Tories suggest regulating UK news websites

THE CONSERVATIVES last night published a draft plan for press reform that would see UK news websites regulated for the first time.

David Cameron has rejected recommendations contained in the Leveson report – and backed by Labour and the Lib Dems – to introduce new legislation to control the media. Instead he wants to introduce an independent panel, backed by royal charter, to oversee a new press regulator.

Culture secretary Maria Miller said the proposed charter “would see the toughest press regulation this country has ever seen, without compromising press freedom”. Controversially the charter proposes extending the remit of any press regulator from printed newspapers to websites “targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom”.

Paul Staines, publisher of the Guido Fawkes political blog, last night told City A.M. that this would be impossible to enforce even though the majority of his readers are in Britain: “It is my intention to ignore it completely; my website servers are in California and the publisher is a foreign corporation. I have no bricks and mortar legal entity in the UK.”

“The charter is not going to work. The reforms only benefit the rich and powerful,” Staines added.

The leaders all of all three main political parties, as well as two-thirds of parliamentarians, would have to agree on any changes to the royal charter.

David Cameron has chosen the arcane royal charter device, used to set the remit of organisations such as the BBC, the Bank of England and universities.

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