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

29th November, 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

  • News Polling There has been a “big and meaningful shift” in attitudes towards Miliband, poll finds

    There has been a “big and meaningful shift” in attitudes towards Miliband, poll finds

    At the weekend we reported that there could be some kind of post-debate bounce for Labour because YouGov gave the party a four point lead on Sunday. However, the polls quickly levelled out again to put the parties on more-or-less equal footing. But YouGov polling for The Times Red Box has found that since his successful appearance on Thursday, attitudes towards Miliband have shifted. YouGov asked respondents four questions that they also asked seven weeks ago and compared the results. Over […]

    Read more →
  • News Almost two-thirds of people want some form of public ownership of the railways, polls finds

    Almost two-thirds of people want some form of public ownership of the railways, polls finds

    More people want the railways to be brought into public ownership than want them to stay privatised, a new poll has found. The poll by Survation for campaigning group We Own It  found that only 17% of people asked wanted the railways to remain in private hands. Meanwhile, 40% want the entire rail network brought back into public ownership and 23% said they’d like some franchises back in the public sector. That means 63% of people – just under two-thirds […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Miliband’s carefully calibrated balancing act

    Miliband’s carefully calibrated balancing act

    The next few weeks could see a lot happen – in 2010 we had Cleggmania and the Lib Dems bouncing from 3rd to 1st and back to 3rd, whilst Labour polled as low as 23% and as high as 33%, all in the short campaign. And when the dust settles after 7th May Ed Miliband will either be written off as another in the list of Labour leaders who didn’t win a General Election (he would be in good company […]

    Read more →
  • News Balls pledges Business rate cut for 1.5 million small businesses in first budget

    Balls pledges Business rate cut for 1.5 million small businesses in first budget

    Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will say today that Labour’s first Budget will cut business rates for 1.5 million small business properties – and then freeze them the following year – as part of the party’s “Better Plan for Small Businesses”. Labour claims that will save the average business around £400, and will be funded by scrapping another cut in corporation tax for large firms. Unveiling the pledge tomorrow, Balls will say: “Every large business started off as a small business and […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe Steering TTIP in the right direction: Labour’s plan in the European Parliament put into action

    Steering TTIP in the right direction: Labour’s plan in the European Parliament put into action

    While EU Trade Chiefs acknowledged that negotiations for the massive EU-US trade deal would take longer than anticipated, Labour Members of the European Parliament have put their plan into motion to ensure that no deal will be concluded unless public concerns are properly addressed. TTIP, as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is know, would be the largest ever bilateral trade deal. It could affect not only traditional international trade instruments, such as tariffs and quotas, but also domestic rules […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit