is now for them to go away and develop those plans,” Miller said. “The industry will be setting that out in the next two days. We are now in the middle of a process and I really think we need to make sure that process is completed.”
Gallagher tweeted straight after the showdown with Cameron and company: “19 editors and industry reps, 9 mandarins, 3 ministers and 1 PM. We got coffee and still tap water. No beer and sandwiches.”
He also added that the meeting “felt like the summoning of the Five Families” from the film The Godfather.
Embley, voicing the stance of the newspapers largely opposed to legislation, said there was “a firm belief that papers can deliver Leveson principles far more quickly without legislation. Better for public and free speech.”
Cameron told BBC TV that the newspaper industry had to take action and added: “They have got to do it in a way that absolutely meets the requirement of Lord Justice Leveson’s report. That means million-pound fines, proper investigation of complaints, prominent apologies, a tough independent regulatory system. And they know, because I told them, the clock is ticking for this to be sorted out.”
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