2,000 editors said to back Hunt-Black plan as pro-Leveson petition reaches 125,000

 

PCC chairman Lord Hunt revealed over the weekend that some 120 publishers representing 2,000 editors have indicated they are ready to sign up to the Hunt-Black plan for a contract-based press regulator.

The figure roughly equates to the total number of national and regional newspapers in the UK plus consumer magazines and B2B titles.

It represents the views expressed by publishers in advance of the publication of the Leveson Report which last week rejected the Hunt-Black plan as being insufficiently independent.

Meanwhile, some 125,000 names have been added to a petition organised by Hacked Off calling for the Leveson recommendations to be enforced in full.

While endorsing many aspectsof the Hunt-Black plan, Leveson called for a change to the law of libel to give members of the new regulator access to low-cost libel settlements. And he suggested that the new press regulator needs to be ultimately overseen by Ofcom and covered by a new law guaranteeing its independence.

Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday rejected new legislation on regulation of the press, putting himself at odds with the leaders of the Lib Dems and Labour.

Last Friday, Lord Hunt said he now plans to press ahead with the Hunt-Black plan for a regulator with powers to investigate and fine. But he has indicated that a review will take place to discuss how the regulator can be more independent.

Lord Hunt is expected to convene a meeting of the main publishers this week “with a view to finalising the terms of the contract and the regulation so that commercial contracts can be signed and entered into as quickly as is practical”.

He said that a “shadow trust board” will then put in place “independent appointment procedures” for the new company which will run the regulator.

“I recognise that there is a tapestry of views within the industry about ‘independence’ and I would expect the shadow board to consult widely with the industry and with other interested parties, in particular the parliamentary DCMS Select Committee and the Secretary of State during this process. “

Hunt plans to have the industry regulator up and running by 30 June.

Questions were raised over the weekend over whether Hacked Off pollwas verifying the signatures sufficiently robustly – the petition asks only for a name and email address.

But Hacked Off said: “A continuous process of verification is under way and false or repeat signatures, where found, are removed from the total number given on the website. We have uncovered very little evidence of such abuses.”

All national newspapers, with the exception of The Guardian, have rejected Lord Leveson’s suggestion that a law is needed to ensure that the new press regulator is sufficiently independent and robust.

Cross-party talks on the Leveson report will resume today ahead of a major Commons debate.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller and Labour counterpart Harriet Harman along with the Lib Dems will attempt to thrash out a way forward on the proposals at a meeting this morning.

Labour last night revealed it had brought in a legal team to draw up a draft bill within two weeks to counter claims that legislation would be "unworkable".

It could be used as the basis for a Commons vote, although the result would not bind the government.

MP will debate in detail the contents of Lord Justice Leveson's 2,000 page reportthis afternoon but will not have any opportunity to vote on it.

Shami Chakrabarti, one of six assessors who worked with the judge on the inquiry, said she supported the "carrots and sticks" in the report that meant press who signed up to a new watchdog would be subject to lower libel penalties but warned she could not back compulsory regulation.

"The bombshell, or the difference, is what do you do if people don't join the club or don't set up a club and Leveson doesn't want compulsory regulation of the press but he says if they don't play ball politicians may have to consider it," she told the BBC. "That is where I get off the bus."

MORE ON THIS STORY : 

Tags: 

Sign up for our free weekly digital magazine, Press Gazette Journalism Weekly, and daily newsletter
To contact Press Gazette with a story call 0207 936 6433
or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk
To advertise, please call 0207 936 6764.