Hugh Grant: Reform needed after phone hacking saga

AP News
Posted: Oct 04, 2011 5:05 PM
Hugh Grant: Reform needed after phone hacking saga

Actor Hugh Grant says Britain's leader has told him he will support reforms of the country's scandal-hungry media in the wake of the tabloid phone hacking scandal.

Grant, who suspects that his own cell phone voice mail messages were intercepted by journalists, has campaigned for tighter regulation of Britain's news industry. He met Prime Minister David Cameron at the governing Conservative Party's annual convention Tuesday while attending a fringe event on phone hacking.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson has said Grant is among a group of 46 people _ along with Harry Potter creator JK Rowling, actress Sienna Miller, Formula One boss Max Mosley, and the parents of both missing girl Madeleine McCann and murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler _ who will participate in hearings on alleged media intrusion into their private lives.

The hearings will examine media ethics and likely suggest a new regulatory regime to replace the Press Complaints Commission.

The Commission _ Britain's current watchdog for the written media _ is industry funded and can demand a newspaper publishes an apology, but has no power to issue fines.

Grant told a meeting on the sidelines of the Conservative Party's annual rally Tuesday that Cameron has suggested he would take up Leveson's findings.

"He said he felt as though as long as Leveson's recommendations were not barking (mad), he'd be up for it. He's a nice man, but we'll see," Grant told delegates.

The actor, who played a prime minister in the hit movie "Love Actually," said Cameron appeared willing to make reforms _ even if the changes are uncomfortable for his media allies.

"We had a sort of charm-off really," Grant said. "He did make all the right noises, but I expected him to make all the right noises."

Grant famously tangled with Britain's tabloids in 1995 after he featured heavily on their front pages following his arrest in the United States for lewd conduct with a prostitute.

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Members of the public have demanded reforms after revelations that Britain's flagship tabloid, the News of the World, routinely hacked into people's phones in the hunt for exclusive stories.

The now-closed paper, which had published for 168 years, is accused of systematically intercepting private voice mail of those in the news _ including a teenage murder victim.

Cameron has stressed that Britain's government itself does not plan to take a role in regulating the news media _ but would likely support a new, independent regulator.

"There have been excesses by the press, but we must not lose sight of the fact that in this country we genuinely rely on a free press," culture minister Ed Vaizey said, speaking alongside Grant at the meeting.