A new British newspaper known as 'i' is pictured on a news stand in central London, on October 26, 2010. Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev, who owns three British newspapers, launched the country's first quality daily in 25 years Tuesday in a risky bid to grab more of the ailing British press market. The paper is "specifically targeted at readers and lapsed readers of quality newspapers," according to Lebedev's main national daily, The Independent, which will share editorial staff with the new publication.

David Cameron has warned Britain’s press owners and editors that they will be making a historic mistake if they refuse to sign up to the system of regulation being proposed by the government.

In some of his strongest words yet on the issue, the prime minister has urged UK publications to set up a new regulator and to seek approval for it from a group of people chosen under the provisions of the Royal Charter, which the government set up in response to the Leveson Report.

In an interview with the Spectator magazine, Mr Cameron said the current intransigence by most sections of the UK press put them at risk of being forced into a more draconian system by a future government.

He said: “I believe there’s a great opportunity here to put this difficult and painful issue to bed. If the press set up their regulator I hope, in time, they will make that regulator compliant with – will be able to then seek recognition under – the charter recognition body.”

He added: “This government has given you the opportunity to put this to bed through this way. Now if you choose to set up your body but not seek recognition, that is your decision. We’ve done our bit to put this in place, I think you’re at risk in the future but it’s your choice. I find it hard to understand what is it in the process of seeking recognition that sends you into such a problematic state, but that’s for you to decide.”

His words mark an escalation in the rhetoric being used by ministers to encourage editors to sign up to a new charter-approved code of regulations. So far, the government has said it is up to the industry to decide whether to sign up or not, without putting pressure on it to do so.

Mr Cameron’s comments have irritated some Conservative backbenchers who believe that the government’s proposals are too heavy-handed.

One Tory MP, Douglas Carswell, said on Thursday: “I think this proposed Royal Charter is indefensible and it’s bang out of order to try to defend it on the basis that a future government might do something even more indefensible.”

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