In Leveson’s new model, there is so very much that the PCC has already embraced

November 29, 2012 6:19 pm

By Simon Sapper

Well, I have to admit to being impressed by LJ Leveson’s delivery earlier today. It was much more emphatic than I had expected. The clarity he offered – on the role of the press, where he felt there had been failure, the limits of his preferred legislation – was welcome. But the detail is only now starting to emerge.

To my mind there was an element of contradiction in the report – the plans promoted by Lords Hunt and Black were described as being a “long way indeed” away from what he has said is required. Yet in the new regulatory model he seeks, there is so very much that the PCC has already embraced and which there seems to be a broad industry consensus in support of.

So the only substantive difference seems to be statutory underpinning – with this almost a simile for independence, and LJ Leveson gave welcome commentary on what he thought that might look like.

In response, PCC Chair David Hunt has already said that he sees an opportunity to make progress towards the reformed, strengthened self-regulation of the press sought by the enquiry. And the PM has encouraged the press to do this, many times, in this afternoon’s debate.

There also seems to be a growing acknowledgement that the newspapers and periodicals should be given an opportunity to, as Shami Chakrabarti said, “show willing”.

So the message possibly is if the industry can seize the opportunity, and can create the structure that Leveson has described, then why would legislation be needed?

Well you only have to listen to the steadfastness of Leveson’s remarks, and the comments of, for example, Hacked Off, to understand that not to legislate would be a high-risk option, for the Prime Minister. And the debate taking place in the Commons seems to bear this out.

So at this early stage, the most obvious questions for me are (1) how to respond to the invitation repeatedly made to go further than we have done so far and (2) how would the desired legislation actually be put into practice – both politically and legislatively.

I’ve not had the chance to download let alone open the substantive report, so I would be foolish to rush to any detailed conclusions. But I believe that the PCC has a role – a responsibility even – to continue to provide the range of services on complaints, desist notices, training, mediation and the rest, until a successor organisation is set up. Thousands of people use these each year. The PCC – that is the organisation with a clear lay majority – is also well placed to contribute to the debate. There is a body of expertise and experience there that should be put increasingly at the disposal of the reform programme. (I know the views of some on the left about the PCC, but if it disappeared tomorrow, there’s no-one to pick up the work it does).

I’m on record as saying the press will get the sort of regulation that they are deserve – or are prepared to pay for. I stand by that. I’m also on record as saying the industry as a whole could be historically regarded as “compliance averse”. They now need to shed their inhibitions if they are to pick up the fascinating and vital challenge that has been laid down. “The press need to establish….” Leveson said. The PM has agreed. Even if Ed’s call for progress on legislation is adopted, there is still so much is left to play for – much to gain and much to lose.

Simon Sapper is a lay Press Complaints Commissioner. He writes here in a personal capacity.

  • Dave Postles

    No, the issue is the potential for backsliding over time. Without statute, there is no guarantee.

Latest

  • Comment Why Labour should make energy efficiency their top infrastructure priority

    Why Labour should make energy efficiency their top infrastructure priority

     Melting into a sweaty puddle in a boiling hot office it’s easy to forget the winter, and the fact that every year, thousands of people die from living in cold homes. But they do, and it’s a national scandal. Millions more can’t afford to keep their homes warm, and suffer not only from the cold, but from the myriad physical and mental health problems that fuel poverty brings. The UK has some of the worst insulated homes in Europe. So […]

    Read more →
  • News Cameron’s new defence secretary accused of calling female columnist a ‘slut’

    Cameron’s new defence secretary accused of calling female columnist a ‘slut’

    This morning, the Mail on Sunday have reported that the new secretary of state for defence, Michael Fallon, allegedly called Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon a ‘slut’. The story comes after Gordon wrote in the Telegraph earlier in the week that a cabinet minister, who she did not name, had spoken to her in a bar in July 2010 and called her a ‘slut’. Recounting the conversation, she explained, the unnamed minister approached her and asked ‘if you work at the Telegraph, […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband says he’ll have ‘Public Question Time’ if PM

    Miliband says he’ll have ‘Public Question Time’ if PM

    Ed Miliband has said that if is Prime Minister this time next year he will introduce what he’s called ‘Public Question Time’. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Miliband said that alongside Prime Ministers Questions – which is an opportunity for MPs and peers to ask government ministers questions – that takes place every Wednesday lunchtime, he would take questions from the public on any subject. Following his speech on Friday and as part of a wider effort […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Who governs: governments or business?

    Who governs: governments or business?

    Who, in reality, makes the rules we live by? This is a question that has grown in importance as we see multinational corporations casting their net across the globe. Big business is often at the heart of some lobbying scandal or conspiracy theories about who is at the top of the chain. But we are currently seeing a real-life attempt by companies to wield excessive influence over national governments. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (also known as TTIP) […]

    Read more →
  • News Seats and Selections PPC selected in key marginal seat Great Grimsby

    PPC selected in key marginal seat Great Grimsby

    Today, Melanie Onn has been selected as Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC), for key marginal seat Great Grimsby. Onn, who will stand as Labour’s candidate as current MP Austin Mitchell is stepping down, grew up in Grimsby and currently works as an organiser for UNISON. Prior to being selected, on her website she explained her reasons for wanting to be Labour’s candidate for the area: “Grimsby is the place that I am proud to call home. Grimsby is the place […]

    Read more →