The Press Complaints Commission Code has been amended in the light of the Clive Goodman phone-tapping scandal and the growth of ‘user-generated-content”.
The Editors’ Code of Practice Committee has ruled that the preamble of the code ahouls now state that user-generated and non-edited material should be excluded from the code’s remit in online publications.
Secondly, Clause 10 – privacy – has been changed in the wake of the Goodman case and concerns raised by the Information Commissioner.
It now states: ‘The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorized removal of documents, or photographs’and the additional words ‘or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.”
It also prohibitss: ‘Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge’with the additional words ‘including by agents or intermediaries”.
Code Committee chairman Les Hinton, Executive Chairman of News International, said: “These revisions reinforce the powerful protection the Code already provides.
“First, we wanted to ensure that the preamble and public interest exceptions – which set out to balance the rights of the individual and the public’s right to know – are both instantly recognised as essential, and indivisible, elements of the document itself by anyone using the Code, be they a journalist, reader, lawyer or a judge.
“Second, it was vital that the Code’s approach to online and printed versions of newspapers was fully synchronised. The online guidance note’s definition of editorial material as that which might reasonably be expected to be edited applies equally well to printed versions. It means, for example, that while readers’ Letters to the Editor continue to be covered by the Code, advertising and marketing material continue not to be.”
“Finally, in Clause 10, we felt that, under the spirit of the Code, as removal of documents or photographs without consent is already unacceptable, then hacking into computers to obtain such material must also be. Similarly, the use of third parties to gain information that would otherwise be protected by the Code would also amount to a breach. In both cases, it would be better, for the avoidance of doubt, to state this specifically.”
“The Code is stronger and more effective because of it.”
The Editors’ Code Committee writes, reviews and revises the Editors’ Code of Practice which underpins the work of the PCC.
Its members are: chairman Leslie Hinton, News International; Neil Benson, Trinity Mirror Regional Newspapers; Adrian Faber, Express and Star, Wolverhampton; Mike Gilson, The Scotsman; Douglas Melloy, Rotherham and South Yorkshire Advertiser; Ian Murray, Southern Evening Echo; Lindsay Nicholson, The National Magazine Company; Jonathan Grun, Press Association; David Pollington, The Sunday Post; Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian: Neil Wallis, News of the World; Harriet Wilson, Conde-Nast magazines; John Witherow, Sunday Times, and Peter Wright, The Mail on Sunday.