The BBC, Guardian and Independent all cover the latest development in the press industry’s reaction to the Leveson report – the publication of an plan for press regulation by the Associated Newspapers, Express Newspapers, Trinity Mirror, News international and Telegraph Media Group.
The alternative regulation model negates the provision in the Royal Charter published by the Government last month on a statutory underpinning to press regulation – the provision that it can only be altered by a two thirds majority in each House of Parliament. The industry’s proposed self-regulation model also contains a provision allowing newspapers “a “veto” of appointments to the board of the new regulator”, according to the Independent.
The issue of the industry’s ‘veto power’ on appointments was a major sticking point in the negotiations before a cross party deal was agreed and instrumental for the purposes of complying with a key Leveson recommendation – that the press regulation body be independent of the industry.
The BBC reports that the editors of the FT, Guardian and Independent, have not backed the industry proposal. Lionel Barber, Alan Rusbridger and Chris Blackhurst, respective editors of the titles, broke ranks with editors when they backed the need for statutory underpinning to press regulation.
The BBC also notes some of the points of difference in the industry’s alternative model notable among them being this:
“Make it more difficult to bring group complaints”
The issue of third party complaints was strongly rejected by the industry after the initial editors’ meeting at the Delaunay with editors’ considering the recommendation by Lord Leveson to be ‘unacceptable’.
The Royal Charter agreed in cross party talks last month introduces the third party complaints clause in the provision:
The Board should have the power (but not necessarily the duty) to hear complaints:
a) from anyone personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the standards code, or
b) where there is an alleged breach of the code and there is public interest in the Board giving consideration to the complaint from a representative group affected by the alleged breach,
In our evidence and submission to the Leveson Inquiry the problem posed by the absence of a third party complaints clause to media representations on Islam and Muslims was one of our primary concerns. It is worthwhile remembering the paragraphs in Lord Leveson’s report underscoring the need for a third party complaints clause:
“Overall, the evidence in relation to the representation of women and minorities suggests that there has been a significant tendency within the press which leads to the publication of prejudicial or pejorative references to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental illness or disability….That failure has, in the main, been limited to a section of the press and may well stem from an undue focus on seeking to reflect the views (even if unsuccessfully) of a particular readership. A new regulator will need to address these issues as a matter of priority, the first steps being to amend practice and the Code to permit third party complaints.”
Hacked Off’s Director, Evan Harris, has responded to the alternative charter by the newspaper industry calling the reaction a “temper tantrum by some powerful people used to having their own way” and saying:
“The royal charter agreed by parliament is not going to be reopened at the request of Mr Murdoch, Mr Desmond and Mr Dacre”.