British PM confronts opposition over media regulation

British Premier David Cameron said that he would champion self-regulation for Britain`s scandal-tainted press.

Updated: Mar 14, 2013, 21:36 PM IST

London: British Premier David Cameron on Thursday said that he would champion self-regulation for Britain`s scandal-tainted press, bucking a key recommendation of his own media inquiry and setting up what might be a bruising confrontation with his opposition and coalition colleagues.

Politicians have been scrambling for a sensitive way to regulate the country`s media after tabloid journalists were revealed to have intercepted celebrity voicemails, bribed police officers, trampled over people`s privacy, and even hacked into computers in their hunt for scoops.

An inquiry ordered by Cameron and headed by Lord Justice Brian Leveson recommended the creation of a press watchdog body dominated by non-journalists and backed by government regulation, but negotiations between Cameron`s Conservatives and others over how to implement those have stalled amid increasingly acrimonious debate.

In a hastily organised press conference, Cameron said the gap between politicians was unbridgeable and that he was pressing forward with his own plan for self-regulation formalised by government approval.

"I`ve chosen a practical solution over an unworkable solution," Cameron told journalists. "I have chosen a solution that protects press freedom over a solution that threatens press freedom."

A vote could come as soon as Monday, but it was not at once clear whether coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, would give the PM`s plan the support it may need to pass.

Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband said he would oppose the move, and political watchers said the vote might be close.

The debate between Cameron and his parliamentary colleagues centres on whether or not any future press watchdog should be set through an act of Parliament - that is, through legislation - or through a Royal Charter, or an executive act.

Proponents of legislation say that passing a law will put the watchdog on a firmer footing and give it more power to discipline rogue newspaper.

Opponents of legislation believe, as Cameron today put it, that passing a media law would endanger free press in Britain.