The future of press regulation must be swift and cheap for the public, several parties have agreed in a debate at the House of Commons.

Hugh Tomlinson QC and former FIA president Max Mosley put forward proposed regulatory systems to an assembled audience at a Hacked Off and Media Standards Trust event last night.

Lord David Hunt, current chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, joined the debate to briefly discuss his plans for reforming the self-regulatory body, saying he wanted to look to the future and “build on the best of British journalism”. Hunt has been discussing his developing proposal, a contract based system, with interested parties after consulting with national newspaper editors in December last year. He added:

I have a blank piece of paper… Now we need to create a regulator for the first time. This is why I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about freedom of the press”.

Tomlinson said his proposal with the working title Media Standards Authority, had been compiled from a series of round table debates with journalists, pressure groups, academics and lawyers. He advocated an independent voluntary body with incentives for publishers to join, with a statutory underpinning. He said:

There should be a preliminary stage of adjudication before cases are taken to the courts…  This is a crucial incentive to the media as it would be swift and save hundreds and thousands in legal costs.”

Tomlinson said his body would be inclusive, allowing bloggers and online publishers to join, and although more expensive than the PCC not as costly as a fully-fledged tribunal system.

Mosley, who was the subject of a News of the World expose in 2008, said a rule-making and rule-enforcing should be separated in a future body, and that statute would be needed to ensure the latter is effective. He called his system “rough-and-ready” but free, as most people cannot afford to take cases to court.  He said: “I don’t believe you can have a voluntary system because a lot of people won’t want to be a part of it, especially on the internet.”

Tomlinson emphasised the practicalities of forcing publishers to join regulation, and said it would “essentially involve the licensing of newspapers”. He said his proposal sought to provide a mixture of “carrots and sticks” to encourage people to join the system. He added: “Our proposals both advocate a swift and cheap system.

Both Tomlinson and Mosley have formally submitted their proposals to the Leveson Inquiry. Lord Hunt has promised to provide his findings to the inquiry in the near future.

This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off website and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

Readers are invited to comment on the Media Standards Authority proposal – by email to