Key questions on the press plans
What are the proposals?
A Royal Charter will be put in place to establish an independent recognition body for a press regulator. An ‘official’ watchdog would have powers to “direct” publications to issue corrections and apologies, and impose million-pound fines. There will be a low-cost arbitration system for complaints, while legislation is being brought forward to allow the courts to award “exemplary” damages in civil cases involving publications that refuse to sign up.
How do the plans fit with Lord Justice Leveson’s conclusions?
When the judge reported in November, he said newspapers should continue to be self-regulated. But he insisted legislation was necessary to establish a recognition body that the public could have faith in. David Cameron rejected statutory underpinning, but both his Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband indicated they supported the idea. They have spent months trying to hammer out a compromise.
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So who won the battle of wills?
The Tories made headway early on when the Lib Dems and Labour accepted the idea of using a Royal Charter rather than conventional law. The parties seemed close to an agreement on the mechanism. However, last week Mr Cameron abruptly pulled the plug on talks, saying the distance between them was to great to be bridged. That left the premier facing defeat in a Commons vote. That damaging prospect was avoided when a deal was struck in last-ditch negotiations overnight. But Mr Cameron was forced to make concessions in a few key areas, such as agreeing that the newspaper industry should not have a veto on appointments to the regulator.
What about the newspapers themselves?
While pressure group Hacked Off were represented in the final round of talks, it seems the press were not. Some publications have already suggested that any kind of statutory interference in regulation is not acceptable. If enough opt out, the new system may be seriously undermined.