Cameron Keeping Open Mind on Leveson Press Standards Probe

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron will be among a limited number of politicians who will see the Leveson report a day early and he will comment on the day of publication, his spokeswoman Vickie Sheriff told reporters last week. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Prime Minister David Cameron is keeping an open mind on the recommendations of a media-ethics inquiry due this week, his office said after The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported he will reject state regulation of the media.

“The PM is open-minded about Lord Leveson’s report and will read it in full before he makes any decisions about what to do,” Cameron’s office said yesterday in a statement via the Twitter Inc. social-networking site.

The Mail on Sunday said Cameron will resist any call for laws to police British newspapers and will instead propose strengthening the existing system of self-regulation. Cameron last year asked judge Brian Leveson to lead the inquiry following the News Corp. phone-hacking and bribery scandals.

Leveson’s report will suggest changes in the way the media is regulated that the government isn’t required to enact. Cameron established the probe in July 2011 after revelations about the extent of voice-mail interception at News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid and allegations of widespread bribery at its Sun title.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Leveson’s proposals should be adopted as long as they are reasonable.

“The prime minister was absolutely right when he said that if Leveson’s recommendations were “bonkers,” we could not be expected to go along with them,” Miliband wrote in the Guardian newspaper today. “But it is equally right to state that if they are reasonable and proportionate, we should seek to implement them. I know that rejection of the report will be seen as a clear breach of the promise we made to them.”

New Watchdog

Cameron will call for the creation of a new watchdog and threaten legal action if newspapers fail to abide by his demands, the Mail said yesterday, citing “sources.” He will reject full state regulation, the newspaper added without saying how it had obtained the information.

Cameron will be among a limited number of politicians who will see the Leveson report a day early and he will comment on the day of publication, his spokeswoman Vickie Sheriff told reporters last week. The government will schedule a parliamentary debate for Dec. 3, she said.

The inquiry examined the relationship between the press, police, politicians and the public. Victims and tabloid critics testified the media were too cozy with law enforcement and lawmakers, creating a potential conflict of interest when it faced investigations or government scrutiny.

News Corp. Ties

Cameron testified at the inquiry in June about his ties to News Corp., including a friendship with Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive officer of the company’s U.K. unit who has been charged with phone hacking, bribery and conspiring to cover up the scandal. The prime minister’s former press chief, Andy Coulson, also worked for the News Corp. unit and has been charged with phone hacking and bribery.

News Corp., based in New York, has spent more than $315 million on civil settlements, legal fees and costs of closing the News of the World. More than 80 people have been arrested and more than a dozen have been charged.

The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, David Hunt, who sits as a Tory lawmaker in the upper House of Lords, called for the creation of a new system of press self-regulation and said he had held meetings with publishers and editors about signing up to a legally binding scheme.

“I think, when Franklin D. Roosevelt said, in 1941, ‘we look forward to a world founded on the central human freedoms, the first is freedom of speech and expression,’ he did not have in mind a state-regulated press,” Hunt told the BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program.

“It’s got to have teeth, and that’s probably why nobody has every set it up until now, because there hasn’t been a willingness,” he said. “There is now a willingness, and I pay tribute to Lord Justice Leveson. He has seen for himself some instances of unacceptable behavior.”

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