British media regulation must change: Cameron

The current British media regulation regime was "unacceptable" and "needs to change", Prime Minister David Cameron said today, as he received a major judicial report into press standards following the phone- hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's tabloid.

"The status quo, I would argue, does not just need updating -- the status quo is unacceptable and needs to change," Cameron said while receiving the Leveson report into media standards on the eve of its official publication.

"This government set up Leveson because of unacceptable practices in parts of the media and a failed regulatory system," he said.

Cameron set up the inquiry last year after it emerged that journalists at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid of Rupert Murdoch had hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a 13- year-old murdered schoolgirl, as well as targeting dozens of crime victims, celebrities and politicians.

British police have launched three linked investigations into misdeeds by newspapers, while Cameron's former spokesman Andy Coulson and ex-Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks have both been charged with phone hacking and bribery.

Cameron told lawmakers that he was "looking forward to reading the report carefully".

Cameron, who will make a statement to the House of Commons tomorrow, pledged to seek a cross-party consensus on regulation.

He said he wanted an "independent regulatory system that can deliver and in which the public have confidence". However, Cameron did not say if he backed new laws.

Cameron's comments came ahead of the publication of the recommendations by senior judge Brian Leveson from a year-long inquiry into press ethics, which are widely expected to include recommendations for statutory regulation.

Downing Street said it had received "half a dozen copies" and it is thought deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and the culture secretary will also see it.

Justice Leveson was asked to produce a list of recommendations for a more effective policy and regulatory regime for the press, which would preserve its independence while encouraging higher ethical and professional standards.

Currently, the British press is self-regulated through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

The Leveson report based on eight months of testimony from hacking victims, politicians and media figures, is expected to recommend some form of statutory regulation overseen by an independent body.

Cameron's comments also come amid reports of a split in the ruling coalition over the level of regulation and after more than 80 MPs and peers urged Leveson not to recommend a new law.

The cross-party group, including eight former cabinet ministers and London Olympics chairman Lord Coe, said a law would damage press freedom by giving too much power to the government.

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