NUJ: Lord Black regulator proposal a missed opportunity

The National Union of Journalists has rejected Lord Black’s proposal for a new system of press regulation to replace the PCC, describing it as “just more of the same”.

The union told the Leveson inquiry yesterday that the model suggested by Black earlier this week – in which membership of the new regulator would be necessary in order to obtain a press card and use Press Association copy – would still amount to “a club for editors and proprietors”.

Instead, the NUJ is proposing a model that would see 60% of stakeholders drawn from outside the industry to ensure its independence.

The NUJ model, provisionally called a Press Standards Commission, mirrors the system in Ireland, with an ombudsman taking up complaints and reporting to a board, which would deal with complaints that could not be resolved by the ombudsman.

It would be able to impose fines – under Lord Black’s system the most serious punishment for newspapers which breach the code will remain a critical adjudication.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “There is no real substantive change in what’s on the table. They have ignored the opportunity to address key problems that have been highlighted, not just by the NUJ but also by many other campaign groups involved in press freedom and journalism, by many members of the public and groups who have come here to explain to you how badly they feel let down by the press and by the PCC’s failure to do anything about it.

“The vested interests, the owners and editors, are doing all they can to ensure a continuation of the status quo. If they get away with this, it would not only be a monumental waste of a golden opportunity for change, it would also be a waste of a costly public inquiry.”

She added: “The NUJ backs independent regulation and accountability of the press. It is vital that journalists play a key part in this new body and that members of the public make up the majority.

“For too long we have had self-regulation by the media bosses, which has amounted to no accountability at all. The PCC has consistently refused all demands for reform and change. Despite its clear failure, Lord Black and Lord Hunt are demanding yet another spell in the last chance saloon.

“Their proposals amount to nothing more than a rebranded PCC. They have rejected calls for the NUJ to be involved in a new regulator, and they have refused to allow third-party complaints from members of the public.”

Lord Black, the chairman of PCC funding body Pressbof, outlined his plans for a new system of press regulation to the Leveson inquiry earlier this week.

His proposal suggests making membership a condition of access to press cards, Press Association copy and even major advertising. It proposes keeping the current complaints handling system of the PCC and the Editors’ Code.

But in cases of extreme wrongdoing – such as phone-hacking, coverage of the McCanns and the Chris Jefferies case – it will be able to set up an investigation team comprising one industry representative (not a serving editor) and two non-industry figures.

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