19 Mar 2013

British politicians reach deal on press regulation

11:14 am on 19 March 2013

Britain's main political parties agreed to create a new system to regulate the news media following the phone hacking scandal.

Public outrage over phone hacking by tabloid newspapers, which went beyond celebrities to include victims of crime and abducted children, pushed the government to act.

A compromise agreed by the three main parties will establish a new press regulator, introduce fines of up to £1 million and oblige newspapers to print prominent apologies where appropriate.

The system will be voluntary, but there will be strong financial incentives to encourage newspapers to opt into it, Reuters reports.

Concerns that a new system could endanger press freedom delayed agreement, with some press barons threatening to boycott a new regulatory regime and campaigners for tougher regulation accusing British Prime Minister David Cameron of being in thrall to the press.

The three parties had been divided over whether a new press regulator should be enshrined in law and over how its members would be chosen.

They reached a compromise after agreeing to enact legislation to ensure the new system cannot be easily altered later.

The Guardian newspaper exposed phone hacking by tabloid papers. The hacking of a murdered schoolgirl's phone led to a judge-led inquiry which laid bare the scale of the problem.