Self-regulation safe, says Black

Black: self-regulation of the press is here to stay

 

Outgoing Press Complaints Commission director Guy Black has said he believes self-regulation of the British press is here to stay.

He told Press Gazette: “Self-regulation is sacrosanct and I believe it will endure over the long term, provided the PCC maintains eternal vigilance.”

Black has announced he will step down in the new year after seven years to become Conservative leader Michael Howard’s press secretary.

In the short-term his deputy, Tim Toulmin, will take over the management of the press regulator – but the post is expected to be advertised next year.

As director of the PCC, Black has helped to see off the threat of the press coming under the jurisdiction of new media regulator Ofcom. And this summer Gerald Kaufman’s media select committee issued a report that came down on the side of selfregulation.

Black said: “I do not think that any political party will ever seek to impose statutory controls on the press because a) they know they wouldn’t work in the interests of ordinary people and b) they know it’s an unacceptable infringement on press freedom.

“Self-regulation is an aspect of press freedom and there are no politicians I know of that seriously want to try to undermine that press freedom.”

Over the past seven years Black has seen a steady increase in the number of complaints to the commission. This year a record number, up to 4,000, are expected to be received – compared with 1,500 when the PCC was founded 12 years ago.

Black said this was due to the commission’s higher profile and pointed out that there has not been a corresponding increase in the number of adjudications going against the press.

He believes journalism standards have improved in the past seven years.

He said: “The standard of reporting has changed vastly over the 12 years of existence of the commission. Improvements are made year in year out. “The one thing I will take away with me and always keep is the overpowering importance editors, both regionally and nationally, attach to the Code of Practice and the work of the commission. “This is an excellent thing because at the end of the day that is the best way to safeguard press freedom.”

Black paid tribute to his 12 “loyal and hardworking” staff and said he believed the future of the PCC was in safe hands.

Commission chairman Sir Christopher Meyer said Black’s contribution had been “immense”. He added: “Guy’s leadership as director of the commission has been a model of integrity, expertise and rigour.

By Dominic Ponsford

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