Local publishers tell committee of 'fundamental concerns' over Government regulation plans

The president of the Newspaper Society has highlighted “fundamental concerns” for local and regional publishers over the Government’s plans for press regulation.

In a letter to John Whittingdale, the chair of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Adrian Jeakings said the Royal Charter agreed by the three main parties in Westminster does not reflect Lord Justice Leveson’s exoneration of local and regional newspapers.

He said the plan takes “no account of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations in relation to local and regional newspapers”.

Jeakings, who is also chief executive of Archant, argued that the establishment of a single recognition panel, as proposed, means that local paper would be subject to the same regulatory regime as the nationals.

In the letter, Jeakings said he was concerned that the regulator would set up a free-to-use arbitration system, echoing worries expressed when he was joined by other regional publishers at an evidence session of the committee last month.

Jeakings also expressed concerns that all papers, including smaller local titles, could be asked to finance a new regulator, creating “a substantial financial burden for regional and local newspapers”. He said this would be unfair given that local papers’ “behaviour and conduct was exonerated” by Leveson.

Jeakings added: “It is regrettable that discussions with the Secretary of State and DCMS officials have too date indicated that there would not be the flexibility for regional and local newspapers to create their own system of independent regulation with separate recognition and compliance criteria.”

The Newspaper Society, which represents regional papers, will submit a more detailed paper outlining its “deep concerns” over the three-party Royal Charter to the CMS committee and the department.

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