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Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report into press standards, privacy and libel

Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report into press standards, privacy and libel

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Published by: Journalismcouk on Feb 24, 2010
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574. A truly effective self-regulatory body is one to which both the public and the industry
looks as an active and leading upholder of standards; one which, at times when standards
are a matter of genuine public concern, engages actively with the industry, publicly and
privately, to ensure that standards are upheld. It can be relied upon to investigate and
pronounce upon, without fear or favour, any issues which it believes have a bearing on the
maintenance of standards in the public interest.

575. As we have recognised, the PCC does much good work both in preventing breaches of
the Code through dialogue with newspapers before stories are published and in resolving
complaints after publication. However, there is still a widespread view that its inability to
impose any kind of penalty when a breach of the Code does occur significantly reduces its
authority and credibility. In order to command public confidence that its rulings are
taken seriously by the press, we believe that, in cases where a serious breach of the Code
has occurred, the PCC should have the ability to impose a financial penalty. The
industry may see giving the PCC the power to fine as an attack on the self-regulatory
system. The reverse is true. We believe that this power would enhance the PCC’s
credibility and public support. We do not accept the argument that this would require
statutory backing, if the industry is sincere about effective self-regulation it can
establish the necessary regime independently. In the most serious of cases, the PCC
should have the ultimate power to order the suspension of printing of the offending
publication for one issue. This would not only represent a major financial penalty, but
would be a very visible demonstration of the severity of the transgression.

576. It is vital that both the press and the public understand that the PCC is more than
a complaints handling body, and that it has responsibility for upholding press
standards generally. To this end, we recommend that the PCC should be renamed the
Press Complaints and Standards Commission. Further, in order to equip it more fully
to discharge this remit, we recommend that the PCC should appoint a deputy director
for standards. It may be desirable for the person appointed to have direct experience of
the newspaper industry; we recommend that this should be permitted.

577. The freedom of the press is vital to a healthy democracy; however, with such
freedom come responsibilities. The PCC has the burden of responsibility of ensuring
the public has confidence in the press and its regulation and it still has some way to go
on this.

578. This Report is the product of the longest, most complex and wide-ranging inquiry
this Committee has undertaken. Our aim has been to arrive at recommendations that,
if implemented, would help to restore the delicate balances associated with the freedom
of the press. Individual proposals we make will have their critics – that is inevitable –
but we are convinced that, taken together, our recommendations represent a
constructive way forward for a free and healthy UK press in the years to come.


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