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April 13, 2015updated 16 Apr 2015 5:20pm

Labour manifesto pledge to change media ownership rules and implement Leveson recommendations

By William Turvill

The Labour Party has today pledged “implementation of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry” in its 2015 election manifesto.

The party has also promised to “take steps to protect the principle of media plurality, so that no media outlet can get too big”.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto has not yet been released, but last month George Osborne said the government would launch a consultation on whether to introduce tax breaks for the English local newspaper industry in his Budget speech.

The Liberal Democrat Party, which is also yet to release its manifesto, said earlier this month that it would commit to a United States-style first amendment, protecting freedom of the press, in its manifesto.

On press regulation, page 68 of the Labour Party manifesto said: “We remain strongly committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry.

“We expect the industry to establish a mechanism for independent self-regulation, which delivers proper redress for individuals, as set out in the Royal Charter, and agreed by all parties in Parliament.

“We made a promise to victims of the phone hacking scandal. We stand by that promise and will keep it.”

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The Independent Press Standards Organisation, which has been signed up for by the majority of the print journalism industry – including all national newspapers aside from The Guardian, Independent, Evening Standard and Financial Times – replaced the Press Complaints Commission in September last year.

On media plurality, the Labour manifesto said: “The free flow of information and of different points of view is crucial for open debate and countering concentrations of unaccountable power.

“That is why the concentration of media power in too few hands is damaging to our democracy. No one media owner should be able to exert undue influence on public opinion and policy makers.

“No media company should have so much power that those who run it believe themselves above the rule of law.

“Yet the current system for protecting against these threats is inadequate. Labour will take steps to protect the principle of media plurality, so that no media outlet can get too big, including updating our rules for the 21st century media environment.”

In June 2013, Labour deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said that the party did not address media plurality in 1997 for fear of losing the election.

But she said: "We're in different times now." 

Labour leader Ed Miliband boasted of standing up to News UK owner Rupert Murdoch during his interview with Jeremy Paxman last month on Sky News/Channel 4. 

The reference to media companies seeing themselves as being "above the rule of law" appears to be a reference to the News UK and the hacking scandal.

On public service broadcasting, the manifesto said: “Our system of public service broadcasting is one of Britain’s great strengths.

“The BBC makes a vital contribution to the richness of our cultural life, and we will ensure that it continues to do so while delivering value for money.

“We will also commit to keeping Channel 4 in public ownership, so it continues to produce vital public content.”

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