Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre's proposal for a new press body that would issue press cards to journalists - and withdraw them from those found guilty of malpractice - was roundly criticised at the launch of a new book on the phone hacking scandal.
Speakers at a Media Society debate, marking the publication of a new book 'The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial', said the press card scheme was tantamount to licensing journalists.
Professor Steven Barnett, of Westminster University, claimed it was wrong to put the blame on journalists for poor press standards. "The culture and ideology is imposed from above. Look at the Mail and the Express. The journalists are told 'go and get me this story and fit it into this template'."
Kevin Marsh, the former editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said Dacre's proposal was extraordinary and sounded like the way journalists were treated in China and Zimbabwe. He quipped: "What would I have to do to get Melanie Phillips struck off?"
Professor Ivor Gaber, of City University, said he was horrified at the idea that a new press body would be able "to licence journalists and withdraw their licences."
Former Sunday Mirror editor Paul Connew suggested the press card plan was "impractical in the age of the blogosphere."
Marsh, one of the contributors to 'The Phone Hacking Scandal', described the tabloid press as "an incredibly powerful, unaccountable machine for turning vindictiveness into cash." He also claimed Mail Online had become one of the most successful websites in the world "purely by using paparazzi pictures."
- 'The Phone Hacking Scandal: Journalism on Trial': Edited by Richard Lance Keeble and John Mair, published Arima Publishing.