Newspaper groups unified behind ‘softer’ Royal Charter


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The Independent Online

Newspaper groups have unified behind a softened version of a Royal Charter on future press regulation by agreeing to drop a proposal which would have given them a veto over appointments to a new watchdog body.

The agreement indicates that the newspaper industry is now aligned behind its own proposed charter, in preference to a Government version drawn up in March which is backed by all three main political parties and the press reform group Hacked Off.

The dropping of the veto provision will help to win support for the industry charter from The Independent, The Guardian and the Financial Times. These three newspapers were not part of the decision by larger publishers last month to reject the Government’s charter and introduce a separate document with measures intended to reduce the possible influence of politicians over the press.

The veto was regarded as a major hurdle in getting the three papers to support the rival charter, which was an initiative by the publishers of The Times and The Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express. The rival charter was also backed by the magazine industry and the Newspaper Society. Last night Chris Blackhurst, editor of The Independent, welcomed the dropping of the veto proposal. “With the veto the accusation could always be levelled that the press charter was not transparently independent,” he said.

In an agreed statement from the industry, Paul Vickers, the group legal secretary of the Daily Mirror publishers Trinity Mirror, said the newspaper and magazine industry implementation group would recommend “that the requirement for qualified majority voting on appointments to the board of the new regulator for the press be dropped... The appointments panel should make its decisions by consensus of its members”.