The UK’s review of the culture, practices and ethics of the press has now published recommendations for the future. The presiding Judge, Lord Leveson, described his Inquiry as “the most public and the most concentrated look at the press that this country has seen”.
The report emphasises the need for a “genuinely independent and effective system of self-regulation” which can meet the “test of independence” and provide the long term stability and durability required.
Lord Leveson proposes an independent self-regulatory model, underpinned by legislation to ensure its efficacy and independence. This would be balanced in the proposed legislation by a legal duty on the government to protect the freedom of the press.
Lord Leveson considered the key “requirements” an independent self-regulatory body should meet under his proposed model to be:
- independence of appointments and funding;
- a standards code;
- an arbitration service;
- a speedy complaint-handling mechanism.
It should also have the power to demand up-front, prominent apologies and impose million-pound fines and be open to the setting and enforcement of press standards.
The impact of the Inquiry will depend on the political response. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who set up the review, has expressed concerns that statutory underpinning of the new self-regulatory body could be open to political abuse in the future and it remains to be seen whether a political consensus can be gathered in the coming weeks.