Pressbof's PCC plan rejected by Express titles and Eye

A plan put forward by press owners for a new system of self regulation has been rejected by all the editors of the Express Newspapers titles as well as Private Eye editor Ian Hislop.

Independent and Evening Standard editor in chief Chris Blackhurst has also flagged areas of concern that would stop his group committing to the new system.

Chairman of owners’ body Pressbof put together the plan following consultation with industry trade bodies and yesterday the Leveson Inquiry published responses from editors and other industry figures signalling their thoughts about the plan.

Most national editors are broadly supportive of the plan for a new press regulator with more public representation, powers to fine and investigate and which locks publishers into membership for five-year contracts. Pressbof is proposing to make membership of the regulator obligatory by giving it control of press cards, access to Press Association copy and access to major advertisers.

But the four Express Newspapers editors have rejected it saying they could not sign up to it as it stands. Private Eye’s Hislop is contemptuous in his response of what he sees as a solution drawn up by those responsible for the problems in the press. And The Independent’s Blackhurst also has concerns.

If the journalism industry can’t agree a new system of self regulation it may end up having a statutory-backed system imposed on it.

Blackhurst said in his response: ‘Before we fully commit to the new system we believe that further work must be done in the area of incentives so that all publishers know with certainty what the impact of joining – or not joining the new system will be….

However he added: ‘If all major publishers feel already that they can commit to the new system without this additional detail, we would naturally be content to fully commit ourselves as well.”

Blackhurst also flagged up concerned about proposals that the fines issued by the new regulator would be capped at 1 per cent of turn over to a maximum of £1 million – placing bigger publishers who turn over more than £100m at an advantage. And he also questioned whether Pressbof should continue to have the ‘central role’it proposes in the future of regulation because or the public perception that ‘there is an unaccountable industry organisation holding the strings of the system”.

Daily Star Sunday editor Gareth Morgan condemned Pressbof’s ‘one size fits all’approach and said: ‘The proposed contract and its associated penalties are too draconian.’He added that they could ‘damage the commercial prospects and the very future of many titles that are bound by it. For example there is no redress if a publisher believes the regulator is behaving in an inappropriate manner.”

Daily Stareditor Dawn Neesom said: ‘I personally have concerns in respect of who will be selected to run the new regulatory body, how the decision will be made as to who runs it, and how decisions are made more generally in terms of how the body will be run.”

Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend said the key figures running the new regulator should be independent, rather than serving or ex editors.

And Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow said that be believes Pressbof is not an ‘appropriate body’to oversee the new regulator.

While all the national editors were clearly closely involved Pressbof’s consultation process key regional press editors were omitted from it.

In their responses Irish News editor Noel Doran, East Anglian Daily Times editor Terry Hunt and Ipswich Star editor Nigel Pickover make it clear that the first they new in detail about the Pressbof proposals was when asked to comment on them by Lord Justice Leveson.

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop said he could see no advantages to signing up to the new system and attached to his submission an article from his magazine outlining why he thinks Lord Black is an inappropriate person to be drafting the new system of press regulation.

In the story, Private Eye noted that Black was director of the PCC from 1996 to 2003 before joining the publicity team of Conservative leader Michael Howard and then working for Telegraph Media Group as executive director.

The piece notes that as PCC director, Black rejected calls for an investigation after then News of the World editor Rebekah Wade admitted making payments to police officers before MPs in 2003.

Private Eye reported: ‘Black’s career flitting between newspapers, press regulators and the office of the Conservative Party leader exemplifies the cosy chronyism and overlapping interests Leveson is meant to be investigating…Having been part of the problem he proposes the solution to the diseases affecting the Street of Shame is, er, to ban the Eye from carrying advertisements. Brilliant!”

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