Papers drop veto on watchdog appointments

Copy of the News of the World Press regulation faced intense scrutiny after the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World

Newspaper owners have backed down on demands to have a veto over the board members of any new press regulator.

A statement published on behalf of major publishers said appointments should instead be made by "consensus".

Some owners wanted the power to block those they saw as hostile to the press.

But the Guardian, Financial Times and Independent had said they could not support a system that let newspapers veto appointments to the new regulator, being set up after the Leveson Inquiry.

The disagreement was a major sticking point in the negotiations.

'Consensus'

Representatives from 18 publishers and newspapers - including News International, Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph and Guardian media groups - issued a statement on Thursday through the Newspaper Society saying the plans had been abandoned.

Paul Vickers, who chairs a steering group of editors, said those present had "agreed to recommend to the industry that the requirement for qualified majority voting on appointments to the board of the new regulator for the press be dropped".

Start Quote

I think it's a very welcome step in the right direction”

End Quote Chris Blackhurst Editor, Independent

"The implementation group will recommend instead that the appointments panel should make its decisions by consensus of its members," the statement added.

But in a statement, the Guardian said a deal had yet to be reached.

"The Guardian still believes that the royal charter process should be paused, that the industry should set up a regulator in-line with Leveson criteria and that all parties involved - the press, politicians and phone-hacking victims - should sit together for the first time to discuss the few remaining areas of disagreement."

Other proprietors published their alternative proposals for a new press regulator - which included the veto demand - in April, after rejecting all-party plans for a Royal Charter.

The charter was published after the three major Westminster parties agreed a deal to introduce a new system of press regulation based on the recommendations of the Leveson report.

Lord Justice Leveson led a public inquiry into the conduct of the press in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

A spokesman for Hacked Off, which campaigns for full implementation of Leveson's proposals, said including the veto was the equivalent of reintroducing the soon-to-be-defunct Press Complaints Commission.

"There can be no question of reopening negotiations on the cross-party Leveson agreement," he said.

Most of the newspaper industry cited the prospect of figures from Hacked Off being appointed as board members on any new regulator as justification for demanding a veto.

'Breakthrough effort'

The editor of the Independent, one of the few newspapers not signed up to the industry's rival charter, welcomed the move.

"I think it's a very welcome step in the right direction," Chris Blackhurst told the Guardian.

"I was always worried that while the veto remained in place, the charter was not transparently independent."

The Guardian reported on Thursday that the move would be "seen as a breakthrough effort" to reach consensus with the rest of the industry.

A spokeswoman for the Financial Times said she would not be adding to the agreed Newspaper Society statement.

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