A More Accountable Press – Part 1: the Need for Reform

with 4 comments

If a newspaper or magazine publishes something inaccurate, misrepresentative, or unfairly intrusive about you, then there ought to be someone independent and effective that you can go to for redress.

Today we (the Media Standards Trust) are publishing a report – A More Accountable Press – that assesses the current system of press self-regulation, as led by the Press Complaints Commission. It concludes that, as it stands, this system is neither independent nor effective. 

The current system is paid for by the newspaper industry, its rules are written by working newspaper editors, and almost half the Commission itself is made up of newspaper and magazine editors.

You would be forgiven, as a member of the public, for thinking that the system was geared more towards protecting the interests of the press than the public.

And, were you to look into it further, you’d become even more convinced of its partiality. Right now, if you make a complaint, you have about a 250:1 chance of getting an adjudication in your favour (based on the 16 successful adjudications out of 4,340 in 2007, Annual Report). Those are pretty terrible odds. Not surprising then that many people are now choosing to go to court instead.

The failure of the current system to offer the public fair redress is not only bad for the public, it’s bad for journalists. It undermines people’s trust in journalism. A couple of weeks ago an international poll found the UK media was amongst the least trusted in the world (Edelman poll, results publishing in PR Week).

A national survey commissioned by the Media Standards Trust in December, and conducted by YouGov, was similarly depressing. It found that 75% of the public think newspapers publish stories they know to be inaccurate. 70% of people believe there are far too many instances in which newspapers invade people’s privacy (full results can be found at the back of the report).

Nor does a poor system of self-regulation provide journalists with an adequate defence from the State, from the law (in the case of public interest journalism) – or even from their own proprietors.

This report – ‘A More Accountable Press’ – analyses what’s wrong with the current system. Now we plan to think about how to make it better.

From today we’ll be asking news organisations, regulators, journalists and the public how to address the problems we’ve identified. If you have any thoughts as to how things can be improved, please get in touch.

Written by Martin Moore

February 9th, 2009 at 12:00 am

4 Responses to 'A More Accountable Press – Part 1: the Need for Reform'

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  1. Your research is excellent and Christopher Meyer appeared foolish on the Today programme. http://blog.matthewcain.co.uk/the-press-complaints-commission-must-be-reformed/

    Matthew Cain

    9 Feb 09 at 11:18 am

  2. Martin,Do you have any comments on the Sun’s ’13 year old dad’ story? It seems to me that it may well be within the letter of the PCC code, but is nevertheless a huge violation of these childrens’ privacy.

    magpiejem

    13 Feb 09 at 5:08 pm

  3. Martin,Do you have any comments on the Sun’s ’13 year old dad’ story? It seems to me that it may well be within the letter of the PCC code, but is nevertheless a huge violation of these childrens’ privacy.

    magpiejem

    13 Feb 09 at 5:08 pm

  4. magpiejem, like you I’m presuming that the parents (i.e. the 13 year olds parents) have given consent (particularly since they are quoted in the Sun’s article). Although in which case, it’s strange that there isn’t any indication of that consent (or indication that the parents were even present) in the video or the stills. There’s also the greater worry about subsequent coverage. The exclusive initial access – which was, let’s assume, all agreed, has generated front pages, broadcast coverage and comments from Brown and Cameron. This will, in turn, lead to more media interest, that is less likely to be agreed.

    Martin Moore

    13 Feb 09 at 10:41 pm

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