Plan by Britain's David Cameron to regulate media rejected by publishers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 3:02am


Newspaper publishers including major players like Rupert Murdoch's News International yesterday rejected the British government's proposals for curbing media abuses, saying the plans would give politicians "an unacceptable degree of interference" in press freedom.

The Newspaper Society, representing thousands of national and local publications, said it had put out its own proposals for self-regulation because a deal agreed by politicians to set up an independent press watchdog had no support within the industry.

The society's plan proposes fines of up to £1 million (HK$11.8 million) and prominent corrections, as the government scheme does. But it demands more public consultation to allow newspapers and magazines to have a say on the terms of the royal charter. It also opposes any legal underpinning of the regulator.

It was a blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, who oversaw the deal after facing heavy pressure to introduce tougher rules to police Britain's media after the phone-hacking scandal plunged the industry into crisis.

Revelations that journalists illegally tapped people's phones and committed other crimes in pursuit of scoops have shut down Murdoch's News of the World tabloid and ignited a heated debate in Britain over how to ensure better media practices, without infringing on the independence of the country's press.

Politicians said last month that an independent watchdog would be set up with powers to issue fines and demand apologies. But many newspapers complained that they had no say in the final decision and indicated they did not support the plan.

Dominic Mohan - editor of The Sun tabloid, a popular Murdoch publication - said his readers "expect journalists to behave responsibly, but don't want them censored by a state-sponsored 'Ministry of Truth'".

Peter Wright, editor emeritus of Associated Newspapers, said the industry's rival proposals were "not sour grapes".

"[The politicians' proposals include] a number of measures which we think are unworkable and which the regional press in particular don't feel they can sign up to," he told the BBC.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse