A far-reaching inquiry into British newspapers called for a new independent watchdog enshrined in law to regulate the press, to prevent a repeat of the excesses which led to a phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid. Matt Cowan reports.
It's the news that everyone in the news has been waiting for. Judge Brian Leveson delivering his verdict on the conduct of Britain's newpapers, but not before drawing attention to the gravity of the occasion. SOUNDBITE: Judge Brian Leveson saying (English) "For the seventh time in less than 70 years there is a new report commissioned by the goverment dealing with concerns about the press which was sparked by public revulsion about a single act, the hacking of a mobile phone of a murdered teenager. From that beginning it has expanded to cover the culture, practices and ethics of the press and it's conduct in relation to the public, the police and politicians. This inquiry has been the most concentrated look at the press this country has ever seen." The far-reaching inquiry reportedly cost close to 6 million pounds, it received testimony from well over 600 witnesses - more than half of those in person during 97 days of hearings. In total, the inquiry generated 6 thousand pages of evidence. But the focus of media interest was centred on one particular detail. What new measures would the judge recommend? SOUNDBITE: Judge Brian Leveson saying (English) "I am proposing independant regulation of the press, organized by the press itself with a statutory process to provide press freedom, provide stability and guarantee for the public that this new body is indepedent and effective." SOUNDBITE: Matt Cowan, Reuters Correspondent saying (English) "Prime Minister David Cameron and senior goverment officials were given the report to prepare their responses but rather than resulting in a calculated consensus, the inquiry's report has seemingly produced a rift within goverment." Inside parliament, while broadly welcoming the findings, the Prime Minister expressed serious concern over the prospect of legisation. SOUNDBITE: David Cameron, UK Prime Minister "They break down to issues of principle, practicality and necessity. The issue of principle is that for the first time we would have crossed the Rubicon, writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land. We should, I believe, be wary of any legislation which has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press." Later, his deputy Nick Clegg - a Liberal Democrat - expressed a dissenting view...one that was echoed by Brian Cathcart who's headed up a campaign called Hacked Off. He says without legislation any new regulator would be toothless.. SOUNDBITE: Brian Cathcart, Hacked Off Founder saying (English) "In tearing out from this report the element of scrutiny from the self-regulator, he has left us with only a self-regulator. That is where we were before. That's where we were for 60 or 70 years. So while there's agreement that the status quo cannot continue, what comes next will be the subject of considerable debate.