Former Ofcom advisor: 'Regulation will hit local press'

The new chair of the Broadcast Journalism Training Council and former Ofcom advisor Martin Campbell believes the ‘spectre of heavy media regulation’will hit the local press hardest.

Campbell was Ofcom’s former chief adviser on radio, a post he left to become a media advisor before his recent election to chair of the BJTC.

He claims that post-Leveson both print and broadcast will get ‘sucked in’to new regulatory regimes but that ‘local papers have most to fear”.

He believes the appointment of Ofcom’s former chair Lord Currie has fuelled speculation that the press could soon be overseen by a regulator that ‘looks not unlike Ofcom”.

‘Given that, you can bet Ofcom will now consider an about-face,’he said. “Having kept a good distance from the idea of press regulation in the past, it will not want a rival regulator living next door, so will be gently pitching for the post over the coming months.”

If this happens, claims Campbell, then ‘local and regional papers will not be able to cope with the added regulation”. ‘They are struggling hard enough at present,’he said. ‘This could be the nail in their coffin.

‘It might even affect the plans for the new local TV channels, which would be quite ironic given the new, revised, thankfully half-sensible DCMS plans for this Jeremy Hunt-led initiative published only recently.

“Local and regional press have done nothing to deserve what may be coming their way. At least it will be a distraction. In some cases at worst it will be the last straw.”

National newspapers have long followed a ‘different journalistic road’from regional counterparts, according to Campbell, who said that hacking and police corruption issues are ‘top-down newspaper issues, and centred firmly in London”.

‘The Press Complaints Commission was never going to work, and it is hardly a secret that many hoped it could toddle along doing no harm without anything too big jumping from the woodwork to expose its frailty. Something big did jump. However, resurrecting the PCC under Lord Hunt is not a real part of the solution.

‘The solution lies with sensible policing of laws and regulation already in place. Broadcast journalists have never been as cavalier with contempt and libel and privacy as their national print brothers and sisters.

‘The reason for that is that they face accountability through formal regulation. We, at the BJTC, are conscious of that and of the importance of carrying this aspect of training forward for the next generation of broadcast journalists.”

He added: ‘The committee, though, may want to unveil a shiny new regulatory model to look after the press, and can only do that from the bottom up.

‘Local newspapers and radio stations have enough on their plate. Regulators naturally find things to regulate, and it is that sort of certainty which may come as a bombshell to the likes of the Falmouth Packet.”

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