Revised Hunt-Black plan will be best way to see off threat of state regulation

Lobbying against the threat of some sort of statutory press regulator grew more intense this week.

In case anyone missed them, here (below) are the adverts which appeared in a number of newspapers at the weekend courtesy of the Free Speech Network, the coalition organised by publishers in opposition to any moves towards a state-controlled press regulator.

For my money, Times editor James Harding has done the best job so far of making the case against a state-run regulator. As he says, even if such a regulator was genuninely independent – it would still mean that the public would look to the Government to control the press. Philosphically and politically it would be a massive step.

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While Press Gazette has signed up to the Free Speech Network and signalled our opposition to statutory press regulation, we have been and still are critical about some aspects of the Hunt-Black plan. And judging by developments today, we are not alone in thinking that whatever new regulator replaces the PCC has to be genuinely independent.

I don't believe that Prime Minister David Cameron can afford to foist a statutory regulator on a reluctant press thereby putting himself at war with the tabloids for what would probably be the remainder of his time in office. But he also can't ignore the recommendations of his own costly public inquiry.

My hunch (and hope) is that pretty rapidly after Thursday the handful of powerful figures who hold the purse-strings for the PCC will agree a revised Hunt/Black plan which addresses any serious shortcomings identified by Lord Leveson while keeping the state out of press regulation. Surely that would be the best solution for everyone – Hacked Off and Hugh Grant included?




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