Bradley's PCC-bashing Bill doomed to failure

The Right of Reply and Press Standards Bill is the latest attempt by
a politician to get rid of the Press Complaints Commission. This time
it is MP Peter Bradley treading the well-worn path, and trotting out
the equally well-worn cliché of the PCC as “toothless and ineffectual”.

Bradley’s
premise, like those of many before him, is that an out-of-control press
is running amok with careless abandon, ruining ordinary people’s lives
with impunity and generally bringing society to its knees.

Indeed,
he asserts, the press is largely responsible for everything from
falling attendance at the ballot box to “declining standards of public
debate”.

His solution is an adjucator, who would rule on
complaints to newspapers. The adjudicator’s decisions could then be
appealed by either side to a Press Standards Board, whose rulings are
enforceable by the courts.

Bradley has the backing of long-term
PCC bashers MediaWise (whose chairman Louis Blom-Cooper chaired the
commission’s forerunner, the Press Council) and the NUJ.

The
Bill’s supporters quote last year’s Mediawise study that suggests a
festering discontent among “ordinary people”. That research canvassed
52 such people who had complained to the PCC and found that 64 per cent
were unhappy with the PCC. This runs contrary to the commission’s own
figures, from a far larger sample – in which 62 per cent said their
complaint had been dealt with satisfactorily or very satisfactorily.

Either way, it can’t be a huge surprise that, when two sides are in dispute, one of them will not be happy with the result.

The
union says it would not support anything that restricted press freedom
or allowed the state to determine what gets into print. But is that not
precisely what Bradley’s adjudicator – who would presumably be
appointed, and certainly sanctioned, by the state – would be doing?

It also states as fact that the PCC “takes the side of the paper rather than the citizen”.

The
PCC’s lay members, who easily outnumber the journalists on the
commission, would no doubt view such a statement as a significant
factual error.

Unlike Mr Bradley, they won’t feel the need to ensure that a politician is ultimately responsible for correcting it.

No journalist need fear my Bill, says Bradley. He’s right enough there.

There’s no chance of it ever making it to the statute book.

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