The British newspaper industry is bracing itself today for the publication of a report from an official inquiry into press standards. The inquiry -- chaired by a senior judge Lord Leveson -- was set up following a scandal over phone-hacking and is expected to criticize the newspapers for a series of abuses: The invasion of privacy, the bribery of police officers and the theft of data. Leveson is also expected to recommend a new, regulatory body to replace the current, ineffectual system of self-regulation by the press.
The British newspaper industry fears that this could lead to state censorship. And this might further undermine the reputation of the British papers at a time when it is in financial decline -- circulations are shrinking, advertising revenues are down.
Roger Alton, executive editor of the Times says state regulation could make matters worse:
“If Leveson imposes an extraordinarily tight system on the papers, then the British press, which is the most vital and rumbunctious in the world, will be limited," he says, ''That will limit its commercial viability.”
British press revenues have fallen by a quarter over the past five years largely because of Internet competition. If there is to be state regulation, the newspapers hope it will also to apply the new media.