Will Lewis: Regulator should control 'advertising currency'

Former Telegraph editor Will Lewis has suggested that news organisations should be banned from using metrics bodies such as ABC and NRS if they decline to sign-up to the successor body to the Press Complaints Commission.

This was his idea for a solution to the ‘Desmond question’as to how a system of press self-regulation can work when a major publisher such as Richard Desmond refuses to take part.

Lewis was editor of the Daily Telegraph from 2006 to 2010 and currently works full-time on News Corp‘s Management and Standards Committee.

Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry today he was asked for his recommendations about how the industry should change in response to the hacking scandal.

He said there should be an ‘independent force’in the newsroom to oversee best practice, that assurances should be made about the independence of the editor and that newsrooms should be more ‘transparent and accountable’– noting that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

Lewis said that membership of the ‘son of PCC“, the new regulator, should be tied in with membership of bodies such as the Audit Bureau of Circulations and the National Readership Survey – which collate readership figures, and so are seen by publishers as the gateway to securing advertising.

Lewis said: ‘Businesses tend to make decisions where the money increases rather than decreases.”

He said that if the new regulator controlled the ‘advertising currency so vital to the newspaper industry…any newspaper group outside ‘son of PCC’ would be unable to sell its advertising”.

‘Pariah status’

Giving evidence after Lewis, Daily Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher said that more needed to be done to ensure that those newspapers that withdrew from the PCC were given ‘pariah status”.

This could include barring newspapers from receiving ministerial briefings or copy from the Press Association and other news agencies, and from attending media events.

‘We could do a great deal more to increase pariah status,’said Gallagher.

He also revealed that his newspaper could consider introducing a corrections column.

On the question of whether the paper should have a readers’ editor, he said: “I’m not sure that a readers’ editor is a wholly helpful idea in that I think the person that should be dealing with the readers is me.” However he added that if the industry concensus was that newspapers should have readers’ editors, he would go along with that.

Gallagher also dismissed suggestions that he had influence over the Government as editor of the Telegraph, claiming this could be seen in the number of Coalition policies the newspaper was opposed to.

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