Tuesday, 6 April 2010

PCC responds to MPs : 'We don't want to suspend papers or judge matters of taste or offence'

Press Complaints Commission director Stephen Abell has responded to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's report on press standards by stating that the Commission  does not want the power to suspend rogue newspapers or to judge the press on issues of taste or offence.
He welcomes the committee's recognition that "self-regulation of the press is greatly preferable to statutory regulation, and should continue" but says the Commission is concerned that some of the recommendations seem to be based on the remarks of "partisan witnesses".
He says: "The Commission believes that the Select Committee has failed to acknowledge the current level of proactive work undertaken by the PCC, and the extent to which the PCC is already concerned with the raising of standards.
"The Commission cannot - and does not wish to - seek to uphold general standards relating to taste and offence. This is for good reason. It would be unacceptable for the Commission unduly to restrict freedom of expression of the press by imposing its opinions on the overall suitability of material, unless there are grounds to do so under the Code. The Code does not include matters of taste or offence and the Commission would not suggest to the Code Committee that it should."
He says the Commission accepts the Select Committee's view that it has, in the past, failed to present its complaints information clearly enough.  The Commission is committed to releasing new advertising material, both in print and online, so that accessibility to its services can increase.
Abell says the Commission recognises the importance the Select Committee has attached to the prominence of corrections, apologies and PCC adjudications. It agrees with the Select Committee that publications should consult with the complainant and PCC about prominence prior to publication.
At present, the Commission believes its powers are effective, and can point to a culture in which its sanctions have real impact and led last year to a record number of settled complaints. However, it welcomes the fact that the issue of sanctions can be re-examined, and will be talking to the industry on this point.
Abell adds, however: The Commission does want to take this opportunity seriously to question whether the suspension of printing of an offending publication - even if that were practicable - could ever be proportionate and appropriate in a democratic society. As far as the Commission can determine, no other analogous body in the civilised world would employ such a sanction."

No comments: