UK & World News
Newspapers Denounce Press Royal Charter Deal
The newspaper industry steering group has criticised the three main political parties' new plan for press regulation.
Labour had agreed to a series of changes put forward by Culture Secretary Maria Miller intended to make the proposed royal charter more palatable to the press.
But a statement issued by the alliance representing national, regional and local newspapers said the latest proposals could not be described as either "voluntary or independent".
"This remains a charter written by politicians, imposed by politicians and controlled by politicians," it said.
"It has not been approved by any of the newspapers or magazines it seeks to regulate.
"Meanwhile the industry's charter was rejected by eight politicians, meeting in secret, and chaired by the same politician who is promoting the politicians' charter.
"Lord Justice Leveson called for 'voluntary, independent self-regulation' of the press. It is impossible to see how a regulator operating under rules imposed by politicians, and enforced by draconian and discriminatory provisions for damages and costs in civil cases, could be said to be either voluntary or independent."
A Government source had earlier said: "We have a deal and the Labour Party have finally agreed to the changes proposed by the Culture Secretary to try and make it more workable."
The agreement came following talks between Mrs Miller, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman and senior Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wallace of Tankerness.
It will now go forward to the Privy Council for final agreement on October 30. The changes include provision for a fee for use of a new arbitration service, intended to deter speculative claims.
They also agreed to the industry drawing up a code of conduct for editors, to be approved by the independent regulator.
The new version supersedes the text controversially agreed by the parties at a late-night meeting over pizzas in Ed Miliband's office in Westminster last March, in the presence of lobby group Hacked Off.
Under the charter, the job of adjudicating on complaints and imposing penalties will be performed by a new self-regulatory body set up by the industry to replace the Press Complaints Commission.
A recognition panel would be required to verify whether this watchdog was effective and genuinely independent of publishers. However, it would be up to individual publishers to sign up to a regulator endorsed by the panel.
It had been suggested that many or all of the major newspapers could opt out of the proposed system if it does not address their concerns over freedom from political interference.
The agreement by the parties was welcomed by Hacked Off , which has led the campaign for tighter regulation of the press.
The group's executive director, Brian Cathcart, said it should finally bring to an end the 11 months of wrangling over the recommendations of the Leveson report on press standards.
"We note that, in the last-minute technical changes to the charter, there have been further concessions to the press industry lobby; notably, that it now permits an administrative charge for members of the public to use the new arbitration service," he said.
"This is not what Lord Justice Leveson recommended and may well deter some members of the public from seeking redress when they have been wronged by news publishers.
"We trust that those newspaper organisations which have been demanding this change - notably the local and regional press - will now accept that they have no reason to object to the system and will fully embrace the charter process.
"The way is now open to create a system of independent, effective press self-regulation that will benefit the public and poses no threat whatever to freedom of expression.
"Victims of press abuse now look to the industry to embrace that opportunity and put behind them a shocking period in which, in the words of Lord Justice Leveson, some sections of the press all too often wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people."