Editors prepare to defend PCC at committee inquiry

By Jean Morgan

The parliamentary select committee inquiry into media intrusion is likely to provide some lively interviews in the coming months as the committee questions high-profile newspaper editors such as Piers Morgan and Paul Dacre.

expected to give evidence to the committee

Morgan, left, and Dacre are

With individual editors from newspapers and magazines expected to be called, the hearings could provide as much entertainment value as Kelvin MacKenzie’s barnstorming performance to the National Heritage select committee inquiry on privacy in 1993 when he was editing The Sun.

He particularly challenged Gerald Kaufman, who is to chair the new inquiry – pinpointing individuals who believe they have suffered at the hands of the press – and roundly rebuffed his assertions that statutory regulation of the press was needed.

Editors will be telling the committee how self-regulation works daily in their own regional and national newsrooms. Dozens of stories do not get published because they breach the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Press Complaints Commission gets far more complaints about privacy intrusion by regional newspapers than national newspapers.

On the other side, members of the public who have been dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaints to the commission are also likely to be letting the committee know it.

MPs on the committee should be preparing themselves for hours of reading as media organisations and individuals submit written evidence before the deadline of 7 February.

The PCC alone is preparing a 250-page defence of press self-regulation, with a six-page executive summary. The 12-strong PCC team under director Guy Black have been working 12-hour days, six days a week, since the announcement of the inquiry on 19 December, to provide the committee with hard, practical evidence.

Black and acting PCC chairman Professor Robert Pinker will also be making verbal submissions. Their approach is said to be not so much philosophical as pragmatic, concentrating on how the commission is serving the public speedily and without expense, helping to raise standards in the press and developing privacy case law.

When the 1993 hearings were held, the PCC was only 18 months old and unable to produce as co-ordinated a response as it will this time. Ten years on, it has a long track record with which to back its submission.

The commission is welcoming the chance to have a public platform to describe its work and the way it looks after vulnerable people. It will publish its annual review during the inquiry hearings next month, ahead of its new chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer, joining on 31 March.

Analysis, page 15

Jean Morgan

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