New regulator warned not to interfere by ITN

Sambrook: gave evidence

ITN has given advance warning to the Government’s new media regulator that it should not interfere in editorial decision making.

Michael Jermey, ITN’s managing director, sounded the concern as regional and local editors lined up behind the editors of national tabloids in resisting moves to bring the Press Complaints Commission under Ofcom.

Jermey and BBC director of news Richard Sambrook gave evidence to the Commons media select committee inquiry into media intrusion after the MPs heard Paul Horrocks of the Manchester Evening News, Peter Cox of the Daily Record, the Belfast Telegraph’s Edmund Curran, Ed Asquith of the Wakefield Express/Yorkshire Weekly Newspaper Group, Peter Long of Celtic Newspapers and David Newell from the Newspaper Society.

Sambrook said he did not believe Ofcom would hinder newsgathering by the BBC, while Jermey welcomed the replacement of the Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Independent Television Commission.

But he said ITN would be concerned if Ofcom expanded its operations.

“On the whole we do not have any major concerns with the operation of the BSC and ITC regulations, insofar as they are designed to balance the public interest and freedom of expression with the individual’s right to privacy.

“However, we would be concerned if the regulator was to use the regulations to interfere too heavily in the editorial decision-making process rather than to ensure the right balance was achieved.”

Horrocks told the MPs that an appeal body above the PCC, as recommended by The Independent’s Simon Kelner and The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, was unnecessary.

Horrocks admitted: “Being involved in the PCC makes you a better editor and decision maker.”

Agreeing, Curran, a PCC member, said: “We are 16 ombudsmen.”

But he admitted the PCC had too many grandees and suggested an influx of younger people and said editors should have an “open mind” about improvements.

Cox said he benefited from being able to pick up the phone and seek advice from PCC director Guy Black.

“I got Guy out of his bath in Wales to give me advice that I found useful.”

Newell noted the MPs had only allocated 45 minutes to the regional and local papers out of more than 24 hours of taking evidence, and expressed the hope they would take account of the whole industry in their report.

“I hope you will look at the whole of the newspaper industry and all its varieties,” Newell told the committee, which is expected to present its recommendations in a month.

By David Rose

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