Former Press Complaints chairman Baroness Buscombe has attacked the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Newspaper Society and PressBof and said she stopped trusting the press before standing down last year.
Buscombe said the NPA and NS, the national and regional press owners’ groups, had stayed silent during the phone-hacking scandal and she told the inquiry she was ‘slightly amazed’they had not been called to give evidence
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She described Pressbof (Press Standards Board of Finance – the body responsible for funding the PCC) – as a ‘slightly obscure body’but one which ‘make the rules of the industry”.
Buscombe was asked by Lord Justice Leveson about the extent to which she had lost faith with the industry before she stood down as PCC chairman last October.
‘The reality is that I want to support the self-regulatory system because I believe there is a real problem with the alternative, ie state regulation, but this demands a degree of trust, and the issue for me has become a problem of trust,’she said.
‘I remember towards the end of my time there one of the editors asked me, ‘Peta, don’t you trust us?’ And I said with an incredibly heavy heart, ‘how can I?’.
‘This is because we felt that we hadn’t been told the truth.”
She added: ‘There came a time when I had to question the editors on the commission in my head, which was very, very difficult because there were people that I’d worked with, debated with, discussed with and so on at great lengths over the two and half years that I was there.”
Commenting on the role of Pressbof, Buscombe said: ‘There was something that was continually disturbing me and that is, that you have this slightly obscure body in some ways, Pressbof , who are supposed to be the funding mechanism in charge of remit, sanctions, basically the guys who make the rules of the industry, and yet of course it was their industry who was attacking the PCC in the media.”
She told Leveson that she was ‘slightly amazed’that the NPA and NS were not being called to give evidence because it was important for the inquiry to question ‘where does the power lie in all this… to underpin this system, to make it credible”.
She went on to suggest the NPA failed to support the work of the PCC, recalling a meeting with former NPA chairman and Guardian Media Group managing director Tim Brooks.
She said that he sked her why the PCC did not do more in terms of its remit and sanctions, to which she said she replied: ‘But you have been the chairman of the overarching body – you could make a difference.
“Also, you’ve been managing director of Guardian Media Group, who have been attacking us, why did you do nothing?'”.
She added: ‘Last Easter I was in touch with the guy who runs the NPA [director David Newell] and I was pleading with him in a telephone conversation, saying this is really important, this is too important to get wrong, we need to find a way to show that the system can work, can be trusted.
‘And he said he would talk to the now chairman but, again, I don’t think that happened.
‘I talked to that chairman more recently when I was still in the job and again nothing happened .
‘This is why I felt it was so important to send a letter in April of last year to the publishers and proprietors to spell out my concern – that there was a real issue of trust in the system and that it was terribly important that we actually look and share with the proprietors and publishers the whole issue of governance within news organisations, but also look at what we can do to actually introduce much strong protocols and develop a different kind of relationship with the industry itself. I still think that’s doable but it’s a tough call.’
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