Hacking Report Urges Tougher British Press Standards

LONDON — After months of hearings, a long-awaited report on the behavior of British newspapers embroiled in the phone hacking scandal recommended on Thursday a new system of press regulation that would be backed by parliamentary statute, setting up what threatened to develop into an acrimonious political debate about curbs on Britain’s 300-year-old tradition of broad press freedom.

Weighing in at 1,987 pages in four hefty volumes, the report reprised nine months of testimony by 337 witnesses at an inquiry led by Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson. The judge was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to lead a review of newspaper ethics and practices at the height of the scandal that erupted around The News of the World, a now-shuttered Sunday tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper subsidiary.

Exploring an issue with deep resonance in British politics, the report examined the nuances of the relationship between Mr. Murdoch, as the country’s most powerful media baron, and a generation of British politicians. It specifically rejected the suggestion that Mr. Cameron and Mr. Murdoch struck a “deal” trading election support for Mr. Cameron’s Conservatives in 2010 for policies favoring the Murdoch empire in Britain.

It also advocated for a new form of independent self-regulation for the newspaper industry that would be much tougher than the widely discredited system that has been in place for the past 60 years. Under the new plan, embraced by Mr. Cameron and other party leaders, the existing Press Complaints Commission would be replaced with a body that would be independent of the newspapers and the government and have wide investigative powers and the authority to set fines of up to $1.6 million.


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