A group of lawyers, journalism academics and media organisations have drawn up an alternative model for press regulation called the Media Standards Authority
The 12-page document has been handed to the Leveson inquiry into the standards, ethics and behaviour of the press and involved input from the barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC, the Media Standards Trust, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the Society of Editors and representatives of newspapers including The Guardian and the Financial Times.
Its key proposals include:
- The MSA would be established by statute but participation would remain voluntary, with a series of commercial and legal incentives
- A code of media ethics and responsibility similar to the Press Complaint Commission's Editors' Code of Practice but with a more detailed definition of the public interest
- Investigatory powers and the ability to impose sanctions including increased subscription payments to the MSA
- The power to issue desist notices on an advisory basis where media outlets were harassing an individual infringing their rights under Article 8 (privacy)
- Provision pre-publication and advice and assistance in privacy cases
- Provision of media and adjudication services in disputes between the public and the media with the power to award compensation and and the publication of summaries of rulings
- The MSA would ban the involvement of working editors and the governing body would instead include a 'substantial minority'of former editors and journalists
Its independence would be established and recognised by statute but no one would be compelled to join. It would be open to any media organisation outside the statutory system of broadcast regulation including newspapers, magazines, news websites and bloggers.
Commercial incentives include a 'MSA Kitemark'that would be of 'particular value'to small publishers and bloggers and exemption from VAT.
Another proposal, similar to that outlined by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre at the Leveson Inquiry, would see a system of 'journalistic accreditation'covering court reporting and access to confidential official briefings.
Legal incentives include access to dispute resolution mechanisms, enhanced defences in legal proceedings in the courts and additional damages payable in legal proceedings by in the courts for non-participants.
The MSA would 'seek to resolve all complaints and claims without recourse to the courts". This would be achieved through three methods of dispute resolution:
- A mediation process modelled on the PCC's current system
- An adjudication process modelled on the statutory adjudication schemes with the construction industry
- An arbitration process
The MSA would be responsible for drawing up and administering a code of practice similar to that pf the PCC, but the public interest section would be of 'particular importance".
This would also look into how the news organisation obtained the story.
Others involved in drawing up the proposals included journalism academic George Brock, former Daily Star reporter Richard Peppiatt and ex-Times legal chief Alastair Brett.