Britain agrees to new press regulation deal

Britain

British Prime Minister David Cameron today agreed to create a new press watchdog under a Royal Charter underpinned by laws, ending months of political wrangling over media freedom after the phone-hacking scandal.

Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, said a deal between the three major parties had been reached after months of bitter debate over how to implement the Leveson Report, issued in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal involving the British press.

A planned vote on the issue due to be held in the House of Commons today is unlikely to go ahead, she added. The deal comes after talks were held overnight between the Liberal Democrats and Labour leaders and a Cabinet Office minister on a new press watchdog.

Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press ethics had called for a new, independent regulator backed by legislation, prompting months of political wrangling.

The Prime Minister has been resisting Lord Justice Leveson's idea of a press regulator set up under laws over fears it could lead to politicians meddling in the affairs of newspapers and end 300 years of press freedom.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats wanted the Leveson Report implemented in full. Last week talks ended abruptly, with Cameron instead publishing his proposals, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband to join forces to unveil rival plans.

Harman said the latest deal was about making sure that there was an independent regulator "with teeth so that if the press get something wrong, the regulator can direct them to correct it". She told the BBC that campaigners against phone-hacking and press intrusion are "happy" with the result as it creates a "fair system that won't be changed".

The result of the talks appears to be a compromise as there will be a press regulator set up under a Royal Charter, underpinned by statute. However, the laws will not make specific reference to regulating the press.

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