The key recommendation of Lord Leveson's report into media conduct, that a new media regulation system be enshrined in law, has been firmly rejected by David Cameron in a draft Royal Charter.

The proposed Royal Charter has been greeted with horror by Hacked Off, representing victims of media intrusion, calling it "very disappointed indeed".

The draft charter proposes setting up a "recognition panel", which would verify whether a new regulator set up by the industry met the requirements laid out by Lord Justice Leveson after his inquiry into media ethics last year.

hacked off

Hacked Off demonstrators outside the launch of the Leveson Report

This means new legislation will not be required - the "statutory underpinning" Lord Leveson recommended.

In January, former Conservative Party chairman Lord Fowler told HuffPost UK the government will look “absurd” if it rejected the Leveson Report’s recommendations for the regulation of the press in favour of a Royal Charter.

Lord Fowler said because of this the idea in many ways was “worse than the Leveson proposals” as it went too far the other way towards state control.

“I think it’s a bad idea. First of all a Royal Charter is a very arcane and antique system,” he said. “It gives power to the privy council, which is not exactly a democratic body.”

The draft Royal Charter has been published because discussions between Conservatives, who oppose statutory regulation, and Labour and Lib Dem MPs, who favour Leveson's recommendations, have broken down.

A statement from the Department of Culture said "cross party discussion will continue over the coming weeks.

"This draft Royal Charter illustrates how a Leveson model might be created without using an Act of Parliament. It is being published outside of the normal arrangements for collective agreement, and does not reflect an agreed position between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties," the statement said.

The Tories are confident that both parties will support the draft charter.

Emerging from a meeting with Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin - who has been drawing up the plans - to discuss the proposal, director Brian Cathcart said Hacked Off was "very disappointed indeed" with what appeared to be a series of concessions to the press.

"It was very disappointing indeed. We have had a first look at the Royal Charter proposal and all the elements suggest that the press have been given concessions and that the minister has put the interests of the press before the interests of the public," he said.


Alex Wickham
Hacked Off "reject Royal Charter". Forgetting you only really get to reject something if you have any power or influence in the first place.


Tom Newton Dunn
Evan Harris and Hacked Off's arrogance that they speak for all press victims is typical of their totalitarian blunderbuss. Own goal.

Cathcart continued: "I had a sheet of paper and I was going through a long list of points and I would ask 'why did you make that change?' And he would say 'in response to representations from the press'.

"I lost count. There were no changes made in response to anybody else apart from a couple of technical legal points."

He went on: "The loser is the British public. The loser is all the people who stand in future to be victims of the kinds of things, the kind of abuses, that caused the Leveson Inquiry in the first place.

"If this goes on we'll be back where we started," he said, urging Cameron to: "Think again; think about the victims."

maria miller

Culture Secretary Maria Miller in the House of Commons

Cathcart said they would be "surprised" if the main parties swung behind the proposals.

"We have heard nothing of the kind," he added - saying there was a "strong feeling" in the Commons and Lords that Leveson should be implemented "properly".

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said the the proposals would allow the Leveson principles to be "implemented swiftly" and in a practical fashion.

She said: "The Royal Charter would allow the principles of Leveson to be implemented swiftly and in a practical fashion. It would see the toughest press regulation this country has ever seen, without compromising press freedom.

"I have been clear that the 'status quo' is not an option and that we need tough independent self-regulation. Equally, I have said that I have grave concerns about a press bill and am not convinced that it is necessary on the grounds of principle, practicality or necessity.

"The ongoing cross party talks will seek to secure consensus around the Royal Charter."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg took the unusual step of making a separate statement to the Commons from Prime Minister David Cameron on the Leveson recommendations last year because the two parties were split over whether there should be statutory underpinning of a new system.

But the Lib Dems did not rule out the Royal Charter proposals. A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "We have always said our preferred option is to implement what Leveson suggested - a system of independent self-regulation backed by statute.

"But we are also clear that, as both Leveson and the victims have called for, the best outcome would be to move forward with cross-party agreement.

"We will continue to take part in cross-party talks.

"But after the vote in the Lords, the onus is now clearly on those who oppose statute to demonstrate that a Royal Charter approach can be shown to meet the requirements set out by Leveson.

"We are not yet convinced today's proposals meet that test, but we welcome them as a starting point for public debate and for close examination in the cross-party talks.

"We owe it to the victims - the innocent people who have had their lives turned upside down by intrusion and press abuse - to have a full and open public debate about how we put this right."

leveson

Lord Leveson with his report into media regulation

Under the new proposals, the body, which would have up to eight members, would decide if the new regulator is formally recognised and could also withdraw recognition at a later date.

Regulation will cover "a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)"

The Board will consider publication to have taken place, if "the publication takes place in theUnited Kingdom or is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom."

This seems aimed at those websites who base servers outside of the UK, in order to avoid legal interference.

The draft charter defines a website's "news-related material" as "news or information about current affairs, opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs or gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news."

A new code of standards should be adopted, which "take into account the importance of freedom of speech, the interests of the public, protection of sources of information, and the rights of individuals."

But it should also cover the proper treatment of those in the media spotlight, accuracy, privacy and misrepresentation.

The draft proposal says the Recognition Board "should not have the power to prevent publication of any material, by anyone, at any time."

It should also have the power to impose fines of up to 1% of turnover of the publication concerned, with a maximum of £1,000,000.