LONDON (AP) — British officials have endorsed a plan to impose a government-backed watchdog on the country's scandal-scarred media, a minister announced Tuesday, putting a stake through newspaper owners' efforts to preserve their system of self-regulation.
Media Secretary Maria Miller told lawmakers that the government-backed watchdog remained the best way to deal with the abuses uncovered after the explosion of Britain's phone hacking scandal, which revealed how journalists across the U.K. media routinely broke the law — eavesdropping on phone messages, bribing officials, and hacking computers in the pursuit of exclusive information.
A judge-led inquiry recommended an independent regulator with the power to impose hefty fines and order apologies and corrections in response to the scandal, but many in the media argued that the proposals gave too much power to politicians. Instead, they proposed their own rival system of self-regulation.
The debate over the relative merits of the two systems has been running for months, but Miller said the government-backed regulator was the one that officials had chosen.
In a nod to concerns expressed by journalists, she said that some of the rules governing the watchdog would be softened.
"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right," she told the House of Commons. "We all want it to be the best we can do to give individuals access to redress whilst safeguarding this country's free press, which forms such a vital part of our democracy."
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