The Press Complaints Commission said today that Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell, publisher of the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday and OK! magazine, has stopped paying its subscription to the Press Standards Board of Finance and is now regarded as "outside" the system of press self-regulation.
The PCC said: "To preserve its independence, the PCC does not involve itself directly in obtaining funding from publishers. However, a refusal to support the self-regulatory system financially means that a newspaper publisher effectively withdraws from the PCC's formal jurisdiction, which the PCC considers regrettable.
"The recent independent Governance Review into the PCC made a clear recommendation about funding disputes:
‘A publisher who persistently withholds funding for the PCC should be considered outside the self-regulatory process. In these circumstances, it would be a matter for the funding body to seek to restore relations with the publisher. It should give every reasonable opportunity for payment to be restored. Should this not happen, the Commission should be informed of the position. Following consultation with the Commission, and only as a last resort, PressBof could then make clear to the publisher that defaulting on payment would mean it was no longer part of the system. The Commission would as a result formally decline to consider complaints about the relevant titles, or offer guidance to their editors.'
"The Commission has accepted this recommendation and, therefore, must now regard Northern & Shell as being outside its jurisdiction. As a result, the PCC will be unable to deal formally with new complaints about Northern & Shell titles until the funding dispute is resolved. The Commission will continue to assist individuals to frame their complaints about published articles and will direct individuals to the relevant departments of the titles within the Northern & Shell group. The PCC will endeavour to resolve amicably its current workload of investigated complaints where possible."
Baroness Buscombe, chairman of the PCC, said: "It is disappointing that Northern & Shell no longer wishes to provide funding for the PCC and be part of the system of self-regulation. This means that they will not now be able to demonstrate to their readers that they are committed to adhere to the set of standards which are independently enforced by the Commission.
"We hope that they will resume their subscription to PressBof as soon as possible. In the meantime, the PCC will continue to work to consider complaints against all other major publishers, both national and regional. We will also continue our proactive programme to offer guidance on editorial issues and train journalists within the system, and to raise standards in the industry."