The Press Complaints Commission today confirmed it was conducting a wide-ranging review in an attempt to bring about ‘fundamental and positive reform’of the organisation.
A spokesperson for the watchdog said it was currently reviewing its ‘constitution and funding arrangements, the range of sanctions available to it, and its practical independence and structures”.
Earlier today the Liberal Democrats passed an emergency motion calling for a ‘radical overhaul’of the Press Complaints Commission at their party conference in Birmingham,
The motion, moved by the party’s culture spokesman Don Foster, called for the press watchdog to become ‘more effective and independent of editors and government’and also demanded strong rules on media ownership and prison sentences for journalists who unlawfully obtain data.
‘No longer can we accept a regulator that works for the benefit of the press, rather than the public,’said Foster.
‘We have heard enough empty condemnations from politicians who used to be in bed with press barons. Now is the time for reform. Media power must become more transparent, scrutinised, and dispersed.”
Responding to those allegations, the PCC said: ‘It is clearly not correct to state that the present PCC works for the benefit of the press and not the public.
‘A clear majority of commissioners are public rather than editorial members (10, as opposed to seven), and none of the PCC secretariat has ever been employed as a journalist.
‘The PCC operates independently of the industry and sees its role as offering an important (free) public service, available to everyone.
‘The thousands of ordinary people who use the PCC’s services each year record high levels of satisfaction with our service.”
The spokesperson claimed the PCC welcomed the Lib Dem commitment to reform of the PCC, adding: ‘The PCC itself has previously announced that its public members will lead a review of all aspects of press regulation in its current form, which will be designed to ensure that public confidence is enhanced.”
Last week Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt invited media organisations to submit proposals on how a new ‘one-stop regulatory framework’for the press encompassing print and online content, and also confirmed asking Ofcom to examine ways of measuring media plurality in the UK.
In an interview with Press Gazette last month, PCC director Stephen Abell said the regulator faces a ‘watershed moment’but insisted that the organisation ‘has to go on”.
‘There are lots of things in the current system that need to be retained and which work very well – but this is an opportunity to see what needs to be changed,’he said. ‘The PCC in its current form is going to change considerably.
‘The sense I have having spoken to senior politicians from all the three main parties is they don’t want statutory intervention and if you don’t want that then you are left with a reformed system, which is something where we can probably reach some degree of agreement.’