Wednesday 27 July 2011

Roy Greenslade: 'Don't bury the PCC reform it'

Roy Greenslade, who has not spared the Press Complaints Commission from criticism in the past, has in his Evening Standard column refused to join those calling for the PCC to be abolished in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

At a time when the commission is being portrayed as a toothless poodle controlled by the newspaper industry, Greenslade writes: "I refuse to follow the herd. Though I have been a persistent critic of the PCC down the years, I think it vital, amid the hysteria, to step back and bring a sense of proportion to the debate.

"I have no doubt the commission needs reform, and radical reform at that.

"But terminating it altogether would be utterly foolish. Call it by another name. Replace its chair. Alter the composition of its membership. Give it new powers - such as the right to investigate and an improved range of sanctions - but don't think there is a significantly better alternative to the model of self-regulation than that which currently exists.

"We should build on its foundations rather than start all over again. Let's dispense first with the other major option - statutory regulation. This would be unacceptable for so many reasons, most obviously because it would take us back to the mid-19th century and the state licensing (then through stamp duty) of newspapers.

"I fear that the call for an 'independent' regulator is a cloak for a statutory regulator. But it would be a negation of both the concept and practice of press freedom. We would find ourselves in the company of some of the world's most repressive regimes."

He concludes: "This is a seminal moment in the history the British press. We must clean up our act, of course, but we must ensure the brush stays in our hands."

  • Peter Preston in the Observer on Sunday wrote: "Messrs Cameron and Miliband appear to want a replacement for the Press Complaints Commission whose independent members are chosen by an equally independent nominating committee buried somewhere in the depths of Whitehall. Let's be straightforward about this. It's not self-regulation at all. It is effectively statutory regulation, rule by whoever the government of the day says is in regulatory charge."

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