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June 19, 2013

Lord Grade open to taking on mediator role to end press regulation ‘impasse’

By Gavriel Hollander

The former chairman of the BBC, Lord Grade, has said that he would be open to taking on a role as mediator to end the ongoing stand-off over press regulation.

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber put Grade’s name forward at a Commons select committee hearing yesterday after telling MPs there was “an impasse” in negotiations over what a form a new regulator should take.

The majority of the newspaper and magazine industry has rejected a Royal Charter-backed system of independent press regulation, underpinned by statute, which was put forward in a cross-party deal in March.

Meanwhile the Government appears to be undecided about how to deal with a rival press regulation Royal Charter submitted by the majority of the newspaper and magazine industry (though without the support of the Independent, FT and Guardian) to the Privy Council for approval last month. There was no mention of press regulation in the official record of the last meeting of the Privy Council last Thursday.

Grade has not been approached over the potential role, but he told The Times that he would be willing to help the process.

He said: “It’s very, very important that the future of press regulation is settled as quickly as possible and if anybody thinks I can help in that process obviously I would contribute.

“I am presently a member of the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] so I am fairly up to date on everything. If anybody asks me to try and help of course I would help. It is very important for the public that we get to a settlement on this.”

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Asked about the two Royal Charter proposals, Grade told The Times: “My only view would be that we need to get an agreement. We need to get to a consensus as fast as possible.”

In an editorial this morning, the Guardian backed the proposed appointment of Grade, who is also a former ITV chairman and Channel 4 chief executive. The paper said he “has the credentials” to help achieve an agreement between Government and the industry.

Pressure group Hacked Off said yesterday there was no need for further discussion beyond the three-party plan.

“We have an agreement signed up to by all political parties and both Houses of Parliament, backed by the victims of press abuse and the vast majority of the general public,” said a spokesman. “What are the grounds for reopening negotiations, simply because, as Leveson predicted, the press barons are reluctant to comply?”

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