NUJ says press regulator needs to be backed by statute

The National Union of Journalists has rejected the plan from press owners to reform self regulation of the industry and instead wants a new regulator underpinned by statutory powers.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet and chairman of the NUJ ethics committee Chris Frost said in a statement to the inquiry: "The PCC has failed as a regulator of the press. It is the very structure of the PCC as an industry-fostered, self-regulatory body that has led to its failure."

The statement added: "Self regulation has been given the chance to work in many different forms over the past 40 years and has failed the test every time."

Stanistreet told inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson that proposals for a new system of self regulation - which have been outlined by PCC chairman Lord Hunt - were "nothing but more of the same".

"Whilst the NUJ is hugely disappointed that we have reached this point, despite more than 20 years of campaigning for reform of the PCC and press regulation, we now see it as inevitable that there should be some statutory provision for a new regulator," said Stanistreet and Frost in their statement.

"The legislation would need to identify who would be regulated by the new body, how the new body would be funded and how it would be constituted.

"It is vital that a new regulator covers all commercial press equally. No one should be able to avoid regulation simply by walking away from the table or refusing to pay a subscription and the easiest way to do this is with statutory powers.

"Other methods have been suggested such as amending VAT law to allow members to be VAT free or allowing some other form of carrot. However, the NUJ believes that all of these actually work much better as part of a statutory system."

Frost added in a separate written statement: "The press has no more right to make money by criminality, lying or cheating than any other commercial organisation.

"Whilst it is vital to defend press freedom and the right to individual freedom of expression that gives it strength, this is not an absolute right and must be qualified by the protections democratically agreed by an elected parliament.

"The principle object of the new (regulatory) body should be to uphold and promote free expression and media freedom.

"This will require it to oversee a responsible media and hold that media to account both directly from its own monitoring of performance and investigations of practice and through a public complaints system.

"The new body should be set up with some level of statutory underpinning to ensure it is able to exert its authority over all appropriate media including websites, published media and their related websites."

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