Leveson Inquiry Into U.K. Media Ethics to Publish Final Report Next Thursday

Justice Brian Leveson - P 2012
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The British government launched the probe in the wake of the News Corp. phone hacking scandal last summer.

LONDON - The Leveson Inquiry into U.K. media ethics and standards, launched in the wake of the News Corp. phone hacking scandal, will unveil its final report and recommendations for the regulation of British newspapers next Thursday.

The Leveson Inquiry team made the announcement Thursday morning. After some delays amid a slew of testimony and other evidence, it had been expected that the report would come out around the end of November or in early December.

In July 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the inquiry and picked judge Brian Leveson as its chairman.

His hearings included appearances from the likes of News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, son and News Corp. deputy COO James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, the former CEO of the conglomerate's U.K. newspaper arm News International, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, actor Hugh Grant, CNN host Piers Morgan, "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling, then-BBC boss Mark Thompson, singer Charlotte Church and former prime minister Tony Blair.

"The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life," Leveson said in opening his hearings. "That is why any failure within the media affects all of us."

British media groups and politicians have since the end of the Leveson hearings repeatedly commented in favor or against stricter press regulation. Media companies, London mayor Boris Johnson and others have warned Cameron that increased government regulation would be negative for the industry and a free press.

Britain has regulations designed to avoid defamation and ensure data protection. An often-toothless self-regulation body, the Press Complaints Commission, is being dismantled. The industry is suggesting it can do a better job regulating itself, with a recent proposal calling for a system that would include fines.

But many media companies fear that Leveson could recommend that the Press Complaints Commission be transformed into a full-on government-sanctioned regulator. Among others, the Hacked Off campaign has pushed for tougher press rules with Grant as its key public face.

The Leveson Inquiry has cost $6.2 million as of mid-year.

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