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October 30, 2012

FT: Industry plan for reformed system of self regulation needs tweaking but is basically sound

By Andrew Pugh

The Financial Times has come out in opposition to statutory underpinning of press regulations – arguing that the “idea of formal state regulation or the licensing of journalists is anathema”.

In an editorial (£) the paper admitted there was now a “battle” taking place between those backing statutory underpinning on one hand and supporters of the so-called PCC2 on the other.

It also conceded there was now a “strong case for regulatory change” and that the existing form of self-regulation in the form of the Press Complaints Commission had “failed”.

“But the Financial Times remains wary of opening the door to state intervention,” the paper said in its editorial.

“The primary purpose of regulation must be to protect the public from unfair treatment at the hands of the press.

“This can be done without the state’s direct involvement. The idea of formal state regulation or the licensing of journalists is anathema. Both would directly expose the press to unacceptable political interference.”

The PCC2 model proposed by the press owners via Pressbof “requires further tweaking to guarantee its independence from the industry but it is basically sound". This is a similar to position to that set out by Press Gazette last week.

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“There is a strong public interest in the preservation of a raucous and independent media that can expose injustice and hold power to account”, the paper argued, adding: “British newspapers have an honourable tradition of performing this role. This must not be dulled by regulation – however well-meaning.

“Those who argue that the press is under-regulated ignore the fact that the UK already has a plethora of legislation to deal with media excesses. It has some of the toughest libel laws in the developed world.

“The advent of contingency-fee arrangements means these are available not only to the rich but to anyone with a good case. It also has a developing privacy law, and the law of contempt, which has recently been invoked against several newspapers.

“Many of the abuses that marked the hacking scandal – the interception of messages, bribing of the police and so on – were already criminal offences. A number of journalists are likely to be jailed as a result of breaching them.

“Those who live within the law should have no need of state sanction to operate newspapers. This is a sound principle. Lord Justice Leveson and the government should beware of overturning it.”

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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