A report on British media standards calls for legislation that would preserve a legal duty to protect press freedoms and create a self-regulation process.
The long-awaited report from an inquiry led by Lord Justice Brian Henry Leveson, released Thursday, said the proposed legislation would protect freedom of the press, establish an independent process to recognize a new, self-regulatory body and provide "new and tangible benefits" for the media, including a less expensive system for settling libel claims, The Daily Telegraph reported on a live blog of the proceedings.
Leveson's report on the culture, practices and ethics of the media arose from his inquiry begun during the initial fallout of the phone-hacking scandal that closed the News of the World, led to the arrest of several of the publication's top editors and saw numerous journalists and public officials questioned.
The independent regulator would have the power to fine newspapers up to 1 million pounds (about $1.6 million) or 1 percent of turnover for violating a new code of conduct, the report said.
The regulatory system would be bolstered by statute to "protect the freedom of the press, to reassure the public and validate the new body," the report said.
The report said the leader of the new watchdog organization must be independent and appointed through a transparent process. While recommending that no "serving" editor or politician may serve on the panel, the report said appointments could include a current editor but the watchdog must have a "substantial majority" of independent members.
The report also recommended an arbitration system to so parties alleging wrongdoing by a media outlet could seek a quick resolution by way of a prominent apology and fines, as appropriate.
A whistle-blowing hotline would be established for journalists who believe they are being pressured to violate the new code of conduct, the report said. Legal protections would be put in place to protect the whistle-blower from retaliation.
The Office of Communications would conduct reviews biennially to determine how the new regulator is working and also would act as backstop regulator if publishers refuse to sign up to new watchdog.
Leveson dismissed the argument that current laws, if enforced, would be enough to regulate the British media, saying, "Putting a policeman in every newsroom is no sort of answer."
No one appearing before his inquiry "proposed that either government or politicians should be involved in the regulation of the press. ... Neither would I make any such suggestion," Levenson said.
The British media should remain "irreverent, unruly and opinionated," he said, but added, "I know of no organized profession, industry or trade in which the serious failings of the few are overlooked or ignored because of the good deeds of the many."
In the report, Leveson said he recognized how vital a vibrant media is in Britain, but it carries responsibilities.
"[On] too many occasions those [responsibilities], along with the editors' code of conduct ... have simply been ignored," he said, resulting in havoc for "innocent people."