Miller 'on track' for press charter
Culture Secretary Maria Miller is "still on track" to publish a final version of plans for press regulation today, officials have said.
A second round of talks aimed at reaching cross-party agreement on a revised royal charter was held yesterday after industry proposals were rejected earlier this week.
Conservatives had previously indicated they were open to changes on some areas of concern for the press but Labour and the Liberal Democrats were less keen to make the charter "more workable for the industry''.
The outcome of the discussions between Mrs Miller, her Labour counterpart Harriet Harman and Liberal Democrat Lord Wallace of Tankerness is expected to be revealed later today.
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: "We are still on track to be publishing the final version on Friday."
Mrs Miller has previously indicated she will press ahead with the version of the charter agreed at a late-night meeting over pizzas in Westminster on March 18 in the presence of campaign group Hacked Off if an amended version did not achieve cross-party support.
Under the plans approved in March, the job of adjudicating on complaints and imposing penalties will be performed by a new self-regulatory body set up by the industry to replace the Press Complaints Commission. A recognition panel would be required to verify whether this watchdog was effective and genuinely independent of publishers.
However, it would be up to individual publishers to sign up to a regulator endorsed by the panel, and there is speculation that many or all of the major newspapers could opt out of the proposed system if it does not address their concerns over freedom from political interference.
Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell predicted the row between the press and politicians would continue unless there was a "last ditch outbreak of common sense".
Writing in the Yorkshire Post he said one of the main objections was over the way the charter could be altered by politicians, but this is not one of the areas being considered for amendment in the latest cross-party talks.
Mr Satchwell said: " Both sides accept the need for a tougher new complaints and regulatory body. The newspapers are well on the way to setting that up.
"The key difference is that the politicians want to give Parliament the ability to amend the system so long as they can get a two thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament if they think the new system does not work.
"The press is concerned that will open the door to political interference and control in the future. Rows between government or Parliament and newspapers are inevitable and indeed necessary. The next time it would be all too easy to take a fateful step to get rid of the pesky press once and for all."
He added: " There are other more detailed differences and special concerns about the costs of the new system for regional newspapers and small local papers that have already been battered by economics and the growing influence of the internet.
"But they are surely not incapable of solution so long as politicians mean what they say when they claim they want to protect the public and ensure the 300-year-old rights of a free unfettered Press."