Bringing in new privacy legislation would not “clarify” the law, according to a report published by a parliamentary committee that investigated the issue.
The Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, whose findings are published today, came out against introducing a new privacy law but said the body that replaces the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) must have more powers.
The industry’s self-regulator will close this year after failing to recover from its decision not to fully investigate phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World.
The report’s executive summary stated: “We conclude that a privacy statute would not clarify the law.”
Committee chairman John Whittingdale MP said: “The Committee spent some time debating whether additional laws to clarify the right to privacy were necessary or desirable. However, we concluded that the existing position, where each case is judged by the courts on an individual basis, is now working reasonably well.”
Whittingdale said it was “clear” that media self-regulation under the PCC had not worked and a “stronger” system was needed.
He said: “The PCC’s successor must have teeth; it must be truly independent of the industry; it must incorporate all major news publishers. Parliament should have a central role in scrutinising the process of media reform. If it is judged that the new body is not proving effective, statutory oversight of the media regulator should be seriously considered.”
The report states the PCC needs “a wider range of sanctions” including the power to fine organisations and should be able to control “the size and location” of any published apology.
It said the new body would not work unless “all publishers” signed up to it and one way to ensure that would be to get advertisers to commit to only advertising in publications that are members.
Richard Desmond, the publisher of the Daily Express and Daily Star and their Sunday equivalents, withdraw his titles from the PCC in January last year.