MST calls for PCC review

  • PCC ‘lacks independence from the industry’, says today’s House of Lords Select Committee Report

The Media Standards Trust welcomes the findings of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications and particularly the criticisms levelled at press self-regulation.

The report concluded that the PCC does nothing ‘to proactively promote journalistic standards or ethics’, and criticised the fact that it ‘lacks independence from the industry’.

“This report shows we urgently need to rethink media regulation and self-regulation”, Dr Martin Moore, the Director of the Media Standards Trust said. “The institutions set up to oversee old media – Ofcom and the PCC in particular – are straining at the seams.

“Ofcom has recognised this and brought forward its public service review by two years. Contrast this with the PCC, that has taken advantage of the current turmoil to launch an ill-judged land grab on the internet.

“Given the increasing importance of press self-regulation and the questions raised by the Select Committee, the Media Standards Trust calls on the PCC to set up a major independent review of its remit and effectiveness.”

In the report, Dr Martin Moore, Director of the Media Standards Trust, was quoted as saying: ‘I think that it is astonishing how anachronistic the governing structures of the PCC are … [newspaper editors] are both setting the rules and policing the rules themselves and then monitoring themselves. The whole thing is slightly absurd … there is an urgent need to review it and to undertake an independent review of the self-regulation particularly as it expands.’

Media figures such as Lord Puttnam, Sir Simon Jenkins and Alastair Campbell joined Dr Moore in criticising the PCC. Lord Puttnam had ‘very limited respect’ for the PCC, because ‘essentially it is a cartel’, while Campbell added that, ‘I do not think actually that it offers a real system of redress for people who are traduced by newspapers. I think it is part of a cosy media club.’

The MST was also pleased that the report’s findings supported the MST’s reason for being: ‘The media cannot expect that alone among British institutions they will be exempt from serious examination. They claim (rightly) that they have the right to expose and reveal. Therefore it would be the height of hypocrisy if owners and editors refused to answer questions about their policies and activities.

‘Such questioning is also necessary in a democracy. It is the quid pro quo for freedom of the Press. The public have a perfect right to know, for example, who controls the media and what influence the owners bring to bear—which has been one of the main themes of our inquiry.

‘The owners of the media and the editors who work for them have immense power. The very least that the public can expect is that they should be questioned on how they exercise that power.’

*The MST would like to point out that when quoted in the report, Director Dr Martin Moore mistakenly said that the editor of the Daily Mail was on the Editorial Code Committee and on the PCC at the same time. He was actually on the Press Board of Finance at the same time as being on the PCC, and then subsequently became the chair of the Editorial Code Committee. The substance of the point, that the governance structures of the PCC are highly anachronistic and that there are conflicts of interest, should not be affected by this, but we want to correct the mistake for the record.