Press owners launch bid to stop new state controls

Press owners this morning sought to stave off new statutory controls on the newspaper and magazine industry by asking Lord Justice Leveson to accept 'independently-led'self regulation.

Presbof chairman Lord Black today presented detailed proposals to Lord Leveson for a new regulator with powers to launch independent investigations and levy fines on publishers.

Presbof is a body which represents press owners and collects the levies which fund the PCC.

Black revealed that the new body would be funded to the tune of £2.25m a year, versus the £1.95m cost of funding the PCC.

While the new body will have more public members on it, its work would continue to be underpinned by an Editors' Code of Practice drawn up by editors themselves.

Lord Black said that he believed the industry would be resistant to any government-imposed system of regulation, even an independent one.

Industry proposals to toughen up press regulation have been drawn up following consultation with newspaper owners and publishers via their trade associations, Black said. There has been no public consultation and neither have journalists themselves been consulted via the National Union of Journalists.

Under the Black proposals, there will be a 13-strong complaints committee in the new system comprising seven public members, five editors and the chairman.

The new body will be overseen by a board comprising three industry representatives, three public members and the chairman.

There will alsoo be an investigations arm whose teams will be set up on an ad-hoc basis and have a 2 to 1 majority of public members.

The fourth phase of the inquiry will seek recommendations for a "more effective policy and regulation that supports the integrity and freedom of the press while encouraging the highest ethical standards".

Lord Justice Leveson has indicated that he will subject the proposals to "forensic scrutiny" and that his mind remains open "to all options".

While it was for editors to seek a solution to the industry's problems, he said, "it must also work for me, by which I have explained I mean the public at large".

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