Regional editors voice support for publishers' rival Royal Charter for regulation of the press

Regional editors have voiced their support for a revised Royal Charter for the regulation of the press put forward by their trade body the Newspaper Society last week.

The new Royal Charter will now go to the Privy Council for consideration on 15 May along with the Royal Charter agreed by Parliament in March.

The NS plan also has the backing of magazine industry trade body the PPA, the Scottish Newspaper Society and most of the major national newspaper publishers: Trinity Mirror, News International, Associated Newsapapers and Express Newspapers.

Regional newspaper publishers have been concerned about the libel disputes arbitration arm proposed in Parliament's press regulation plan, which some fear could lead to an increase in libel payouts.

Under the press plan, the arbitration arm is optional, with a pilot scheme proposed “to test the fairness, effectiveness and sustainability of the arbitral process”.

NS president, and chief executive of Archant, Adrian Jeakings (pictured) said: “The proposed system allays the deep concerns of many regional press publishers and editors about the Government's draft Royal Charter and represents a positive and constructive step forward in the process of implementing a tough new system of truly independent self regulation."

And he has been backed by a selection of senior editors in statements coordinated by the NS.

Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill said: “I support radical changes to the way Britain’s press is regulated, as I want no part of an industry that hacks phones and convicts innocent people on the front pages. But I will not accept a system that has been steamrollered through by self-interested politicians and pressure groups in the dead of night.

“The implications for press freedom in this country with politicians astride the regulation process hardly bear thinking about. Furthermore, I am disappointed, but not surprised, that despite fine words from MPs of all parties, including the three leaders, the impact this would have on the regional press has been completely ignored, or at best viewed as collateral damage. They clearly believed that if they patted us on the head we’d just go away. They were wrong.

“I want firm, fair and credible press regulation that also preserves freedom of the press in this country for another 300 years or more. That is why I support the Independent Royal Charter. It offers a sensible and effective solution to the current stalemate.”

Liverpool Echo editor Alastair Machray said: “For me this the Independent Royal Charter is an excellent piece of work for three reasons: firstly it breaks what looked like deadlock; secondly it recognises that the regional newspaper industry is in no position to carry the huge financial risks inherent in the cross-party Royal Charter; and finally, crucially because it protects a freedom of the press that has served us brilliantly for 300 years.”

And Easter Daily Press editor Nigel Pickover said: “We believe the proposed system confronts the concerns of many press publishers and editors and is a boost to the process of implementing a tough new system of independent self regulation. It is an Independent Royal Charter which will guarantee Britain remains the home of free speech. It will deliver what Lord Leveson called for.

"Politicians must accept this compromise solution or they will be culpable in threatening not least a regional press which millions of people rely on for news that is clear, truthful and unhindered by the vested interests.”

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