Press Release

Embargoed until 00:01 Monday 25th January 2010

Media Standards Trust proposes major reform of Press Complaints Commission to meet public expectations

The Media Standards Trust (MST) has today (Monday 25 January) submitted proposals to make the existing system of press self-regulation more effective, more accountable and more transparent while maintaining the key principles of self-regulation.

Can independent self-regulation keep standards high and preserve press freedom, submitted today to the Press Complaints Commission’s independent governance review, contains 28 recommendations for reform, supported by a survey commissioned specially for the submission and conducted by Ipsos MORI.

The MST submission recognizes the valuable mediation work done by the PCC, but shows that the public expect more. It then sets out how out how the PCC could be reformed to perform the wider self-regulatory role that the public now expects, without requiring any statutory backing.

According to the opinion survey conducted for the submission, the public prefers an independent self-regulatory body (52%) to a newspaper industry complaints body (8%) or a regulatory body set up by the government (17%).

Moreover, rather than the chief purpose of this body being to mediate complaints between a newspaper and complainant (which 12% expect), the public expects 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%)

• to conduct investigations where there is significant public concern about wrongdoing (25%)

The public does not appear to support the PCC’s current constitutional limitation of usually investigating only when a complaint is received from someone directly involved in the article. Just 5% of people think that an independent self-regulatory body should wait for a complaint from someone directly referred to in the article before investigating whether it is inaccurate. Almost half (48%) believe that such a body should be obliged to investigate whether it is inaccurate.

The public also support greater transparency, for example that the press self-regulator:

• make the minutes of its meetings publicly available (79%) and,

• make the identity of who is funding the regulator known (75%)

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, said: “The Press Complaints Commission was established to act as a newspaper and magazine complaints mediation body. Since then public expectations, fuelled by the media, have changed.

“The public wants an independent self-regulator that, in addition to mediating complaints, monitors compliance with the code and conducts regular investigations. The PCC, as currently constituted, does not and cannot do this.

“This submission outlines ways in which the current system can be reformed so that it can meet public expectations of independent self-regulation.”

This submission to the PCC’s review of governance follows an earlier MST report, A More Accountable Press: The Need for Reform, which was published in February 2009.

Standards Trust proposes major reform of Press Complaints Commission to meet public expectations