U.K. Political Parties Reach Deal to Regulate Newspapers

Avoids 'Extreme Form of Press Law' Proposed Earlier

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Britain's main political parties have agreed on new measures to regulate the press after Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition partners split over the issue last week.

David Cameron had favored a Royal Commission over a new law from Parliament.
David Cameron had favored a Royal Commission over a new law from Parliament.

Mr. Cameron's Conservatives reached a deal in late-night talks with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats and the opposition Labor Party to introduce a Royal Charter creating a new newspaper complaints body, backed by a clause in a bill passing through Parliament today that will make it difficult for the nature of the charter to be changed.

That may have given the Royal Charter, favored by Mr. Cameron over new press regulation directly from Parliament, enough standing for the Labor Party and others who favored the "statutory underpinning" for new rules suggested by Judge Brian Leveson following the News Corp. hacking scandal. The prime minister had said he opposed any kind of law regulating the media.

The new body will decide whether newspapers are abiding by a code of conduct that the industry will write in conjunction with outsiders, compelling apologies when it sees fit.

"It's important that we get the detail absolutely right and there needs to be a conversation between the leaders, and I think that will go ahead this morning," Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the BBC. "What's really important is that the Royal Charter now has overwhelming support from all the three main parties and we've stopped this extreme form of press law which would have gone ahead otherwise."

The Leveson inquiry was set up after the scandal at News Corp.'s now defunct News of the World tabloid, which has led to at least 36 arrests. Trinity Mirror's Sunday Mirror was dragged into the affair last week as London police arrested four journalists connected to the newspaper.

~ Bloomberg News and Ad Age staff ~

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