Much of the newspaper industry will “find it very difficult to support” the Parliament-backed Royal Charter on press regulation, one of the architects of the industry’s alternative plan has warned.
Trinity Mirror legal director Paul Vickers spoke to BBC Radio 4’s The World At One as newspaper and magazine industry trade bodies unveiled a contract-backed press regulator, called the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
He said the regulator, designed to replace the Press Complaints Commission, would “have real teeth” with its ability to issue fines of up to £1 million and the inclusion of a so-called “whistleblowers’ hotline”.
Asked what would happen if the new regulatory body was not recognised by a Royal Charter, Vickers said: “There will be large parts of the industry that will find it difficult to support it [the Royal Charter].”
He said an alternative regulator proposed by the Government could face a funding crisis if “only five or six newspapers” signed up to it.
“We’re not negotiating at the point of a barrel, but unless you get a critical mass of newspapers supporting it, it will be impossible to fund it.”
Speaking on the same programme, Lord Prescott, who quit the Queen’s Privy Council over the weekend in protest at it considering the press industry’s Royal Charter ahead of that agreed by the three main political parties in March, described the situation as a “conspiracy between the Prime Minister and the press”.
He said the industry’s plan was a “direct challenge to what Parliament has decided” and criticised what he described as the power of veto for publishers over appointments to the regulator.
Lord Prescott also attacked the plan to allow former Fleet Street editors to sit on the body.
But Vickers rejected the idea there was a conspiracy and said having industry experts would be helpful.
He said: “I would think that having people with expertise and understanding of the industry is important, but they won’t be placed there by the industry.”