Today we, the Media Standards Trust, made our submission to the Press Complaints Commission’s governance review.
I’ll have a go at summarizing the key bits of our submission, but I’d recommend you take a look at the real thing (I would wouldn’t I), which you can find at www.mediastandardstrust.org.
Integrated to the submission are the findings of an opinion survey, commissioned specially for this and conducted by Ipsos MORI. The survey results strongly support our belief that the public expect considerably more from press self-regulation than they are currently getting.
In essence, we’re saying that the PCC already performs a valuable function – of mediating complaints between a publication and a complainant. The problem is, the public expect more than this. People don’t just want a mediator, they want an independent self-regulator. The difference being that, in addition to mediating, an independent self-regulator would do things like monitor compliance with the code (i.e. keep a constant eye on newspapers) and conduct regular investigations into areas of public concern – without requiring a complaint.
Indeed this was one of the most interesting findings of the survey. When asked what the about the responsibilities of an independent regulator, 48% thought it should be obliged to investigate where there is evidence to suggest a newspaper article is inaccurate. At the other end of the spectrum only 5% thought it should wait for a complaint by someone directly referred to in an article before investigating.
So, in our submission, we do our best to outline how the PCC might move from where it is now – mediating – to where the public expects it to be – self-regulating, without requiring any recourse to statutory regulation.
How can it do this? Well, to pick out a few of the 28 recommendations in the submission, it could:
- Become a membership organization and, as part of the terms of membership, set out clear rules and remedies. This way, if a member broke the rules the repercussions would be clearer and the commission would have more power to enforce them. Currently the PCC only has the power of adjudication and no way to enforce it – other than by re-issuing its findings
- Be obliged to investigate breaches of the code where this is evidence of public concern – without requiring a complaint
- Be able to accept complaints from any source – except where they run contrary to the interests of an individual in privacy and intrusion cases
- Put a financial value on each adjudication which would be met by the newspaper publishing an apology to the equivalent advertising value
- Comply with the principles of the Freedom of Information Act, particularly in terms of transparency of funding and decision-making processes
None of these, nor any of the other recommendations, require anything other than the agreement of the industry to draw up and put into practice.
We’re looking forward to discussing this with the PCC and the governance review over the next month or two.
If you’d like to be kept up to date with how the submission progresses please do get in touch (I’m at martin DOT moore AT mediastandardstrust DOT org.