Recommendations for reform

Summary

Following the MST’s critical report, ‘A More Accountable Press’, published in February 2009, the incoming chair of the Press Complaints Commission, Baroness Buscombe, announced an independent governance review of the PCC in August 2009. The MST, having originally planned to write a second report featuring constructive suggestions for the reform of UK press self-regulation, welcomed the chance to contribute to the PCC review instead.

The MST’s 28 recommendations took the form of a report published on Monday 25th January 2010, called Can independent self-regulation keep standards high and preserve press freedom? The report included the results of a survey conducted by Ispsos-MORI.

The survey found that 52% of those asked wanted an independent self-regulatory body, rather than a newspaper industry complaints body (8%) or a regulatory body set up by the government (17%). Those members of the public surveyed wanted a more active PCC – rather than the chief purpose of the body being to mediate complaints between a newspaper and complainant (which 12% expected), the public thought the main role of an independent self-regulator to be to monitor the press’ compliance with a code of practice, on behalf of the public (48%) or to conduct investigations where there is significant public concern about wrongdoing (25%).

Some of the key recommendations were:

  • Become a membership organization and, as part of the terms of membership, set out clear rules and remedies
  • Be obliged to investigate breaches of the code where this is evidence of public concern – without requiring a complaint
  • Be able to accept complaints from any source (except where they run contrary to the interests of an individual in privacy and intrusion cases)
  • Put a financial value on each adjudication which would be met by the newspaper publishing an apology to the equivalent advertising value
  • Comply with the principles of the Freedom of Information Act, particularly in terms of transparency of funding and decision-making processes

Reaction

The publication of the MST’s recommendations was covered by Media Guardian, journalism.co.uk and Press Gazette.

When the PCC’s Independent Governance Review published its findings in July 2010, its 75 recommendations accepted (in full or in part) 19 of the MST’s 28 suggestions. The Review was covered by Media Guardian (whose media commentator Roy Greenslade collected reaction here, and wrote about his thoughts here and in the Evening Standard), journalism.co.uk and Press Gazette, and blogged about by MST director, Martin Moore. Lawyer Jonathan Coad, of Swan Turton, wrote a critical blogpost for Media Guardian’s Organ Grinder blog.