Magazine industry gives backing to Commission

Locks: welcomed annual audit

The magazine industry gave its full backing to the Press Complaints Commission in evidence to MPs investigating privacy and media intrusion.

Periodical Publishers Association chief executive Ian Locks and Now editor Jane Ennis both defended the PCC while appearing before the parliamentary select committee inquiry.

Locks, who pressed on the effectiveness of the Commission, said he had been closely involved with the winding up of its predecessor, the Press Council, which had tried to be “legislature, judge, jury and executioner as well as policeman of the press”.

The model chosen to replace it was probably the best model for self-regulation in the world, he said.

The “three-legged stool” of Editors’ code, publisher commitment and independent adjudication of complaints ensured a very high level of compliance. While the PCC was, rightly, the outward facing part, the other two “legs” were equally important to ensuring an effective system.

However this did not mean the system should be unreceptive to change and, indeed, this was demonstrably not the case.

Asked what changes he would like to see, Locks said he felt there was nothing wrong with the PCC’s processes. However, the proposal for an annual audit of the system was one which should be welcomed.

He also felt the industry should address perceptions that the system was insufficiently transparent, both in the matter of appointments and in the review process for complaints about lapses in process and willingness to reconsider matters of substance, for example in the case of new evidence.

He said he felt it was fundamentally important that editors should serve on the commission alongside a majority of lay members for the system to have the continuing acceptance of editors.

Ennis told MPs that in the celebrity sector it was becoming more difficult to establish whether pictures were snatched – or posed with the connivance of the celebrities themselves.

Pressed on the need for a new law of privacy, to supersede the growing case law around human rights legislation, Ennis said she saw no need for such a law. She told the committee there was a similar publication to Now in France which made a feature out of flouting French privacy law.

Editors’ compliance with the Code of Practice in the UK, devised and accepted by editors themselves, ensured that a similar situation would not arise here, she claimed.

The MPs were told that magazines accounted for just six per cent of complaints made to the PCC.

by Jon Slattery

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