U.K. Conservatives Push for Media Regulation Ahead of Leveson Report

Justice Brian Leveson - P 2012
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After the phone hacking scandal, some members of Prime Minister David Cameron's party say the government should take a role in curbing excesses.


LONDON - An influential group of members of Britain's Conservative Party has spoken out in favor of a government role in media regulation ahead of a final report by the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and standards.

In a letter published Friday in the Guardian, 42 members of parliament for Prime Minister David Cameron's party argued that the government should take at least a limited role in curbing press excesses following the phone hacking scandal.

It is the first signal that the Conservative Party is not opposing calls for regulation in a unified front. Judge Brian Leveson is expected to publish his inquiry's findings at the end of the month and suggest the introduction of some government regulation. Cameron and his team will have to review the proposals and decide whether to make them reality.

The newspaper industry has argued the state should not get involved, but let it overhaul its system of self-regulation.

"No one wants our media controlled by the government, but, to be credible, any new regulator must be independent of the press as well as from politicians," Friday's letter from the politicians said. "We are concerned that the current proposal put forward by the newspaper industry would lack independence and risks being an unstable model destined to fail, like previous initiatives over the past 60 years."

Meanwhile, as expected, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has formally challenged a high court ruling that the News International unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was not liable to pay his legal fees in proceedings tied to the phone hacking scandal.

The Guardian reported that lawyers for Coulson told the court of appeal in London on Thursday that legal fees for the defense against criminal charges stemming from his work at the shuttered tabloid were covered by his contract.

His lawyer also argued that News International was liable for the fees, because the company agreed to indemnify Rebekah Brooks, its former CEO, and other journalists.

Coulson, Cameron's former communications director, has denied any wrongdoing.

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