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NS President: Royal Charter Deal Would Place 'Crippling Burden' on Local Newspapers

The Newspaper Society has voiced strong concerns about the Royal Charter agreement reached by the three main political parties, saying that it completely ignores the recommendations in the Leveson Report about protecting local newspapers.

In a statement issued following the Commons debate on the Royal Charter on Press Conduct, Adrian Jeakings, president of the Newspaper Society and chief executive of Archant, said: “Lord Justice Leveson found that the UK’s local media had nothing to do with the phone hacking scandal which prompted the Inquiry. Indeed, he praised regional and local newspapers for their important social and democratic role and recommended that the regulatory model proposed should not provide an added burden to our sector. He called on the Government to look urgently at what action it might take to help safeguard regional and local newspapers’ ongoing viability as a valued and important part of the British press.

“Yet the deal announced by the three main political parties today completely ignores the Leveson recommendations on the local press. The Royal Charter proposals agreed by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour - with huge financial penalties for newspapers which choose to be outside the system and an arbitration service which would open the floodgates to compensation claimants - would place a crippling burden on the UK’s 1100 local newspapers inhibiting freedom of speech and the freedom to publish.

Local newspapers remain fiercely opposed to any form of statutory involvement or underpinning in the regulation of the press. A free press cannot be free if it is dependent on and accountable to a regulatory body recognised by the state."

During yesterday’s Commons debate, the Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg, said: “Let us not forget that the hacking scandal was caused by some of our biggest newspapers, but it was still a minority of newspapers and certainly not the local and regional press, which must not pay the price for a problem they did not create.”

Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee John Whittingdaleadded that: “we should recognise the vital importance of local newspapers, and ensure that whatever system we introduce does not add to the burden on them at a time when they are experiencing very difficult economic circumstances.”

Notes:

Leveson Report and the Regional and Local Press

The Leveson Report made it clear that the regulatory model proposed should not provide an added burden to the regional and local press.”It said that local, high-quality and trusted newspapers are good for our communities, our identity and our democracy and play an important social roleand that their “contribution to local life is truly without parallel.” It said the Government should “look urgently as what action it might be able take to help safeguard the ongoing viability of this much valued and important part of the British press.”

The NS is the voice of Britain’s local media, the UK’s most trusted medium. It represents 1,100 newspapers, 1,700 websites and other print, digital and broadcast channels.