PCC warns of European attempt to regulate online publications

The publishing industry must self regulate its online offering to prevent outside interference, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Sir Christopher Meyer has told the PPA conference.

Speaking at a seminar on self-regulation in a digital age, at the PPA business media conference, Meyer said that he and the PCC director, Tim Toulmin are looking at audiovisual content, prompted by a sense that the European Commission wished to regulate publications' audiovisual content.

Meyer said: "They were itching to get onto the bits of the internet which included audiovisual content, and we might have found ourselves in a situation where the European Commission would, through the back door, come to regulate bits of content of British publications."

He added: "From our point of view and a matter of principle, that is completely unacceptable. It's our responsibility to make sure the standards of self-regulation are planted on this territory before someone else steps in."

After reiterating the case for self regulation of the press based, Meyers said the arrival of the digital age had "utterly reinforced" this principle.

But he said that part of the problem with audiovisual content was one of definition.Where do the borders of PCC stop and where does everything else outside it begin?" he asked.

Meyer said part of the debate was if the code should cover not only material from editorial, but also extra material accessible from a newspaper's website.

"What we are talking about is the translation of one of the basic principles of the PCC into the digital age – in that the buck stops with the editor. It is what the editor controls that the editor is responsible for."

"We're going to see how this works out. There's no doubt at all there will be a number of cases where we will establish case law in a completely novel way.

"By planting this self-regulation in this field, it will discourage others from trying to occupy the territory at the same time. If the EC comes forward with some kind of draft regulations, we can say: ‘you don't have to worry, we're already in there so go away'."

Meyer also predicted stronger links to Ofcom, because if a traditional publisher started making their own TV online, it is ambiguous whether Ofcom or the PCC was responsible for its regulation. "It may well mean the sporadic cooperation we had with Ofcom for the last three or four years will have to become closer," he said.

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