LONDON, UK — Britain’s newspaper industry issued a near-unanimous rebuke of the government’s proposed press charter on Thursday afternoon, issuing its own proposal for a press-regulatory body stripped of any statutory underpinning.
The Newspaper Society, which represents thousands of local and national publications, said the industry proposed independent self-regulation instead of the government plan backed by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, its coalition partner the Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Labour Party.
The call for press regulation followed the notorious phone-hacking scandal involving one of newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch's tabloids. Senior judge Brian Leveson led an inquiry into the issue of press regulation after the scandal, outlining steps the industry could take to prevent reporters from tapping phones or committing other crimes in the pursuit of scoops.
The papers went straight to the public with their appeal on Friday, launching full-page advertisements in the Sun, The Times, Daily Mail and other papers championing their own charter as “the product of months of careful thought by editors, publishers, ministers, civil servants and some of the country’s leading lawyers.”
The Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times are the only papers not behind the industry proposal.
“This constructive proposal would create a tough but independent regulator supported by the vast majority of the industry — a workable solution which should command public confidence,” said Sun editor Dominic Mohan on the News International website.
The industry’s proposal “is only the latest proof that most of the industry has learned no lessons from the Leveson experience,” said Hacked Off, the hacking victims’ advocacy group.
“They are not sorry for the abuses exposed at the inquiry, or for the further abuses exposed almost weekly since, and they do not accept the need for real change,” Hacked Off said in a statement.
“Tax shy press barons and their rent-a-bullies show their contempt for victims, public opinion and UK democracy,” tweeted Hugh Grant, whose phone was hacked by News of the World and who is on the Hacked Off board.
The government plan would have set up an independent watchdog with the authority to issue fines and demand apologies.
The alternative version proposed by national newspapers is available to read on the Guardian's website.