Desmond says no editors should sit on new PCC - Press Gazette

Desmond says no editors should sit on new PCC

Express Newspapers publisher Northern and Shell has said that no serving editors should be members whatever new press regulator replaces the PCC.

In its closing submission to the Leveson Inquiry, Northern and Shell rejected a plan put forward by press owners' body Pressbof which has suggested that a new-look PCC complaints board has five editors on it and eight public members.

James Dingemans QC said in his closing submission for Northern and Shell: "There should be no current editors on the regulatory body. This is an industry which is still too small to enable persons to be seen to be independent; whether they are or not is in some respects not the thing, but to be seen to be independent of the bodies which they are regulating.

"So far as individual titles are concerned, and it's no secret that those that I represent are not current members of the PCC, it is again too small that animosities or perceived animosities and loyalties orperceived loyalties could undermine what could otherwise be a proper functioning body."

Pressbof has suggested that headhunted be commissioned to recruit a new head of the regulator.

But Richard Desmond-owned Northern and Shell has suggested that far more effort be made to ensure that appointments to the press regulator are independent.

Dingemans said: "We do respectfully submit that the constitutional significance of the free press is such that the body appointing the persons to the regulatory body should have protections equivalent to those governing the appointment of Judicial Appointments Commissioners.

"The judiciary has its own constitutional importance in our society, and we do respectfully submit that the press has a vital role to play and that it is essential to put clear blue water between Parliamentary bodies and the regulators.

"There have been suggestions in the evidence that a headhunter might be appointed to find the next people, and we do respectfully submit that whilst the headhunter would no doubt do a conscientious job, may in fact find the best person for the appointment, there's none of the transparency and systemic guarantees against interference that are required in these areas."

If Pressbof is to avoid statutory press regulation it has to come up with a new system which all major publishers sign up to.

As Press Gazette reported earlier this month, Northern and Shell has already signalled major opposition to Pressbof's plan to give the new regulator control of press cards.

Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette