for diverse, democratic and accountable media

Additional Submission to the Communications White Paper Reform Team - November 2000

policies & issues |

Posted by The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom

The regulation of standards and the press

1. The Campaign would like to add one very important consideration to its previously submitted evidence to the Committee, a point which we think needs to be made explicit.

2. Changes in the way the media are regulated are at the heart of the process being considered by the government. One aspect of that change will be an examination of the range, scope and accountability of regulatory bodies in the media industries. We consider that the review should include proposals for injecting greater accountability into the relationship between the public and the press in the UK and that this has to be done to avoid the development of contradictory systems of regulation.

3. In the UK there are different systems for regulating the press and broadcasting on matters of standards. A statutory framework governs broadcasting. The press however, is subject to a system of voluntary regulation established in 1953. In a changing media environment when the press is now available on the internet, when press companies are part of wider media groups that are involved and swap resources across different media and where the common digital platform makes the distinctions between different media forms less clear than in the past, the continuance of different regimes of regulation needs to be reconsidered.

4. The system of self- regulation of the press has since its foundation been criticised or condemned by almost every government appointed inquiry and by a host of independent studies. The central charges, well substantiated, is that self-regulation is designed to protect the owners of the industry from having to act in a responsible fashion; that self-regulation is a device for rejecting most complaints made by the public; and that self-regulation does not work because the body meant to enforce it has no teeth and cannot enforce its own rulings. There is no independently produced evidence of which we are aware that gives self-regulation a clean bill of health.

5. If the industry wishes to retain some framework for reviewing its own standards then we have no objection to this. But we think that, as part of a review of the systems whereby the public gain redress for maltreatment, intentional or otherwise, by the media, in the form of inaccuracy or breaches of the industry codes of conduct, there should be implemented a cheap, fast, independent and effective system which allows citizens to exercise legally enforceable rights, in particular a right of reply to factually inaccurate reporting.

6. Whichever form the new systems of regulation take it would be a grave omission and potentially anomalous for any new, or reinforced regime of standards to be applied only to the electronic media and not the print media. We therefore urge the team to give careful consideration to the following: [a] developing a coherent cross media policy for establishing a framework giving the public the opportunity to have their grievances heard and acted on swiftly across the media and: [b] incorporating in all media the statutory right to reply to factual inaccuracies.


DATELINE: 23 January, 2010