The new Culture Secretary Maria Miller has warned newspaper publishers that “nothing is off the table, including statutory regulation”, ahead of the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the culture and ethics of the UK press.
Miller’s comments comer after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the Government should be “very reluctant” to bring in tough new laws to regulate the press, while Education Secretary Michael Gove has also suggested the inquiry created a “chilling atmosphere” toward press freedom.
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In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Miller said she was “surprised” by the common ground between newspaper editors and press reform group Hacked Off.
She told that both sides acknowledge that “an independent and tough regulator is necessary, that keeping things the same is not an option and a credible solution that gives the public confidence” is vital.
Miller added that it was “absolutely critical” that politicians do not prejudge the report, but stressed that “whatever happens we do need to see some change”.
“I don’t think there is necessarily any inconsistency between having strong regulation and free speech,” she said. “Nothing is off the table, including statutory regulation.”
Commenting on the BBC’s internal inquiries in the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, Miller also refused to rule out a public inquiry.
“The real challenge for the BBC is to make sure that the outcome of these reviews really gets to the bottom of these accusations,” she said.
She added: “We haven’t ruled out a public inquiry,” she says pointedly. “At this point we want the criminal investigations by the police to be able to proceed as swiftly as possible. We also want the BBC to consider these matters in detail for themselves and hold their inquiries.
“If the investigations are considered not to suffice because of issues around transparency, process or other such things, then a public inquiry remains an option on the table.”